Twenty Minutes in Manhattan

Michael Sorkin

North Point Press



Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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Every morning, the architect and writer Michael Sorkin walks downtown from his Greenwich Village apartment through Washington Square to his Tribeca office. Sorkin isn’t in a hurry, and he never ignores his surroundings. Instead, he pays careful, close attention. And in Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, he explains what he sees, what he imagines, what he knows—giving us extraordinary access to the layers of history, the feats of engineering and artistry, and the intense social drama that take place along a simple twenty-minute walk.


Praise for Twenty Minutes in Manhattan

“This walk through the city shows Michael Sorkin at his witty and knowledgeable best. [Twenty Minutes in Manhattan] takes us on a journey through eras and worlds in the space of just fifteen blocks.” —Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City 

“[Michael Sorkin] turns his walk from his apartment in Greenwich Village to his studio into an erudite but utterly engaging reverie on the nature of cities.” —Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker

“This book captures architect Sorkin wandering through lower Manhattan, where even the most banal-seeming sights send the author into casually fascinating digressions about urban planning, the history behind New York’s grid, stoops and parks. After looking at the city through this ambler’s eyes, you’ll never look at a tenement building—or a stairwell—the same way again.” —Michael Miller, Time Out New York

“Should inspire anyone who cares about the future of cities.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“With this book Michael Sorkin secures his claim to succeed Jane Jacobs . . . [He] brings to bear an eye every bit as acute, a pen nearly as trenchant, and a political understanding perhaps a little bit more sophisticated of the never-ending struggle over New York’s neighbourhoods.” —D. D. Guttenplan, The Times Literary Supplement

“I am glad Sorkin doesn’t take the subway: this is the most brilliant epitome of Manhattan ever written.” —Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Planet of Slums

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


The walk from my apartment in Greenwich Village to my studio in Tribeca takes about twenty minutes, depending on the route and on whether I stop for a coffee and the Times. Invariably, though, it begins with a trip down the stairs. The building I live in is a so-called Old Law tenement and was built in 1892, a date inscribed on the metal cornice that also carries the building’s name: Annabel Lee. Like most such tenements, ours is five stories high (a few are six, even seven), and I live with my wife, Joan, on the top floor.
The walk down is untaxing, but the
Read the full excerpt


  • Michael Sorkin

  • Michael Sorkin is an architect and urban planner, and the author and editor of many books, including All Over the Map, Against the Wall, Exquisite Corpse, and Variations on a Theme Park. He lives in New York City.
  • Michael Sorkin