Marshall Berman’s family gifts renowned urbanist’s collection to CCNY’s Spitzer School

The City College of New York’s Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture has been given an extraordinary gift: the collection of books and archives belonging to Professor Marshall Berman (1940-2013) that he used to prepare to teach his courses at City College, principally at the Spitzer School. The collection will be housed in the CCNY Architecture Library in Spitzer School of Architecture building. Berman, a distinguished professor of political science in the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and the Graduate Center, CUNY, taught political theory and urban studies. 

A Marxist humanist philosopher, and writer, Berman also taught at Spitzer where his colleague and friend Michael Sorkin was the distinguished professor of architecture and director emeritus of the Graduate Program in Urban Design. The collection’s dedicated space will be adjacent to the new Michael Sorkin Reading Room. A celebration and official announcement will take place at the opening of the Michael Sorkin Reading Room on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022 at 5 p.m. at the Architecture Library in Spitzer School of Architecture building. 

Born and raised in the Bronx, Berman joined the CCNY faculty in 1967 after he completed his PhD at Harvard University. He wrote frequently for publications, like "The NYT Book Review," “The Nation,” and “Dissent.” 

Berman’s best-known book, "All That's Solid Melts Into Air: the Experience of Modernity," was a bible to many academics, especially in architecture. It was in the introduction to this book that he coined the triad now part of academic lexicon: Modernity, modernization and modernism. He taught until his death in 2013 at age 72. 

While going through Berman’s famously copious belongings, his wife Shellie Sclan-Berman came across papers pertaining to his courses, such as City and Self. 

“I love City College, and the Spitzer School. Marshall was so happy there,” said Sclan-Berman. She contacted Spitzer Dean Marta Gutman about the find, and offered them to the school.

 “Shellie offered Spitzer xeroxed articles, course syllabi, student papers. Books for teaching, which are fantastic because they are annotated by Marshall. They are collector’s items,” said Gutman. 

Gutman sent a research assistant, Aidan Quigley M Arch '24, to assist Sclan-Berman with the donation. Quigley began digging through the trove, organizing and assessing. He’s also creating a Berman bibliography. 

According to Nilda Sanchez-Rodriguez, chief architecture librarian and associate professor, the collection is to be cataloged, digitized. “We are so excited to get his collection and get visitors in to view his work,” she said. 

It's imperative to Sclan-Berman that researchers have access to documents to engage with and continue Berman’s work.  

About the City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. Education research organization DegreeChoices ranks CCNY #3 nationally for social mobility. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. This year, CCNY launched its most expansive fundraising campaign, ever. The campaign, titled “Doing Remarkable Things Together” seeks to bring the College’s Foundation to more than $1 billion in total assets in support of the College mission. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

Thea Klapwald