Michael J. Crosbie

Connecticut-based architect and writer who teaches at the University of Hartford and is the editor of Faith & Form magazine. He studied architecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.


Did a Highway Kill the City of Hartford?

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

Can a piece of infrastructure literally kill a city? This is the question that writer Jim Krueger poses in his recent podcast, The Road That Killed a City. The place in question is Krueger’s current hometown—Hartford, Connecticut—which he grew up next to in the leafy suburb of West Hartford. Kruerger has lived in both towns, and that helps to balance the amazing story he uncovers about how Connecticut’s capital was impaled by a roadway (actually, two: east/west I-84 and north/south I-91 converge in Hartford in a sort of arterial highway ground zero). I spoke with Krueger about what prompted the podcast, some of what he uncovered about the history of this ill-fated urban “improvement,” and the legacy of a highway that continues to thwart Hartford’s rebirth—an inheritance shared by many cities across North America.

A Remarkably Comprehensive New Guide to the Architecture of Sub-Saharan Africa

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

Compared to that of the West and East, awareness and knowledge of the architecture of sub-Saharan Africa—Africa south of the Sahara Desert—is scant. A new book intends to mitigate this oversight, and it’s a significant accomplishment. Architectural Guide Sub-Saharan Africa (DOM publishers, 2021), edited by Philipp Meuser, Adil Dalbai, and Livingstone Mukasa, was more than six years in the making. The seven-volume guide presents architecture in the continent’s 49 sub-Saharan nation-states, includes contributions by nearly 340 authors, 5,000 photos, more than 850 buildings, and 49 articles expressly devoted to theorizing African architecture in its social, economic, historical, and cultural context. I interviewed two of the editors—Adil Dalbai, an architectural researcher and practitioner specializing in sub-Saharan Africa, and Livingstone Mukasa, a native Ugandan architect interested in the intersections of architectural history and cultural anthropology—about the challenges of creating the guide, some of its revelations about the architecture of Africa, and its potential impact.

What’s the Point of Architecture Criticism?

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

What, exactly, is the point of architecture criticism? The word “criticism” is derived from the Greek term krinein, meaning to separate, to sift, to make distinctions, to discern, to examine, or to judge. According to Wayne Attoe, an architect and educator who writes about architecture criticism in his book Architecture and Critical Imagination (now sadly out of print), this does not necessarily mean to disapprove of, or to find fault with. It can be favorable or unfavorable; it can praise or condemn.

Architecture and the Stain of Modern Day Slavery

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

Exploring the question of slavery in Architecture, the building materials and the construction industry, Michael J. Crosbie interviews Sharon Prince, the women behind Design for Freedom, discussing the initiative's report "on the pervasive use of slavery in the design and construction industry, and how design professionals can respond".

Assault on a Sacred Place

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

For most people, calling a place “sacred” designates it as an important location, one usually associated with spirituality. It might be the setting for religious rituals (the sacred space of a church, synagogue, or mosque), a spot where some event described as “miraculous” has occurred (such as the reported sighting of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France, which became a pilgrimage site), or a place which held the body of deity (think of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, built upon what is believed the be the tomb of Jesus Christ). 

Reaffirming the Essential Role of Drawing in Design

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

In 2012, the Yale School of Architecture held a conference on the topic of drawing. It posed a couple of provocative questions: Was the study and practice of architecture already beyond it? Was it is even necessary to draw in order to be an architect? Mark Alan Hewitt’s new book, Draw in Order to See (ORO Editions), is a resounding affirmation that not only must architects draw, they cannot help but do so—it’s like breathing. The connection between the hand and the eye, between a soft pencil and a toothy sheaf of paper, is how architects, in fact, “see.”

In Praise of Cemeteries

When you live in a small New England town, a cemetery is never far away. If I take an hour’s walk through local streets, I will easily pass by or through two or three. They’ve long been places of solace, peace, tranquility—even ironic hubris.

Teaching an Appreciation for Architecture Through Film

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

The field of architecture is not exactly a hot topic of study for most undergraduate students. The closest they might get to the subject is an art history survey course in which architecture is presented as a parade of styles across the millennia—just another form of visual expression. 

Kliment Halsband Architects on Its New Ugandan Surgical Facility

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

Ambulatory surgical procedures are routine in the U.S., but that’s not the case for most of the world. According to Dr. Michael Marin, head of surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, 5 billion people have no access to safe and affordable surgery procedures, a reality that in 2010 led to nearly 17 million deaths across the globe. In search of a new model for surgical facilities that could serve local communities—a model that would be independent and self-sustaining, outside of the context of large urban hospital complexes—Dr. Marin reached out to Kliment Halsband Architects in New York, a firm that had no experience in healthcare design. Recently I talked to firm principal Frances Halsband about how the project came about, and what she and her team learned in the process.

 Kliment Halsband Architects on Its New Ugandan Surgical Facility  Kliment Halsband Architects on Its New Ugandan Surgical Facility  Kliment Halsband Architects on Its New Ugandan Surgical Facility  Kliment Halsband Architects on Its New Ugandan Surgical Facility + 11

Thomas Fisher on The Ethics of Architecture and Other Contradictions

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

Why don’t architects often consider the ethics of what they do? Thomas Fisher’s new book, The Architecture of Ethics, digs into this topic in great depth and with engaging insight. At the recent AIA convention in Las Vegas, I sat down with Fisher—former dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design, and now a professor in urban design at the school, as well as director of the Minnesota Design Center—to talk about his book and the ethical dimension of designing and building in the context of contemporary practice.

Notre-Dame and the Questions It Raises About Sacred Space

© Flickr user la_bretagne_a_paris licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
© Flickr user la_bretagne_a_paris licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "Notre-Dame and the Questions It Raises About Sacred Space."

Why Do Architects Still Struggle with Disability Requirements?

This article was originally published on Common Edge as " Why Architects Still Struggle With Disability Requirements 28 Years After Passage of the ADA".

The recent death of President George H.W. Bush occasioned assessments of his administration’s legislative achievements, one of which was the far-ranging Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights act signed into law in 1990. The law included accommodations for people with disabilities in buildings. In the ensuing decades the ADA has had a significant impact on the design and construction of the built environment in the U.S. To gauge the impact of ADA, how it has evolved, common misconceptions about ADA, and its role in promoting social equity in architecture, I spoke with Peter Stratton, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Accessibility Services at Steven Winter Associates, who works with architects and others in the construction industry on the application of the ADA design standards. (I worked at the Connecticut-based Winter firm between 1996 and 2006; Stratton was a colleague.)

How a Daily Sketch Improves Architecture

© Frank Harmon
© Frank Harmon

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "How the Quick Daily Drawing Puts Humanity Back Into Architecture."

Architect Frank Harmon has a discipline: he tries to do a freehand drawing every day. He doesn’t spend much time on them. About five minutes. These short spurts of depiction have the effect of catching lightning in a bottle or, as Virginia Woolf once said about the importance of writing every day, “to clap the net over the butterfly of moment.” To capture these moments you must be fast. The minute moves. Harmon’s drawings feel loose, fuzzy at the edges. You sense their five-minute duration.

How a Daily Sketch Improves ArchitectureHow a Daily Sketch Improves ArchitectureHow a Daily Sketch Improves ArchitectureHow a Daily Sketch Improves Architecture+ 25

"I Don't Really See AI as A Threat": Imdat As on Artificial Intelligence in Architecture

Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) the doom of the architecture profession and design services (as some warn) or a way to improve the overall design quality of the built environment, expanding and extending design services in ways yet to be explored? I sat down with my University of Hartford colleague Imdat As. Dr. As is an architect with an expertise in digital design who is an assistant professor of architecture and the co-founder of Arcbazar.com, a crowd-sourced design site. His current research on AI and its impact on architectural design and practice is funded by the US Department of Defense. Recently we sat down and talked about how this emerging technology might change design and practice as we now know it—and if so, would that be such a bad thing?

This article was originally published as "Doom or Bloom: What Will Artificial Intelligence Mean for Architecture?" on CommonEdge. It has been slightly abridged for publication on this platform; the full interview can be read on CommonEdge here.

Why Criticisms of Crowdsourcing Don't Add Up

Originally posted on ArchNewsNow as "Crowdsourcing Design: The End of Architecture, or a New Beginning?", this article by Michael J Crosbie examines the furore around crowdsourcing websites such as Arcbazar, explaining why the criticisms against it just don't stack up.

A few weeks ago, ArchNewsNow carried an article from the Orange County Register about the increasing popularity of “crowdsourcing” architectural design. You might already be familiar with the crowdsourcing concept: using the Internet to gather solutions to virtually any problem or task from people all over the world. The idea has been used to generate solutions to provide clean drinking water in third-world countries, to creating entire websites such as Wikipedia. Such activities are generally regarded as “disruptive,” in the parlance of the moment, in that they offer alternative ways of achieving a result that has traditionally been accomplished through other means. (ArchNewsNow is “disruptive” in the sense that it offers an alternative outlet for architectural news that impacts the traditional architectural publishing world of print media.)

Read on to find out why this "disruptive" new trend is nothing to fear