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2006 08 28
Architectural Criticism For Everyone
A few months ago I was on a panel in New York city with a bunch of well known architects and architectural critics. I have to admit that it was a lot of fun. We talked about some big urban design issues. Afterward, there was a dinner where guests had the opportunity to stand and explain to the group what they felt was important in the world of architecture. Everyone learned a lot. I left feeling energized because these people cared enough to make profound differences in the quality of the built environment around them.

That experience, unfortunately, was only able to exist amongst a very narrow segment of the population. Why? Architecture and urban design are capital intensive activities that demand education, experience, talent, and skill to do well. Where does that leave the rest of us? Are we left out of the process when it comes to determining the form and nature of the built world around us? Of course not. Whether critics might like the results or not, people make decisions all the time that influence the way cities take shape.

One of my favourite blogs is BldgBlog. The editor there wrote with great insight on why architecture publications are losing their influence over the general public:
Being an architectural critic means writing about architecture – even writing about Le Corbusier and Toyo Ito, sure – but that means writing about architecture in its every manifestation: whether it's built or not, designed by an architect or not, featured in a videogame or not, found anywhere other than inside a novel or not, whether it's still intact or not – even whether it's on planet Earth.

If a critic can get people to realize that the everyday architectural world of garages and malls and bad haunted house novels is worthy of architectural analysis – and that architecture is even exciting to discuss – then maybe the trade journals can get some of their subscribers back. At the very least, it's worth a try.
Even if that means saying: Gee, the new Home Depot sucks.

I like this idea. It is my experience that most people have what could rightly be called sophisticated ideas about architecture but most lack the means to express them. The architectural profession -- and local government -- have to do more to aid that expression. It is an opportunity that we ignore to the detriment of everyone. Is the OAA listening?
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 08/28 at 01:50 PM

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