The Death of Criticism

In 1997, my friend Martin Pawley wrote a column for The Architect’s Journal titled “The Strange Death of Architectural Criticism.” The leading architectural critic of his generation, Martin died in 2008, but I wonder what he would have to say about the latest demise of his craft? The New York Times has a “chief architecture critic” who hardly ever writes about architecture. Paul Goldberger, our leading critic, has not appeared in the New Yorker since September 2011. I always check to see what Sarah Williams Goldhagen, the interesting critic of The New Republic, has to say, and she hasn’t posted anything since November 2011. The Huffington Post has a crowded architecture page, although it is hard to find a clear critical voice among all the snippets of information. Slate decided it could do without an architecture critic—me—last December. I don’t know whether it’s the recession and dearth of new buildings, or whether after the boom years, when architecture became faddish, the fad has simply faded. Popularity has its costs.

UPDATE Goldberger has since moved to Vanity Fair.

5 Responses to The Death of Criticism

  • Bill Ellson says:

    I am happy to say that architectural criticism is alive and reasonably well over here in the UK.

    A good example of this was Rowan Moore’s recent hatchet job in the Observer on the proposed London River Park http://j.mp/GIMnOn . Mr Moore did his research, analysed the results and then wrote his damning article. Almost nothing has been heard of Gensler’s Folly since.

  • Randall says:

    Fascinating. I was sent the title and link to this page from an architecture historian friend. I hoped for an essay on the general dumbing down of criticism but instead see measurable dates from the leading U.S. publications I turn to when searching this topic. The frankness and brevity makes for a more alarming impression. Instead of reinforcing my smug disappointment with the general dumbing down of things, I’m concerned. Nice work. Not sure where I go now. I do want to read criticism, not wonder where it is. As for the gentle jingoistic ribbing from commenter Ellson, the example from Nov 2011 matches the date provided for the Goldhagen example, also dated Nov 2011.

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