Why America Need Architecture Critics like Philadelphia's Inga Saffron

The writing of Inga Saffron "makes an ardent plea for more critics willing to take up the mantle of urban citizenship," according to a recent article in The Architectural Review.
June 12, 2014, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Michael Abrahamson begins an analysis of the recent Pulitzer Prize for Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron by explaining the significance of the award: "Joining an elite group of only six other architecture writers to have received the coveted prize for excellence in US journalism, Saffron’s critical interest in the architecture of the everyday make her an intriguing Pulitzer laureate."

What is the everyday so significant, according to Abrahamson? "Whereas the pantheon of architecture critics in the UK is filled with travellers and nomads – Pevsner, Meades, Banham and their ilk – there is a contrary tradition in the US of embedded on-the-ground, journalistic writing dealing with the everyday realities of city development and articulating in quotidian language strategies for bettering the urban environment."

As for what makes Saffron so uniquely special, Abrahamson "views her role as less a critic of architecture than of city life, concerning herself not only with the relative quality or deficiency of its built environment but also with the bustling street life and cultural diversity that fascinated another of her obvious forebears, Jane Jacobs."

Abrahamson cites the example of Saffron's stand against the "sub-architectural" "epidemic" of garage-fronted townhouses in Philadelphia in exemplifying the value of her criticism relative to a discussion directed at the city's "shiniest architectural baubles."

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Published on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 in The Architectural Review
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