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Reporting on the State of Architectural Criticism

A distinguished panel of architectural critics gathered this past week at the Center for Architecture, in New York, to discuss “Architectural Criticism Today.” Julie V. Iovine presents some choice excerpts from the two-hour conversation.
March 4, 2012, 1pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Hosted by The Architect's Newspaper, Oculus, and AIANY's Marketing and PR committee, the discussion gathered some of the preeminent architectural writers working today to reflect on the state of their profession. The panel included architecture critics Justin Davidson of New York magazine and Paul Goldberger of The New Yorker; Cathleen McGuigan, editor in chief of Architectural Record; and James Russell, the architecture columnist at Bloomberg.

While the highlights that Iovine includes are generally fascinating, of particular interest was this exchange regarding the movement away from covering celebrity architecture.

James Russell: "I think the readership has lost interest in the celebrity architect. They see that the glamorous buildings by "glamorous architects" are not really part of their economic reality. They might be thinking, why are architects doing these glam buildings instead of public housing? What a lot of people don't understand is that someone has to hire the architects to do that work, and if no one is hiring them, they can't do that kind of work."

Cathleen McGuigan: "I think people are a little more sophisticated about the public realm than we give them credit for. I think it's a change that happened with the outpouring of response and interest in New York after 9/11. I went to some of those Imagine New York meetings at the Municipal Art Society and it was powerful to see people coming out on weekends to sit there for hours. It said something about the public at large and their caring about these issues."

Paul Goldberger: "You're right, although it took 9/11 to bring that to the fore. And since then we have seen it fade. For about two years afterwards, I was told I could write as much and as long as I wanted about architecture. But before and since that period, it's been the usual fight for space with all the other competing cultural areas...To go back to the subject of the object building. I think readers very much want more than that. They are in fact profoundly interested in how the city works and how it affects their lives."

The event last week was the first in a series on architecture and the media hosted by the Center for Architecture. Up next on May 3 is Design Reportage: The Business Press and General Interest Media.

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Published on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 in The Architect's Newspaper
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