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The Kimmelmania Backlash

Matt Chaban explores the divided opinions on the work of the fairly new architecture critic for <em>The New York Times</em>, Michael Kimmelman, who some complain isn't writing enough about Architecture.
March 10, 2012, 7am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Many of Kimmelman's pieces written over his first four months on the job have focused on larger issues of urbanism and public design, which has his detractors clamoring for more traditionally defined architectural analysis. At a recent talk at Columbia, earlier this week, Kimmelman acknowledged the thrust of his work as described above, but parried his critics, "[a] false dichotomy has been set up; there's this idea that writing about urban affairs and architecture are separate," he said. "They're part of the same world."

According to Chaban, Kimmelman went on to explain at the event how he might write about a specific building, such as Zaha Hadid's MAXXI Museum in Rome, by investigating its impact on the larger neighborhood.

This framing of analysis may seem natural, and even desirable to most planners, or those concerned with the interaction between architecture and larger forces, but for Chaban it is startling, and leaves something to be desired.

"It is a new and bracing way to write about architecture. In the past, the museum would likely have been compared to others of its ilk, alongside MoMA, the Guggenheim Bilbao, maybe Daniel Libeskind's severe Denver Art Museum. It is peg versus peg."

"Kimmelman seems to care very little for these games and would rather focus on whether or not that peg fits into the hole into which it has been placed, something that really does not happen enough. The only problem is it can lead to articles that read quite a lot alike. At least that is the superficial reading."

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Published on Thursday, March 8, 2012 in The New York Observer
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