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Calling for an Architecture of Place

Fred Kent, of the Project for Public Spaces, wades into the debate over architecture and design criticism with an affirmation of the importance of place, buttressing his argument with five successful contemporary buildings, and a Hall of Shame.
March 14, 2012, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Echoing recent conversations ignited by a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Architecture and a " title="Will open in a new window" target="_blank">recent talk by Michael Kimmelman on the subject of architectural criticism and how design critics frame their assessments, Kent bemoans what he regards as a common disregard for a building's effect on a sense of place.

Kent observes that, "Design and architecture critics frequently ignore the human aspect of buildings and focus merely on form. When they write their enormously influential critiques, they don't concern themselves with how buildings shape human experience, or how those buildings make people feel. They fail to engage with the way that architecture impacts our innate sense of place."

Kent's wish to "steer the discussion about architecture and design toward the idea of place," is something that Kimmelman, perhaps the most influential critic in the country due to his platform at The New York Times, would likely agree with (as his recent comments and columns can attest), and that other writers such as Christopher Hawthorne at the Los Angeles Times have been practicing for quite some time.

For Kent, architecture is successful when it, "ennobles people - that makes them feel empowered, important, and excited to be in the places they inhabit in their daily lives." And the measure against which architecture should be judged is, "whether [it] creates a place. When we discuss a building, that criterion should be as important as whether it is 'green' or 'sustainable' or 'iconic.'"

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Published on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 in Project For Public Spaces
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