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Critical Round-Up: Renzo Piano's Whitney Museum

Depending on how you measure it, Renzo Piano's new building for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (designed in collaboration with New York practice Cooper Robertson) could be the most long-awaited museum of the 21st century. At just a fraction under seven years since the first designs of the building were released, the incubation period has been long enough on its own - but in fact the project has its roots in a scrapped 1981 design by Michael Graves, when the Whitney was instead planning an extension to their previous home in Marcel Breuer's 1966 masterpiece on Madison Avenue. With such a highly anticipated building, the Whitney could hardly have a better man for the job; Piano is one of the most prodigious museum builders of our time. Yet despite this, since construction began in 2011 the design has been beset by criticism for its ungainly external appearance.

Ahead of the Whitney's grand opening on May 1st, this past Sunday saw a slew of reviews from New York's many reputable art and architecture critics, who attempted to make sense of the institution's long-overdue move from their idiosyncratic but endearing former home. We've rounded up some of the best of them, after the break.

© Flickr CC user Payton Chung © Flickr CC user Steven Severinghaus © Flickr CC user Steven Severinghaus © Flickr CC user Bill Benzon

Paul Goldberger on the High Line

This past Sunday, New York celebrated the opening of the High Line’s final section. More playful and untamed than its counterparts, the elevated park’s northernmost segment seems to have pleased the critics. As Paul Goldberger explained, the High Line at the Rail Yards is “stunningly refreshing” and “gives you an altogether new, relaxed, low-key way of being on the High Line.” You can read Goldberger’s take on the new portion of the High Line here on Vanity Fair. 

Shelf Life: 33 Book Recommendations From Architects & Designers

Architects often don’t make time to read. Students and professionals alike will admit that the unread books on their shelves outnumber the ones they've read - which is unfortunate because literary contributions to the field of architecture, from Vitruvius to Le Corbusier, have shaped the way we build and use buildings for centuries. With this in mind, ArchitectureBoston polled their readers, asking them to share their favorite architecture and design titles, to compile a list of important architecture books you should set aside some time for. The list covers a wide range of subjects, from historical theory to the practicalities of starting a firm. See all thirty-three titles, after the break.

The Role of the Architectural Discourse in the 'New Media Age'

In an interview with Julia Ingalls Paul Goldberger, former architecture critic of the New York Times and forthcoming biographer of Frank Gehry, discusses the critical relevance of architecture in what he dubs the "new media age." According to Ingalls, Goldberger has thrived "by writing informed narratives that examine not just the trendy cladding of a building, but the deep historical, social, and political environments that invariably give rise to it." Goldberger is a writer who has embraced Twitter, using it as a platform for discussion and debate just as, in prior years, his writings in print media would act as less immediate provocations.

Are the Palisades Too Pure for LG's Headquarters?

Responding to the bevy of critics slamming LG Electronics for building their new headquarters in the Palisades in New Jersey (half an hour north from NYC), Lee Rosenbaum, the Palisades-resident and architecture blogger known as CultureGrrl, maintains that "When it comes to preserving the 'pristine Palisades,' the boat has already sailed." Since LG's planned strip will be located on what is, according to Rosenbaum, already "a very commercial strip," she suggests that "that the incensed defenders of the purportedly unspoiled beauty of the Palisades [...] haven’t actually set eyes on them." Check out the images of her neighborhood as well as her very interesting Twitter tussles with The New York Times' Michael KimmelmanVanity Fair's Paul Goldbergerand New York Magazine's Justin Davidson at her blog, and let us know what you think of the debate in the comments below. 

Unpublished / CLOG

Each edition of CLOG poses a particular challenge to the reader: by showcasing such a variety of distinct view points, teasing out the central, connective themes is far from an easy task. It requires analysis, thought, and most of all time - which is, of course, entirely the point. CLOG seeks to “slow things down” so that the greater issues of architectural discourse are mulled over and explored. 

The latest CLOG, however, Unpublished, has two central points that quickly, easily emerge. Pick up CLOG: Unpublished if you want to learn two things: (1) about how and why certain publications choose the architecture they publish (ArchDaily included); or (2) about works that have, for their geographical location or problematic nature, been forgotten from the “idealized narratives” of architecture

Zumthor: "Apostle of the Real"

In an article for Vanity Fair Paul Goldberger unravels the Swiss Mystique surrounding Peter Zumthor's personality and work, describing him as a "cross between Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Proust, with perhaps a tiny bit of Bob Dylan thrown in." With completed projects few and far between, but executed with intense experiential thought and craftsmanship, the article explores how Zumthor's motives has informed his rigorous attitude to architecture. Having recently been awarded the RIBA Gold Medal, the "cult following" that Goldberger described in 2001 seems to only be getting stronger. You can read the full article here.

Preserving Modern Architecture in the Midwest

On April 24th and 25th, Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) will celebrate the gift and the restoration of the Frederick and Harriet Rauh House, designed by pioneering Cincinnati Modernist John Becker in Woodlawn, by hosting “Preserving Modern Architecture,” a two-day symposium at the house. In September 2011, CPA launched the restoration of the 1938 Rauh House with a festive celebration honoring Emily Rauh Pulitzer, donor of the house and funder of the work. A year later, the restoration of this pioneering International Style residence is complete.

Robert Venturi and Rem Koolhaas Side with Denise Scott Brown on Pritzker Debate

Robert Venturi has joined nearly 4,000 advocates in the call to retrospectively acknowledge Denise Scott Brown as a joint Pritzker Prize laureate, stating: “Denise Scott Brown is my inspiring and equal partner.”

His support was then quickly followed by Rem Koolhaas, who stated: “I totally support this action. The fact that one of the most creative and productive partnerships we have ever seen in architecture was separated rather than celebrated by a prize has been an embarrassing injustice which it would be great to undo.”

More updates after the break...

Architectural Criticism in the Age of Twitter / Paul Goldberger

Paul Goldberger © James Callanan
Paul Goldberger © James Callanan

There’s a saying that goes “Those who can’t do, teach.” But many could also claim: “Those who can’t do, critique.” Criticism, particularly Architecture Criticism, tends to get a bad rap for being subjective, impenetrable, and - ultimately - useless. But Paul Goldberger, a champion of the craft, would disagree.    

In his acceptance speech for the Vincent Scully Prize earlier this month, Goldberger, the long-time architecture critic for The New York Times and current contributor to Vanity Fair, suggests that Architectural Criticism isn’t just vital - but more important than ever before.

With the advent of visually-oriented social media like Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, it’s never been easier for the architectural layman to observe, share, and consume architecture. However, in the midst of this hyper-flow of image intake, Goldberger argues, meaning gets lost. 

That’s where the critic comes in.

A Short Break: The Story of Paul Goldberger

Paul Goldberger © James Callanan
Paul Goldberger © James Callanan

National Building Museum and Metropolis Magazine contributor Andrew Caruso takes you “inside the design mind” of Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger.

It’s rare to find someone willing to pay for opinions these days, and rarer still to be known for them. Yet, Paul Goldberger has crafted a career by objectively navigating the subjective. As an arbiter of quality in architecture and design for nearly four decades, he spends a few moments with me to reminisce about the “short break” he took from journalism that led to, among many accolades, the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and, more recently, the Scully Prize.

Andrew Caruso: You’re being recognized this year by the National Building Museum with the Vincent Scully prize. Given your relationship with Scully began when you were a student at Yale, this must be a very meaningful award.

Paul Goldberger: Scully was very much a teacher and mentor to me. Actually my first exposure to him was a high school visit to Yale. I observed one of his classes and was blown away. He was one of the reasons I wanted to go to Yale in the first place and I was lucky to work with him through college and as my thesis adviser.

The complete interview after the break…

Architects in Conversation: Jeanne Gang + Paul Goldberger

Aqua Tower by Studio Gang / © gshowman via flickr:
Aqua Tower by Studio Gang / © gshowman via flickr:

Visionary architect, MacArthur Fellow and National Academician Jeanne Gang joins Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and architecture critic Paul Goldberger as part of the Academy’s annual Architects in Conversation series. Together they will discuss Studio Gang’s past, present, and future projects, as well as Gang’s role within the important architectural tradition of Chicago. The talk will be on Wednesday, October 3, 2012, at 6:30pm at the National Academy Museum. For tickets and for more information, please visit here.

The Architect Critic Is Dead (just not for the reason you think)

Arlington National Cemetery © Stuck in Customs
Arlington National Cemetery © Stuck in Customs

As you may have heard,The New Yorker’s Architect Critic, Paul Goldberger, is leaving for Vanity Fair.

If this registers no reaction from you, let me explain why it should. Paul Goldberger is the crowned prince of criticism. He began his career at The New York Times in 1972, where he worked under Ada Louise Huxtable, our reigning critical queen, and where he won a Pulitzer Prize. In 1997, he switched media empires:

“I thought it was as perfect a life as you could have,” Goldberger told The Observer, “to spend half your career at The Times, half at The New Yorker.”

But, after years of “fighting for adequate space” in an increasingly shrinking column, Goldberger won’t be finishing his writing days as Architect Critic of The New Yorker, but as Contributing Editor of Vanity Fair.

Many will conclude that this is a death knell for architecture; that if architecture cannot justify its own column at The New Yorker, one of the most influential publications in the world, then it must no longer be deemed relevant. This is what happened when Michael Kimmelman, an Arts reporter with no architectural training was appointed to cover architecture at The Times. Critics tweeted: “NYT to Architecture of NYC: Drop Dead” and “Architecture: you’ve been demoted.”

I too will add a cry to the din: “The Architecture Critic is Dead!” But you know what? Good riddance. Because criticism hasn’t died the way you think. It’s just been changed beyond recognition. And frankly, for the better.

Read more on the transformation of architecture & its criticism after the break…

Goldberger to Vanity Fair