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.
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…
The National Building Museum has named Paul Goldberger as the fourteenth laureate of the Vincent Scully Prize for “his lifetime work of encouraging thoughtful discourse and debate about the importance of design”. The Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and has written for a number of publications, including The New York Times and The New Yorker.
Vincent Scully Prize jury commended Goldberger for understanding that “architecture is in itself a form of public discourse”. Jury member Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk further explained that Goldberger has a unique ability to “explain architecture to the popular readership in a way that bridges the perceiver and the designer.”
Continue reading for Goldberger’s response.