The Avery Review: Insightful Critical Writing Online

The Avery Review (AR), a new online journal dedicated to thinking about books, buildings and other architectural media, seeks to utilise the potential in the critical essay and repackage it for the digital realm. A project of the Office of Publications at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, the AR's responsive website (designed by Nothing in Common) perfectly matches the exceptional quality of the content. Featuring essays from Owen Hatherley and Amale Andraos, among others, the overarching aim of the review is to "explore the broader implications of a given object of discourse" whether that be "text, film, exhibition, building, project, or urban environment."

Find out more from editors Caitlin Blanchfield and James Graham after the break.

Courtesy of The Avery Review

Fundamentally interested in reviews that "test and expand the reviewer’s own intellectual commitments—theoretical, architectural, and political—through the work of others", the AR will publish new content monthly during the academic year. 

In the public sphere of the Internet, isn't everyone a critic? Aren't we already flooded by opinion? We believe not.

"Architecture’s digital realm is too often comprised of conventional wisdom, fast-twitch reactions, credulously paraphrased press releases, and a privileging of image over argument. There is valuable work being done by a number of professional architectural critics, but the demands of format and intended audience place certain limits on the scope and style of their work. The most nuanced articles of scholarly criticism, meanwhile—the reviews of record that take stock of the vital contributions of historians, theorists, and curators—are modestly sited in the back pages of the house journals, where their potential for public engagement is curtailed by self-selecting readerships."

The AR is neither "simply “over” criticism." For them, "architecture operates within overlapping frameworks of precedent, adaptation, context, politics, and circumstance, and understanding these interactions is as important as ever. Is there a critical opening between these different models, where we might explore the stakes of academia and practice through thoughtful, informed, and lively reviewing? Is there room within the field of architecture for a digital culture of criticism and commentary like those that have arisen in other disciplines? We believe so."

Courtesy of The Avery Review

ArchDaily caught up with editors - Caitlin Blanchfield and James Graham - to hear about the inception of the AR and how, in a period of fast expansion in the realm of digital print, the AR will remain current.

AD: How did the AR begin?

AR: We started The Avery Review because we wanted to address what we felt to be missing in architectural criticism and digital publishing. We feel there is room for more long-form critical essays in the online world, while a lot of great reviewing is out of sight in specific journals. The critical essay fosters writing that is incisive, insightful, and relevant, and we think those things should be the domain of an online journal. The aim of The Avery Review is to carve out a slower and more thoughtful place in the speedier world of online publishing.

AD: How is the AR different from other online journals?

AR: I think the Avery Review takes an approach that is fresh, informal, and open-ended to content that stakes real intellectual claims. The journal is a forum for thinking that is both scholarly and critical, but foremost that engages deeply with the conditions of current architectural practices. By responding the work of others—books, buildings, exhibitions, etc.—our writers open space for well-considered public conversations in the field. Its a model you see in literary journals online, but less so in the realm of design.

So, in short, I think the answer lies in both the tone and metabolism of our content: artful prose that is reactive but not reactionary. Its something the design speaks to as well. We worked with the firm Nothing in Common, who have a great sensibility. The site foregrounds the words of our writers while engaging the reader in novel ways.

AD: What does the AR value above all else?

AR: Rigor and panache.

Courtesy of The Avery Review
Courtesy of The Avery Review

Follow the Avery Review on Twitter, or read the journal online here. The AR also welcome appropriate submissions.

About this author
Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "The Avery Review: Insightful Critical Writing Online" 29 Sep 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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