Contrary to movie myth, there is no such thing as an overnight sensation. The moment when a cultural presence bursts upon the scene, seemingly fully formed, is almost always preceded by unwitnessed years of DIY training and single-minded obsession. Such is the case for Kate Wagner, who broke the architectural internet in 2016 with the introduction of McMansion Hell, a sharp and hilarious skewering of the bloated American home, in all its garish and desperate striving. A year later, the real estate listing site Zillow served the then-23-year-old Wagner with a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that her use of photographs violated copyright (even though they didn’t own the photographs either!). It was a clumsy move, resulting in an eventual corporate about-face and scads of free publicity for McMansion Hell.
Architectural Criticism: The Latest Architecture and News
Chicago architecture is empty without Chicago architectural journalism. From the 1880s launch of the black-and-white publication Inland Architect, which covered the rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire, to a 1985 critique of the James R. Thompson Center by Paul Gapp in the Chicago Tribune titled “Masterpiece or Ego Trip?” which set the course for the public reception of the building, coverage, and criticism of architecture in local newspapers and architecture publications has provided a critical link to how Chicago maintains its reputation as a city of extraordinary architecture. Architectural criticism and journalism have and continue to help Chicago understand how we arrived at this built environment and what the future holds.
Last Friday, January 15, Blair Kamin ended his 28-year run as architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune. I have known and admired Kamin for almost two decades. His writing on architecture and the built environment was sharp and lucid; he was not afraid to offend the less than delicate sensibilities of those in power.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1999, Kamin was an activist critic, very much in the tradition of Ada Louise Huxtable and Allan Temko. Late last week, I reached out to Kamin to talk about the role of critics, and the end of his singular run.
Some celebrate the failures of "Make It Right", Brad Pitt’s patronage in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans in 2005, celebrated architects like Frank Gehry, David Adjaye and Thom Mayne created art for a foundation set up by Pitt. A local architect, John C. Williams was hired to turn designs from those starchitects into buildings with a directive to use the best sustainable materials available.
This article was originally published on Common Edge.
In 1755, Francesco Algarotti, disgusted with what opera had become, wrote An Essay On The Opera in which he called for its simplification. For Algarotti, opera had degenerated into a vehicle for soloists to grandstand with endless improvisations overshadowing the music and ignoring the drama. Even the drama had lost the plot with mythological characters in extraordinary and complex situations. Algarotti saw drama as being the essence of opera and wanted the emphasis restored to it, with everything else secondary. Christoph Willibald Gluck and his librettist, Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, were the first to make it work with their 1762 opera Orfeo ed Euridice. It had characters and drama people could relate to, music that could be remembered and lyrics and a plot that could be understood. It’s regarded as the first truly modern opera.
The International Committee of Architectural Critics CICA is pleased to announce an invitation to publishers, editors, curators and authors to submit their publications for consideration for the 10th CICA Awards 2020 by 30th November 2019. Award winners will be announced during the UIA XXVII World Congress of Architecture to be held in Rio de Janeiro from July 19th to 23rd, 2020.
The Awards fall into four categories:
“Bruno Zevi CICA Book Award”
For published books on architectural criticism, theory and history
“Pierre Vago CICA Journalism Award”
For an article
Back in 2008, ArchDaily embarked on a challenging mission: to provide inspiration, knowledge, and tools to the architects tasked with designing cities. In an effort to further align our strategy with these challenges, we recently introduced monthly themes in order to dig deeper into topics we find relevant in today’s architectural discourse. From architects who don't design to reframing climate change as a global issue, we are celebrating our 11th birthday by asking 11 editors and curators to choose ArchDaily's most inspiring articles.
This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "The Design Media Needs to Examine its Own Privilege."
Kate Wagner grew up in rural North Carolina. As a kid, her mom, who never went to college, worked in a grocery store deli and later in childcare. Her dad had a steady government job with a pension, and his time in the military meant he had the resources and benefits needed to get a college degree. Wagner describes her economic background as “one foot in the working class and one foot in the middle class, and it was always a negotiation between those two classes.” They were, she says, “just normal-ass American people.”
This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Architectural Criticism that's Not Just for Architects."
In case you hadn’t noticed the world is going from paper to pixels. You’re reading this, here. Everything is changing, and that includes how we talk and think and write about architecture.
From the Fundación Arquia Blog, architect José Ramón Hernandez brings us an article that reflects on projects that can only be appreciated because of who they were created by. If it weren't for the fact that they bear the signature of their illustrious creator, they most likely would have gone completely unnoticed or even despised.
Ten years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf coast of the US, hitting New Orleans the hardest. Two years after the wake of this destruction, after seeing the city's lack of rebuilding progress firsthand, Hollywood star and architecture enthusiast Brad Pitt launched Make It Right, a project set to build 150 houses designed by 20 internationally renowned architects.
Over the past eight years, Make It Right has not only helped to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans—the area struck the hardest by the disaster—but has also began to spread its work to Missouri, Montana, and New Jersey, with more projects coming soon. While the non-profit organization has had success in its endeavors, it has simultaneously faced a great deal of criticism.
In a recent interview with NOLA, Pitt discusses some of these criticisms, reflecting on the growth of the organization, and the changes it has made. Find out about Pitt’s evolving perspective, after the break.
No matter what you think of it, these days there is no denying that a celebrity culture has a significant effect on the architecture world, with a small percentage of architects taking a large portion of the spotlight. Questioning this status quo, Vladimir Belogolovsky's new book "Conversations with Architects in the Age of Celebrity" interrogates some of these famous architects to find out what they think of the culture which has elevated them to such heights. In this excerpt from the book's foreword, Belogolovsky asks how we got into this celebrity-loving architectural culture, and what it means for the buildings produced.
Last week Patrik Schumacher, director at Zaha Hadid Architects and the practice's frontman in the field of architectural theory, took once again to Facebook to disseminate his ideas - this time arguing that "the denunciation of architectural icons and stars is superficial and ignorant." In the post, Schumacher lamented the default position of the architectural media which he believes sees success and reputation as "a red cloth and occasion to knock down icons," going on to outline his beliefs on why stars and icons are useful and even inevitable mechanisms of architectural culture.
Schumacher has made headlines via Facebook before, with a post last year in which he argued for an end to the "moralizing political correctness" that has led to the popularity of socially-conscious design - a post which attracted almost universal outrage from architects, critics and social media users of all stripes. However this latest post had a very different feel; many people, myself included, seemed to find themselves at least partially agreeing with Schumacher. After all, at the most basic level he was asking for designs to each be judged on their individual merits - what's not to like?
"What I love about architecture is it really is the art form that we all encounter, it's larger than life, it's what you can't avoid." In this installment of Arbuckle Industries' Archiculture interviews, author and urban design critic John King dissects the role of the public in architectural practice and the mindset of those who get involved. He goes on to discuss the defining characteristics of successful, seasoned architects, and compares their mentality to that of emerging architects. Additionally, King touches on the subject of architectural criticism and how the profession came about.
Formlessfinder of New York City has a vision "to liberate architecture from the constraints of form." Samuel Medina of Metropolis Magazine recently interviewed the Princeton duo on contemporary architectural practice - fittingly naming them "Formal Renegades."
“We like architecture,” says Garrett Ricciardi, with real sincerity. “We want to save architecture.” But from what? Ricciardi is one half of New York–based formlessfinder, the experimental—you might say radical—architecture firm he founded with Julian Rose in 2011, just after the pair completed a joint thesis at Princeton University. Their project, which laid out the blueprint for Ricciardi and Rose’s subsequent collaborations, advanced a daring proposition: to liberate architecture from the constraints of form.
“The basic idea of the formless is about freeing up architecture to make it about what we want it to be about,” Rose says. “The idea is that form has sort of gotten in the way,” he adds, before checking off a laundry list of offenders: parametricism, digital fabrication, blobs, minimalism. Where form has “always served to limit and control,” the formless, as the architects have come to define it, is subversive by nature. It’s an operation rife with uncertainty, producing “messy, equivocal, and, most importantly, generative” results.
In October Phineas Harper, assistant editor of The Architectural Review, published an article about the state of architectural publishing, in which he addressed the crisis facing traditional architectural publishers and heavily criticized online platforms, particularly ArchDaily, that have “little time for critique, turning instead to reworking press releases and biased descriptions from the architects.”
Allow me to introduce myself: I am a critic and creator of original content for ArchDaily, and I would like to refute these allegations.
The Architects’ Journal recently announced its call for entries for the “AJ Writing Prize,” its annual search for “the best new architectural writer.”
Back in 2011 (how did I miss this?) they published a treatise on the qualities of good architectural writing penned by one of the prize’s judges, architect Alan Berman.
Now, please consider that I am butchering his essay by removing this quote from the stream of his thinking, but, that being said, this paragraph stands out:
Architectural writing should aid everyone’s understanding of buildings and assist architects to design better ones. This is not to say that it should be an instruction manual or ignore the importance of the myriad intellectual endeavours which explore the human predicament –about which architects should always be conscious. Rather it is to say that architectural commentary should aim for clarity and precision of expression by means of lucid terminology and simplicity of structure.
This strikes me as a very technical and precise way of producing writer’s block. If this is the extent of good architectural writing, or writing that is in the service of architecture, then “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”