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Architectural Writing: The Latest Architecture and News

Places Journal Launches New Tool for Sharing Articles about Architecture, Landscape, and Urbanism

06:00 - 13 March, 2015
Places Journal Launches New Tool for Sharing Articles about Architecture, Landscape, and Urbanism, Courtesy of Places Journal
Courtesy of Places Journal

Do you have a stimulating read on architecture, landscapes, or urbanism you want to share with the world? Places Journal has launched an innovative interactive feature called Reading Lists designed to spread the word. Whether you have videos and websites to share with a peer, articles and books to compile for future perusal, or an annotated bibliography to create, Reading Lists is sure to simplify the process through its user-friendly and interdisciplinary platform. Check out the Featured Lists for inspiration and start your own list, here.

Why Spaces Shouldn't Be Described as "Masculine" or "Feminine"

00:00 - 4 January, 2015
Why Spaces Shouldn't Be Described as "Masculine" or "Feminine", The interior design of bedrooms is often described as "feminine". Image © robinimages2013 via Shutterstock
The interior design of bedrooms is often described as "feminine". Image © robinimages2013 via Shutterstock

What is the most misused word in the world of architectural writing? Could it be "iconic"? What about "innovative"? The staff over at Curbed have a nomination: referring to spaces as either "masculine" or "feminine." In an op-ed published last month, they write that "the people who write about decor and design need to stop describing spaces with gendered terms," arguing: "Let's say two spaces were written up in a decor blog, and one was described as masculine, and the other feminine. Which would have white walls? Which would have raw concrete floors? ... If these have fairly easy answers, it's because we're in the realm of stereotype."

Writing Architecture: A Practical Guide to Clear Communication about the Built Environment

01:00 - 8 October, 2014
Writing Architecture: A Practical Guide to Clear Communication about the Built Environment, Courtesy of Trinity University Press
Courtesy of Trinity University Press

The following in an excerpt from Carter Wiseman's Writing Architecture: A Practical Guide to Clear Communication about the Built Environment. The book considers the process, methods, and value of architecture writing based on Carter Wiseman’s thirty years of personal experience writing, editing, and teaching young architects how to write. This book creatively tackles a problematic issue that Wiseman considers to crucial to successful architecture writing: clarity of thinking and expression.

Some years ago, a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education declared, “Too many architecture students can’t write.” [1] Those students have since gone on to become practitioners, and their inability to write is likely to have had seriously negative professional consequences. Robert Campbell, a Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic for the Boston Globe, condemned in Architectural Record much of what even the most prominent practicing architects write as “pretentious illiteracy.” He went on to attack their coded language as “ArchiSpeak”and warned that “sooner or later, architects (and planners and landscapers and urban designers) must convince someone to hire them or at least bless them with a grant. . . . Nobody is going to trust a dollar to a pompous twit.” [2]

Why Good Architectural Writing Doesn’t Exist (And, Frankly, Needn’t)


00:00 - 14 August, 2013
Why Good Architectural Writing Doesn’t Exist (And, Frankly, Needn’t)
, New York Times and Wall Street Journal architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable (1921-2013). “The consistent theme is pleasure,” Ms. Huxtable wrote in 1978. “There is so much more to see, to experience, to understand, to enjoy.” A great writer on architecture, but, thankfully, not an architectural writer. Image © Gene Maggio, New York Times
New York Times and Wall Street Journal architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable (1921-2013). “The consistent theme is pleasure,” Ms. Huxtable wrote in 1978. “There is so much more to see, to experience, to understand, to enjoy.” A great writer on architecture, but, thankfully, not an architectural writer. Image © Gene Maggio, New York Times

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.”