Column: Architecture critic, heal thyself!

"The Architect's Dream" (1840), by Thomas Cole. (

“The Architect’s Dream” (1840), by Thomas Cole. (

Witold Rybczynski’s 18th book, “How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit,” opens with a quarrel in its title. By any definition of humanism, architecture has been broken for at least seven decades. The book, published in October by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, offers a tool kit for examining architecture but not for fixing it.

Indeed, Rybczynski the architecture critic fails to do what many dictionaries fail to do: say what is correct. Most dictionaries just describe a bunch of meanings and leave the proper usage up to you. Well, thanks a heap!

Rybczynski asserts with pride that he, too, has no “agenda.” Why not? Is it not the job of an architecture critic to have an agenda? Almost all architecture critics have an agenda. It is to promote modern architecture while looking down their noses at new traditional architecture, when they acknowledge its existence at all.

To read the rest, please visit The Providence Journal.


About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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2 Responses to Column: Architecture critic, heal thyself!

  1. Remarkable! Its genuinely remarkable article, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article.


  2. Mr. Brussat:
    I imagine you posit yourself as an architectural critic. The straightforward assertions regarding architectural quality that rumble about in this little piece of misinformation would suggest such a presumption.
    Is not a published (as opposed to an amateur) critic expected to have perspective on the subject he or she presumes to address? You seem to have little; certainly your blanket statement on the past 70 years of the architectural profession suggest either an inability to read or a remarkable lack of of the ability to comprehend.
    Let’s see – 70 years ago would be 1944. Hence the entire post WWII era has been a failure, at least in your misty, backward-looking eyes. That would include: almost all of Kenzo Tange’s work in Tokyo, Mies van der Rohe’s American buildings, many lovely small houses built in the 1950’s by people like Esherick, Neutra and even FL Wright on the west coast, Ronchamp – the list is long, but I am sure I am boring you, or perhaps I’m turning your stomach.
    Meanwhile our culture has rolled on, producing quantities of sophisticated items: trophy houses, zombie movies, pop-tarts, strip malls and miles of subdivisions. Not to mention the writings of the so-called knowledgeable amateurs whose insights we can read at the touch of a cursor.
    My God how out of touch we are in the architectural profession. But never mind – sophisticates like you will show us the way forward.


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