Criticism of criticism of etc.

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This post is a species of what Mencken called “Criticism of Criticism of Criticism.” The Architects Newspaper has just published the latest bout of self-criticism. “What do architecture critics think of the state of architecture criticism today?” asks AN. So this post is criticism of criticism of criticism. AN asks a brief series of questions, few of which were answered by the architecture critics asked for comment by the editors.

They failed to contact me for my critical analysis. No surprise there. I would just tell them the truth, which they have no interest in hearing. The truth is that architecture critics never write about the fact that most people do not like most architects or their work. Architects realize this but only mention it on rare occasions, and then only with a complete lack of honesty. They treat the public’s disdain for their work as a feather in their caps. The problems of architecture today would not exist if buildings that people (not critics) could love were being designed and built today.

Mark Lamster, the architecture critic for the Dallas Morning News, writes:

The irony here is that the backlash to the era of ‘starchitecture’ (and I hate that term) has meant a certain vilification of and disregard for the discipline. So I think it’s important to celebrate quality architecture and to make clear how important it is to making places that can improve people’s lives every day.

Way to go out on a ledge, Mark!

Well, you can read AN’s collection of criticism of criticism by seven critics at the link above. It is all pretty lame (pun intended). I only wrote this post so that I could use the headline pioneered by Mencken. I hope that it fits in the WordPress headline space. Oh, the illustration was fun to do, too. It is a pair of critics from a book called Humorous Victorian Spot Illustrations with the Industrial Trust (“Superman”) Building spliced in.

Tip o’ the hat to Kristen Richards and ArchNewsNow for running such a funny piece from AN.

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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3 Responses to Criticism of criticism of etc.

  1. Steven Semes says:

    I like Henry James’s description of the job of a critic: First, state what the artist claimed to be doing. Second, determine whether the artist did, in fact, do that. Third, judge whether that was a good thing to do. Architecture critics (present company excepted) rarely do this. If they would begin by describing the place they are writing about, tell us what the designer claims to have done, whether that really happened, and then whether it makes the world a better place, the public might have more respect for critics, not to mention for the discipline of architecture in general.


  2. realmaven18 says:

    I like your style!


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