“Good critics know their territory. Many media sites now just assemble images and news items without lending a point of view. That’s not a criticism; it’s pimpery,”-Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic.
The inherent beauty in the inanimate building and the spaces that add meaning to the buildings have successfully granted life to the process of architecture. Even an onlooker or a passerby can adore the beauty of a built mass or perhaps detest it. But, in this process of being a judge, the breath of architecture lives on. To enjoy the beauty and identify the defects of the structures and places around us, we as humans must learn to be critical of them.
Architectural criticism is the task of evaluating works of architecture in a grey region of subjective truth where the opinions of each critic might differ from the value offered by design. Being an architect critic and contributing to architecture criticism requires a wide range of experience in the field of delivery skills, patience, observation and pouring out supporting logic in an argument. Architecture critics help define the work of an architect or a designer and convey it to a wider range of audience. Architectural criticisms are praised in the field of architecture and are often regarded as an important base point for delivering a fruitful design.
So how do you read a building? Pick it apart until you see how it was done.,–Alexandra Lange
There are several points to be considered during the process of writing an architectural review.
The critic should eliminate the chances of comparison for the building or spaces on the first step. The preliminary step is to consider the building as a whole and discuss its distinct characters. The basis of comparison only disregards the features of the built mass and doesn’t speak truly of the design.
The critic should have a logical standing for his points that are fact-based and aren’t hindered by emotions. The affinity towards one designer should be freed from their designs and their works should be judged regardless of the feelings one has for the designer. A critic should never insult an architect rather the critic should establish a system of pointing out the flaws constructively in his writings.
Ultimately, the work of a critic is to persuade the readers of his opinions. The art of convincing is significant in adding value to the work of criticism. The critic’s opinion stands mundane if they fail to convince a core reader. One could use examples or an experience related to the built mass to convey a persuasive statement.
The delivery of the review should be respectful and adhere to the emotions of the readers. Egocentric criticisms devaluate the words in the review. The critic should write an evaluation in a positive and motivating manner. Appreciating the architect or the designer adds to the sweetness of the words that critique a piece of architecture.
A review should be gilded with words of architectural value that depict architecture in a precise manner. Proper vocabulary added to the review adds academic validity to the criticism. Further on, the writing can be used as a base for architecture literature reviews or case studies.
Point of View
One of the important steps to have a refined review is to define a clear point of view or perspective. One could always have an architect as the major focus of the writing or one could write an observation based on the people who face the architecture. Establishing a point of view allows a seamless flow of narration. The narrative imprints a remark on the head of the readers, adding more value to the research.
Apart from the points mentioned above, reviews could outstand the orthodox judging and writing system. A review could always be more picturesque to deliver the weight of the words. The way architectural reviews are written depends on the audience factor. A review dedicated to the general public shouldn’t overwhelm the readers with heavy words, rather, pictures could be used to describe the features or amenities. Similarly, academic reviews must be able to convey as much information as possible with architectural vocabulary. Another approach might be adapting the poetic way of expression in criticisms.
As buildings and spaces are a part of the context that we live in, we tend to feel close to these entities. Relating to the experiences romantically or poetically imparts a proper memory in the heads of the readers. A critic shouldn’t just impart facts and objectives; they should be able to convey the emotion they felt while researching the built mass or space. Basing the research on one strong narration based on the experience builds a meaningful bond with the reader. Ultimately, the reader must be able to form an opinion of their own, either different or the same as that of the critic. As a whole, architecture would be then delivered from the lens of a critic to the reader.
Jain, K. (2017, March 27). The 7 Principles of Architectural Criticism – Arch2O.com. Arch20. [online]Available at: https://www.arch2o.com/principles-architectural-criticism/#:~:text=Criticism%20should%20be%20more%20objective
[Accessed May 9, 2023]
Lange, A. (2012). How to Be an Architecture Critic. Places Journal, 2012. [online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.22269/120301
[Accessed May 9, 2023]