According to Merriam Webster: Criticism is the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature. Architecture is an art that requires studying, scrutinizing, analyzing, and pulling apart to understand it better. For a work of art to be explored, one must be open to it being thoroughly examined. Criticism is an essential tool in architecture since buildings surround us. We live in them, see and experience so many of them irrespective of whether or not we want to.
Architects as a community are fairly close-knit and are usually perceived as creatives who do not take criticism too well. This could also be due to the lack of education around architectural criticism in architecture schools or the misconception around criticism in our country. Being advised and taught on how not to take criticism personally and instead consciously use it to better yourself as a professional could take us a long way!
Architecture schools make us go through the grind of asking for opinions, gaining insights from our professors and peers, understanding how to better our design, and identifying flaws in the design if any. Architectural design jurors can often be harsh and critical. Appearing for a design viva can often be a very intimidating process; not everyone can take the criticism well and architecture schools must prepare us for this. We are frequently told what not to do but we are rarely advised on what we could do. We must understand how to give constructive feedback before we actually learn to receive any. We must bear in mind that critiquing does not equal insulting, demeaning, or defaming someone; it is all about getting your point across effectively to ensure a positive change in the design methodology, concept, design, or even implementation.
The first step to accepting criticism well is to understand why it is required. Criticism, if provided constructively, can help us design better. Architecture is not unidirectional; it is an interdisciplinary field and requires one to have at least the knowledge if not the expertise in various related fields. One must also understand that we may not possess the knowledge for all the required fields and constructive feedback could be a great way to redeem ourselves.
Seeking out the right critics is as important as the criticism itself because not everyone has the expertise to guide us through the rut we may find ourselves in.
Critical comments on our work could also help us see a different perspective of the same design, structure, or art we may be working on. It may also help us identify loopholes we overlooked and ensure they are taken care of next time around.
Architecture, much like art, can often make people feel a certain way. There are so many instances of architecture being applauded and celebrated by some only to be disliked and looked down upon by others. We must, therefore, constantly make an effort to understand what works for us and what does not. Grooming yourself early on to take criticism in the right spirit will help us design better and help us become better designers.
Being respectful of others’ opinions of our work, whether or not we like it, can often make us more mindful architects. We may not always like being criticized or the way it is done, but we must understand that it does not allow us to dismiss others’ opinions, thus hindering our own growth.
Criticism must not be viewed as an insult and rather as constructive feedback. Understanding that you may not always agree with your critique is important. You may oftentimes agree to disagree on various counts but making an effort to understand where they are coming from and ways to implement that in your design will always be of help. We must make sure that we take the necessary steps to understand and give constructive feedback. Knowing how to critique others’ work will provide us with a better understanding of how to receive feedback the right way without getting offended.
Architectural criticism, if given and taken in the right spirit can ensure we design sensibly and sensitively. We must focus on how to create better environments for people to live in and experience. Architecture will eventually outlive us all, and it is for us to decide whether we want to be known as a community of professionals who only cared about what they thought and what their designs represented or if we want to actually step out of our comfort zones and design in a manner that is conducive for the user with the structure still being a conceptual and architectural marvel.