Let’s talk politics

“you’re miserable, edgy, and tired. You’re in the perfect mood for journalism”

Warren Ellis

In a country like ours, we as a young population are not alienated from the realm of politics. We have seen leaders being full of themselves, we have also seen leaders trying to make it to the top. The mainstream public go bananas over political identities propagating their ideologies, people forming their own bias regarding the same, and people discussing (rather, more often than not debating) about the topic. It’s come to a point where even the news channels are taking sides.

Analogically talking, we have our realm of architecture on the other side. Mimicking much of what’s happening in the political dimension of things. We have the top tier starchitects, they seem to have cracked the code regarding what they want to do with their position, regardless of unpopular opinions against their work. We have the intermediate establishments that haven’t quite reached there yet but are in a very comfortable position. And we all know the rest. With their particular pieces of works, some people that are either adoring it or don’t necessarily find it appealing to their senses. (the right and the left if you may) this differential school of thought results in plenty of intellectual debates and discussions regarding the realm of architecture. And the people that take up this activity publicly/professionally are referred to as architectural critics/journalists.

The only loophole in this analogy is that unlike politics, there is no right or wrong in the design.

Now let’s dial back to the main faces of architecture. The top tier, the so-called ‘starchitects’ around the world. They hold in their hands the ‘torch’ of architecture and are usually the only portal of information and access into architectural knowledge for a layman. Any piece of work that they produce is by default looked at with a spectacle of great glorification. By both, the architecture crowd as well as the non-architectural world. For instance, have you ever heard anybody talk ill of falling waters by Frank Lloyd Wright? Or say they don’t like the Seagram building? Probably not. I am not saying I don’t like them, because it does not matter what I say (subjectivity disregards rationale). But when we do have someone that holds credibility and knowledge regarding the subject allocated to judge and critique a piece of work, their word may hold some weight and much more important to the architecture and non-architectural world compared to you and me.

Can the rigidity of the architectural community changed by criticism and journalism - Sheet1
Seagrams Building ©www.arch2o.com
Can the rigidity of the architectural community changed by criticism and journalism - Sheet2
Falling Waters ©www.architecturaldigest.com

A piece of architecture designed by an architect is going to be around for the long haul. There are going to be years of human life spent within and around space/place. And their quality of living and convenience could be dependent on the environment they spend time in.

So all that’s being tried to convey is we cannot let an architect have a free reign at what they do just because of a stature they hold in the field. The idea is to humanize the larger than life, to create a space for acceptance and acknowledgment of mistakes and errors. And in this dimension does an architectural critique come in handy. To counter the rigidity fuelled by fame and validation.

There are several criteria that a critique follows to judge a piece of work:

  • Aesthetics
  • Proportion
  • Functionality
  • Architectural style
  • Building material
  • Context
  • Sustainability

It formulates a very interesting equation when we see criticism and journalism side by side. One portal keeps the architect in check, while the other exposes the reader to that architect. It works like well-oiled machinery…

Say you are an architect that just got commissioned for a project, there will be intensive conceptualization and thought processes that go into the designing of the project to arrive at the final product with your name tag on it forever. While anybody with visual access to it could form opinions about the building/design, it would “hit different” if they knew the whole story behind the design, wouldn’t it? Journalism acts as a portal to mediate the thought and design processes behind a particular piece of design so that the viewer is in a better understanding of the same. Most of what you see in terms of reactions and criticism will be constructive criticism or an educated opinion. And that’s a win-win situation. Moreover, the exposure an architect can receive through this portal could be huge for their careers.

So as we have established the importance of journalism and criticism in architecture, we also know that there is always scope for interpretation in a piece of art. So what if you are not educated enough to form an opinion? You still will. And what if you are rigid in terms of your design philosophies? You will still end up making mistakes…

So the fundamental question that arises at this point is, is journalism and criticism required? I guess we’ll leave that to your opinion as well.


While establishing the co relation of romanticism with words and architecture, Mohammed Bilal Shariff aims to use RTF as a medium to put forth a piece of his mindset with a desire to ignite new thoughts and perspectives in the reader's mind.