Eva Hagberg Fisher’s article, ‘Criticism in Crisis’ is a compelling argument on how the narrative has shifted from architecture to urbanism in the publishing world. 

Eva Hagberg Fisher’s article, ‘Criticism in Crisis’ is a compelling argument on how the narrative has shifted from architecture to urbanism in the publishing world. As an aspiring architecture journalist myself, her article had some very evident perspectives that made me wonder about the future of journalism but also a few arguments that seemed partial to the idea that ‘urbanism’ has totally replaced ‘architecture’.

Fisher begins her article with a crisp and eloquent history of her association with the subject in discussion – architecture writing. She then goes on to narrate her standpoint on how architecture ‘criticism’ has become obsolete and has been replaced by vague, mainstream pieces on urbanism which doesn’t require experienced and specialized writers. There is definitely some truth to that matter. The perpetual demand for content increased by the boom in internet-culture has given way for many inexperienced and generic writers to speak their minds. 

Architectural writing today has been reduced to meek articles that prove that writers are not interested in taking risks or writing bold, opinionated pieces on single buildings or specific projects. Fisher tries to reason this shift in quality by apprising that ‘writing full-time’ is not a financially stable profession today and so most of the good writers have shifted to other career paths. She reminisces with other critics on the good old days when Herbert Muschamp and Nicolai Ourossoff wrote for The New York Times and wished writers like Alexandra Lange were more sought-after. 

Today, architecture as a broader concept is written about but there is a gaping hole when it comes to criticism and analyses on single buildings. The intensity of art and cultural journalism has been diluted over the years. Definitely, times have changed and so journalism has to move along as well. Fisher acknowledges this change and suggests that this may have to do with the fact that urbanism can have a wider range of perspectives and can include more public opinion than expressive details on one particular building’s style and design. In her words, writing about single buildings requires ‘more nuance, experience and practice – in many cases, thousands of hours of having thought about and studied architecture’. 

Fisher also points out something ironic about today’s world – that we are obsessed with real-estate but not with buildings. This observation of hers makes me really curious about why that is true. 

On interviewing Mark Lamster, architecture critic for the Dallas Morning News, he remarks that it is a positive thing that people are talking about urban concepts like mobility and gentrification but that it shouldn’t come at the expense of architecture. I thoroughly agree with Lamster’s opinion on this. Urbanism and Architecture should not be competitive themes for writing but rather integrated or parallel notions. She quotes Lamster saying, “Criticism is always in crisis. That’s the nature of criticism”. This may point to the fact that criticism has always been a debated idea. The concept of criticizing something is not always received with grace and decency. Writers that are unwilling to be adventurous, choose the easier path of majority-driven ideas rather than risky journalism.

Fisher explores why urbanism is a more appealing idea to readers today than it was when she was a 20-something writer, 15 years ago and wonders if provocative and opinionated criticism on single buildings will ever come back. 

Her article is a trip down memory lane on good old fashioned journalism, at times, brutally honest and overall a thought-provoking piece on the value of criticism today. She ponders at the evolution of building-specific, quality writing versus digitally mass-produced and monotonous themes.

Throughout the article, her writing is phenomenally easy to interpret, relate-able, and articulate. Eva Fisher has always been persuasive with her writing and this article is no less. She wandered in search of an answer to why criticism is in a crisis and delivered an intriguing point of view in that matter. The fact that she enlisted the opinions of other writers informing her own shows her open-minded and unbiased outlook on the subject.

In concluding her article she contemplates that maybe the writing industry as a whole is in crisis. Major publications are focusing on celebrity-driven content and unauthentic opinions so naturally, architecture publications have followed suit. 

She leaves us with wandering thoughts on the future of this profession and the loss of integrity she believes has plagued architectural writers and critics today but also expresses that maybe this is an opinion that only she holds and everything is absolutely alright in the world of journalism. 

For aspiring writers and readers of art and architecture content, this article will be an interestingly fresh viewpoint on the state of architecture criticism and writing.

The link for Fisher’s article – https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/criticism-in-crisis_o

Author

Manvie Prusty considers herself a work in progress. Currently pursuing her fourth year as an architecture student, she aspires to be a spatial designer by day and a compulsive writer by night. She’s an eclectic design junkie, globetrotter, and an avid reader. 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is her favourite novel.

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