Last November 7th I attend to a lecture of the course “History of Architectural Theory”, by Mark Wigley in Columbia University (a great exercise of how to look at architectural theory books, and how to develop your own way to do it) about the Architecture Critic Reyner Banham.
At some point of the lecture, Wigley asked a question to the audience: “Have you ever thought what a guy like Banham would do with a twitter account?” question that is deeply related with the current situation of Architecture Critic, and its search of an update towards current times.
Earlier this year an article called “The Architect Critic is dead (just not for the reason you think)” was published by Vanessa Quirk (@vmquirk) in ArchDaily after knowing that Paul Goldberger was leaving the New Yorker to go to Vanity Fair. Is the figure of the critic changing? Is Architecture Critic changing itself? As Vanessa Quirk says, and I absolutely agree, it might not be dead, but is going through a massive change, and I could not feel more enthusiastic about it.
During those months since I started writing for this blog my aim has been to talk about, from an analytical point of view, different user-driven approaches that are being currently used in the field of Urbanism in search of a change to adapt the profession to the current times.
Movements that are based on the collective, creating a direct relationship between the planner and the users, making the urban plan a non finished project, able to change and evolve as far as the users decide it. Immediate in the bottom-up direction and with room for trial and error.
The user is becoming more and more aware of what architecture and urbanism can do to change cities, and how can they be involved in the process.
The appearance of social networks has enormously contributed to this situation providing a huge amount of information about architecture reachable for anybody. Traditional architecture publications are not anymore the only source; internet has created a brand new environment.
Lots of initiatives are been or are in the process of being able to use the potential of this environment to apply it to real world projects, proposing a structure where professionals work together with the community, and use virtual networks as a tool.
What about the field of criticism, the role of the critic? The amount of available information that the network provides create a situation really difficult to control. Published material is not necessarily going anymore through a professional filter and reaches people most of the time without offering a position or an argument of the topics exposed.
But instead of get stuck to the old ways , is the challenge of the critic to be able to adapt to the new ways of communication, as young generation of architects are doing all over the world.
As Mark Wigley defined it, “A critic is an extension of our body, they are in charge of reporting their feeling about what they critic for you to take a position. As we would never have the time to experience everything by ourselves, we get an impression through the critics, an impression that allows us to form an opinion”. That statement is a little less true nowadays, where time periods for getting information have become shorter, and more based on image language than in written language.
What are the options, then? The task of analyze in order to build up a critic in architecture won’t change, it will take the same time and effort, but the way to communicate it is what is suitable for a change. Digital newspapers have started hosting architecture blogs in their websites, but using more interactive platforms as twitter, facebook, or even instagram can multiply the target public.
Is important to use those platforms as a dissemination tools, and is the critic task to step forward and use them to provide the people with the necessary information to form an opinion.
Crittweet? Instacritic? The tools arrived already, now let’s use them…
In the meantime of the process of finishing writing this article, I knew about the event organized for the ceremony of the 14th Annual Vincent Scully Prize, awarded to Paul Goldberger. His speech was entitled “Architectural Criticism in the Age of Twitter” (an absolute coincidence…) you can watch it here.