Meanwhile, pondering the role of criticismMarch 13, 2009
Over at the pretty excellent Urban Omnibus, Andrew Blum has written a cogent little piece speculating on the role of architectural criticism today. Using Ada Louise Huxtable’s On Architecture as a jump-off point, Blum notes the shifting tides in both architecture practice (now more than ever cross-disciplinary) and the nature and role of criticism. For Blum it’s a new day for both, the end of “the Bilbao Ponzi era” (the architect-critic relationship as circle jerk). “The ‘two thumbs up’ part of the equation seems less important now than the understanding and questioning that goes into that,” he writes.
It’s a short platform to posit a few (soul-searching but not quite hand-wringing) questions, and may not catch on beyond a ruminative little set of design enthusiasts. But these are the right questions to ask. For me, as part of a small group of aspiring design critics, they are also haunting issues. Extending the criticism umbrella to the broader design field, we could add a few more questions to Blum’s:
* With print media struggling for profitability and influence in the era of ubiquitous, atomized digital media, where are readers actually going to look for and find criticism?
* Who are the real patrons of criticism? Beyond critics, who comprises the main constituency of criticism consumers?
* If design literacy is increasing (arguably it is, otherwise even some of the programming on Bravo and HGTV would not exist), then does the perceived value of critic as connoisseur plummet?
* And if increased literacy facilitates broader capability for criticism–that is, if everyone can be a critic–how can we estimate the value of criticism as a formal discipline?
Ponder these if you will. The only firm piece of criticism on offer here at the moment: Get comfy first if you have to, but this will not save you.