The Failures of Architecture Criticism

Cctv tower, beijing, 2012. Rem koolhaas / office for metropolitan architecture
CCTV Tower, Beijing, 2012. Rem Koolhaas / Office for Metropolitan Architecture / © Eric Gregory Powell (CNN)

On December 15, architect Steven Bingler and critic Martin Pedersen, former executive editor of Metropolis magazine, published an op-ed in The New York Times in which they called for design to become more relevant, humane, and sustainable: “While architects design a tiny percentage of all buildings, our powers of self-congratulation have never been greater. Although the term ‘starchitect’ has become something of an insult, its currency within celebrity culture speaks to our profession’s broad but superficial reach. High-profile work has been swallowed into the great media maw, albeit as a cultural sideshow–occasionally diverting but not relevant to the everyday lives of most people.”

The heart of this critique is a familiar complaint: the most celebrated architecture often seems out of touch, even disdainful, of the communities that surround them. In recent years, more and more high-profile buildings have pushed neglect to dangerous new levels: in Vienna, large pieces of Zaha Hadid’s new Library and Learning Centre keeping falling off; Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles originally bounced enough sunlight into neighboring buildings to raise the interior temperature; and Rafael Viñoly’s “walkie talkie” building in London actually melted cars on the street. Viñoly’s response? “I didn’t realize it was going to be so hot.” ….

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.

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