Architectural Criticism between Public Debate and Autonomous Discipline
First International Workshop ‘Mapping Architectural Criticism’, organized by Université Rennes 2
MONDAY, JANUARY 18th
Introduction (Hélène Jannière, Université Rennes 2, Coordinator of the Mapping.Crit.Arch ANR Research Project)
Emerging Forms of Criticism
Boundaries of Criticism
Dirk VAN DE VIJVER, Associate professor, Department of History of Art, Utrecht University, Mapping the reception of Victor Horta: the blurring boundaries of architectural criticism, theory and history
Rute FIGUEIREDO, gta/D-ARCH/ETH Zurich, Director of the Site of Discourse Research Project (Lisbon University), Fixing boundaries. Architecture and criticism at the onset of the 20th century
Architectural Journalism and Campaigns
Erdem ERTEN, Associate Professor, Izmir Institute of Technology Department of Architecture, Mobilizing the Nation via Architectural Criticism : The Architectural Review “Outrage” and “Counterattack”
Controversies and Public Debate. Mobilizing the Public
TUESDAY, JANUARY 19th
Presentation of Les Archives de la Critique d’art by Jean-Marc POINSOT (President) and Nathalie BOULOUCH (Director)
ABSTRACT : Four magazines on criticism 2005-2010: a perspective from 2015
My original contribution to the workshops is the comparative analysis of four issues of architectural journals on criticism, all published in the same period 2005-2010:
1.Jane Rendell ed. Critical Architecture. Te Journal of Architecture, vol. 10, no. 3 (2005).
2.Johan Lagae, Marc Schoonderbeek, Tom Avermaete, Andrew Leach eds, Positions. Shared Territories in Historiography & Practice. OASE, no. 69 (2006).
3.Isabelle Doucet and Kenny Cupers, eds., Agency in Architecture: Reframing Criticality in Teory and Practice. Footprint no. 4 (Spring 2009).
4.Tom Avermaete, Christoph Grafe, Klaske Havik, Johan Lagae, Véronique Patteeuw, Hans Teerds, Tom Vandeputte eds., Constructing Criticism, OASE, no. 81 (2010).
At this stage, my take on these publications is that they have been published at a turning-point in recent history, in between the observation of a “crisis of criticism” and the proposal, in theory, of new possibilities. As such, I intend to assess these proposals from the perspective of today: how, in practice, they have been considered, overtaken, or disregarded by the even more recent editorial practices that have emerged in 2010-2015. Such editorial projects (like San Rocco, Criticat, P.E.A.R., face b, Club Donny, etc.) avoid a purely academic position in order to turn to a larger architectural public, “in and out of academia”. If they cannot address involve the lay public — which architectural magazine ever does? — they have the merit to enlarge the spectrum of readership by giving a new value to the printed magazine.
My MA thesis on fve architectural magazines of the 1990s (ANY, Terrazzo, UME, Le Visiteur and Zodiac) and my ongoing PhD research ofer a valid framework to this analysis. Te round-table I organised in 2012 between several editors of recent magazines also provides frst-hand material to my contribution to the workshop.
BIO : Carlo MENON, The Bartlett School of Architecture, London
Carlo Menon (Italy, 1981) is a qualifed architect and a researcher in history and theory, with degrees from La Cambre, Brussels (2006) and Te Bartlett, London (2013). He lives between London and Brussels where he participates in various teaching, exhibiting and publishing projects, including the large-format, experimental magazine Accattone.
His Master thesis “Te Missing Decade? Architectural Magazines of the 1990s” was nominated for the RIBA President’s Awards for Research 2014. His ongoing PhD research project at Te Bartlett — ‘Little’ Architectural Magazines of the Early 21st Century: Critical Devices and Collective Practice, In and Out of Academia — brings the study up to the present. Designed as a critical ethnography, it involves practice-based experiences in writing and editing. It is supervised by Jane Rendell and Penelope Haralambidou and supported by the LAHP London Arts and Humanities Partnership.
ABSTRACT : Architectural centers: Mediation is the new Criticism
While the 1980s and the 1990s marked the so-called “death of criticism”, it also signified the rise of a new type of institutions in Europe: architecture centers. These centers engage in the mediation of architecture: they promote architects, projects and the architectural profession through activities that include lectures, exhibitions and publications. Their first objective is to create an interest in architecture in the general public. Their second objective is to encourage exchanges between the professional sector in architecture, the local political sphere and the general public. However, is it possible for these centers to take part in architectural criticism? This paper discusses two examples of architectural centers with different approaches to architectural mediation: Aedes Architekturforum, founded in 1980 in Berlin, Germany, and Haus der Architektur (HDA), established in 1988 in Graz, Austria. Even though both of them focus on contemporary architecture, Aedes favors a subjective orientation, while the HDA aims for a more objective program. Both centers’ institutional characteristics and sources of funding limit their possibilities of engaging in traditional criticism. It is therefore through the subjects of their activities that they operate an implicit criticism. For instance, the HDA dealt with the evaluation of architecture in its exhibition “Architektur 24/7 – eine alltägliche Beziehung” (Architecture 24/7 – an everyday relationship), in 2007. Architecture centers have been largely ignored of academic research so far, certainly due to their small and independent nature, but especially because mediation does not have the prestige associated with criticism. And even though mediation does not replace criticism, these institutions play an important role, for we cannot expect to engage the general public in criticism if they have not been attracted to architecture through mediation in the first place.
BIO : Marcela Garcia MARTINEZ, University of Geneva
Sept. 2013 – Ph.D. research in Art History
Present University of Geneva, Switzerland.
“Comparative study of architecture centres in Europe,
Their impact and influence, 1945 – 2012.”
Advisor: Prof. Leïla el-Wakil.
2010 – 2012 Research Master in Art History and Archaeology University of Bordeaux 3 “Michel de Montaigne” ; Bordeaux, France.
First-year Master research:
“History and influence of architecture centre Arc en Rêve in Bordeaux.”
Advisor: Prof. Marc Saboya.
Second-year Master research:
“Architectural and identity construction of La Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux
Advisor: Prof. Nicolas Meynen.
2002 – 2009 Bachelor degree in Architecture National Autonomous University of Honduras, Tegucigalpa.
1988 – 2002 High school diploma in Arts and Sciences Lycée Franco-Hondurien; Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
ABSTRACT : Mapping the reception of Victor Horta: the bluring boundaries of architectural criticism, theory and history
From 1895 to 1905, Horta stood at the peak of his fame. From the firsts publication of House Tassel in L’Emulation, upto the honoring of his central place in the history of architecture at 75th anniversary of Belgium’s independance, a broad variety of authors, from different professional and geographical backgrounds, explored multiple narratives on the architect and his work in different media, adressing plural ‘publics’.
Having mapped the reception of the architect’s work in this ‘golden decade’ for my forthcoming book on Victor Horta, this call for papers inspired me to rethink and to reframe these pluriform and often contradictory texts, that blur the boundaries of architectural criticism, theory and history. This paper wants to unpick the relationship between the different narratives on the architect and his work, and their authors’ backgrounds. It ambitions to explain the evaluation criteria of the different authors in their judgments on Horta’s work, to relate these to the medium, in which they are published, and to the public they are adressed to? (To name someeauthors: Hippolyte Fierens-Gevaert Julius Meier Graefe, Hector Guimard, Ludwig Hevesi, Gustave Kahn, Jean Lahor Octave Maus, Sander Pierron, Henry Van de Velde, etc.) In order to answer this question, I will dive into different aspects on the background of the authors (their professional engagments [dealer-critic, decorative art journal editor, architect-writer, etc.], geographical background and, eventual transnational activity [cfr. a German authors, working in France, while traveling all over Europe]), on the nature and context of their discourses (arts-and-crafts-reform, Viollet-le-Duc, cult of the individual artist and client, ‘esthétique de la rue’, ‘Freie Kunst’, etc.), on the profile of the publications (architectural journal, non illustrated art journal, illustrated decorative arts journal/life style magazine, newspaper press, ‘small journals’, booklets) and the publics they cater (including its ‘modern’ fragmentation related to ideology and class).
BIO : Dirk VAN DE VIJVER, Associate professor, Department of History of Art, Utrecht University
Dirk Van de Vijver is associate professor architectural history 19th and 20th century at the department of History and Art History at Utrecht University. He is a trained engineer-architect (Leuven University) and obtained a D.E.A. in art history at the Université de Paris I-Panthéon-Sorbonne. His 2000 PhD is entitled Les relations franco-belges dans l’architecture des Pays-Bas méridionaux 1750-1830. In 2003 He published the book Ingenieurs en architecten op de drempel van een nieuwe tijd 1750-1830 (Leuven Univesity Press). He published in the domain of architectural history and construction history. At the moment, he prepares a book on Victor Horta.
ABSTRACT : Fixing boundaries. Architecture and criticism at the onset of the 20th century
During the last few years, there has been an increasing interest on the reflection about the disciplinary “position” of criticism within the architectural disciplinary field, as well as a widespread consensus that criticism tends to define itself by the using of methods and approaches that, also, belong to other fields of knowledge. This tendency has strongly questioned the notion of the intellectual and scientific disciplinary autonomy of criticism — a self-contained and self-regulated field, under its own laws — and has contributed to a suspicion about the sources of its “authority”.
This paper will take the Portuguese architectural culture of the onset of the 20th century as a case study, to inquiry the regime of practices and discourses that distinguished the architectural criticism from the other kind of disciplinary fields, emphasizing the relevance of the architectural periodical press in the generation of criticism as an autonomous practice.
When, at the end of 19th century, accompanying the broad phenomenon of eclecticism, architecture was forced to deal with the complex system of individual practices and stylistic schools, favouring the lost of something vital for the traditional process of work’s evaluation — the canon —, the Portuguese architectural discourse was still a vague practice, diffused in social, cultural and art criticism.
It was the formation, in 1900, of the first magazine specifically dedicated to architecture and building construction — A Construção Moderna (1900-1919) — that endorsed the entry of criticism in the architect’s professional space. This gesture might be seen not only as the institution of a new instrument of mediation but, fundamentally, as an instance of disciplinary self-understanding and self-reflection. It was the crucial moment that allowed the rise of a mutually dependent condition between: the new architect’s professional identity; and the beginning of architectural criticism as an autonomous field.
BIO : Rute FIGUEIREDO, gta/D-ARCH/ETH Zurich, Director of the Site of Discourse Research Project (Lisbon University)
Rute Figueiredo is an architect and an architectural historian (M.Phil. in Art History). Her main interests are the architectural disciplinary culture, the study of the Venice Architecture Biennale, and the architectural critical discourse published in periodical press. She is the author of Architecture and Critical Discourse in Portugal 1893-1918, which won the prize José Figueiredo’2008 awarded by the Portuguese National Academy of Fine Arts. She designed and coordinates the research project The Site of Discourse, sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. Rute Figueiredo is member of Contemporary Studies in the R&D Unit, Institute of Art History – New University of Lisbon. She is pursuing a PhD in History and Theory of Architecture at the gta/D-ARCH/ETH Zurich, under the supervision of Professor Dr. Ákos Moravánszky. Her doctoral thesis analyzes how architectural disciplinary frames have been conceptualized and discussed within the context of the Venice Architecture Biennale.
ABSTRACT : Dialogic Criticism Cedric Price’s Design Columns 1975-1999
This paper proposes to focus on the architectural discourse of the British architect, Cedric Price (1934 2003) and more specifically his activity as a design columnist during the 1970s-1990s. Price actively engaged architectural theory and criticism not only through what he wrote or said, but also through the rhetorical strategies that he creatively deployed, and how these were fundamentally linked to an ideal of participation and process. In Price’s discourse, and in particular his design columns, the reader or audience is an integral actor in the construction of meaning —a ‘co-author’ one might say. Through the continuous two-way exchange of letters, queries, news, and commentary, Price’s public’ becomes an active participant in the production of criticality. This paper proposes to examine the dialogic and socio-political dimensions of Price’s design columns within the broader context of Price’s activity as a journalist and his involvement with mass media. If the architectural critic plays a mediating role between theory and practice, the function and the status of the architectural journalist appears less defined, often overlapping with that of the critic. But whereas criticism is often considered a complementary activity to theory, journalism does not receive the same consideration. Indeed many architectural historians and critics relegate the journalist to the role of a neutral agent or observer who simply communicates and records information without comment. But reporting is not a passive mechanical recording; reporters ‘make’ stories and the ‘making’ of stories involves play and critical imagination. This paper argues that Price’s early involvement in journalism was crucial to the development of his dialogic approach to design criticism, and even to design itself. Drawing on perspectives developed in literary criticism and media studies, as well as an analysis of certain key influences like the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens or the postwar communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, this paper aims to offer a possible response to the contemporary challenge of how might architectural criticism engage in a more effective dialogue with architectural practice and society at large without losing its so-called ‘critical’ autonomy.
BIO : Jim NJOO, Associate Professor, École d’architecture de Paris-La Villette, TU Delft Department of Architecture
Education Ph.D. Candidate in Architecture
TU Delft Department of Architecture, 2013-present
Dissertation title: Cedric Price: Theory in Action, 1950-2000
Dissertation committee: Profs. Dr. Ir. Tom Avermaete (principle supervisor), Dr. Jean-Louis
Cohen, Dr. Ir. Hilde Heynen (co-supervisors)
Teaching / École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-La Villette, 2008-present
Research Associate Professor (with tenure) in Theory and Practice of Architecture and Urban Design
Member of the Gerphau Research Laboratory, 2009-present
Elected Member of the Board of Directors, 2012-15
Member of the Commission for International Relations, 2008-present
Rice School of Architecture (RSA), Houston, 2002-present
Adjunct Associate Professor, Paris Program
Tokyo City University of Architecture, Tokyo, spring 2015
Visiting Professor, international design workshop with Prof. Tezuka
Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, Paris Tech, 2013-14
Diploma Tutor, Master in Urban Planning and Development
CANactions International Architectural Festival, Kiev, 2014
Guest Tutor, international urban design workshop
Sichuan University College of Architecture, Chengdu (China), summer 2013/spring 2014
Visiting Professor, international urban studies workshop
University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), Faculty of Architecture, spring 2008
European Postgraduate Masters in Urbanism (EMU), 2008
Paris workshop and research assistant, Professors Bernardo Secchi and Paola Vigano
Technical University of Berlin & Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2008
Paris workshop and research assistant, Professors Finn Geipel and Mark Watabe
École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Nantes, 2001-08
Associate Professor (with tenure since 2003)
Columbia University GSAPP, New York-Paris program, 2002-11
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Urban Studies
University of Tongji, School of Architecture and Urban Design, Shanghai, spring 2006
École d’architecture de Paris-Malaquais, 2000/2006
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Architectural History and Culture, Art and Techniques of
ABSTRACT : Mobilizing the Nation via Architectural Criticism : The Architectural Review “Outrage” and “Counterattack”
In June 1955, The Architectural Review’s special issue entitled “Outrage” shot right into the heart of post-war public debate. Edited by Ian Nairn, then at the tender age of 25, Outrage summed up the periodical’s worries regarding environmental blight following World War II. Later published in book form to reach a larger audience, it succeeded in persuading many who thought he or she had a stake in the future of Britain. By combining inflammatory but witty rhetoric with dramatic imagery, then already a trademark of the periodical’s campaigning spirit, Nairn not only launched a successful career of architectural criticism but also created “a book with the power to open people’s eyes as never before” to the changes happening in the environment around them. The success of Outrage took Nairn to USA to collaborate with another strong polemicist Jane Jacobs by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and inspired the foundation of the Civic Trust in Britain.
Outrage, later followed by Counterattack, was among several post-war campaigns of The Architectural Review where criticism took many forms, some of which were not even directly architectural, like the Manplan campaign that lasted about a year by the end of the sixties. However, what united all these campaigns and arguably made them more powerful was that all these campaigns called the anonymous citizen to action in order to push those in charge. Although the periodical’s main target audience were architects, its editors and especially its proprietor and editor-in-chief H. de C. Hastings saw it as a cultural review that should address the whole of Britain. Employing a cadre of authors that had no professional architectural qualifications, like Nairn or John Betjeman before him, Hastings continued the tradition of the amateur within an ever-specializing world of architectural journalism.
This paper is an attempt to re-contextualize the Outrage and Counterattack campaigns and their aftermath within The Architectural Review’s post-war history in order to reflect on the diminishing power of architectural criticism in mobilizing the public.
BIO : Erdem ERTEN, Associate Professor, Izmir Institute of Technology Department of Architecture
Post-war Architectural Culture, History of Modern Architecture from the Enlightenment to the Present, Romanticism and Theory of the Picturesque, History and Theory of Urban Design, Architectural Journalism
1999 – 2004
Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A.
Dissertation: Shaping “The Second-Half Century”: The Architectural Review 1947-1971
Dissertation Committee: Mark Jarzombek, Stanford Anderson, Gail Fenske, Alan Powers
1998 – 1999
Research Fellow, Design Knowledge Systems Program, Delft Technical University, The Netherlands
Izmir Institute of Technology, Vice Dean, Graduate College
Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
Vice Chair 2006-2012, Executive Board Member at the Graduate College 2009-2012
2004 – 2011
Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey
Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, Vice Chair 2006-2012
ABSTRACT : The Battle of the Pyramid: architectural criticism on I.M Pei’s Louvre Pyramid
This paper intends to take the Chinese-American architect I.M.Pei’s Grand Louvre project (1983-1989, 1988-1993) as a case study to investigate the consistency, similarity and wider connections between ‘public’ opinions and architectural criticism.
The Grand Louvre was a direct commission offered to Pei by President Mitterrand in early 1982 which he received without going through any national or international competition. In 1983, Pei accepted the project after several months’ research on the possibility for reconstruction. Afterwards, continuous architectural, political and social criticisms were raised against the project, particularly the proposal to build a glass pyramid in Cour Napoleon. The fierce debate was named by the public media as ‘the Battle of the Louvre’. In 1985, the heat of the ‘battle’ subsided as the public finally accepted the mock-up of the glass pyramid. Following this, the Pyramid was constructed and indeed eventually became a signature of the Louvre.
The essay will focus on the criticism of the project from both architectural professionals and the more general ‘public’ by investigating two examples: Firstly, Charles Jencks’s postmodern criticism on the symbolism of the pyramid form. Secondly, the ‘general’ public antagonism against the project, as reported by the French newspapers. By examining the criticisms, the paper firstly identifies the main sources of the ‘public’ opinion, and then examines the extent to which these ‘public’ criticisms overlapped with the ‘architectural’ evaluation of Pei’s pyramid. This in turn suggests the extent to which the ‘architectural’ criticism is independent from the ‘public’ criticisms. In this way, the essay explores the roles that ‘public’ opinions can play in the formation of architectural theory and history.
BIO : Leah HSIAO, Department of Art History, University of York
2013-Present PhD in History of Art University funded Overseas Research Scholarship
PhD Thesis: I.M.Pei’s Museum Architecture and Internationalism (Supervisor: Prof. Michael White)
Synopsis: The thesis addresses the production of Pei’s multiple identities in architecture. The
thesis focus on three museum designs of Pei: the Museum for Chinese Art, Shanghai (1946),
finished under the supervision of Walter Gropius at Harvard GSD; the Grand Louvre (Phase I:
1983-1989; Phase II: 1988-1993), which marks the very specific moment when Pei’s
architectural identity was ‘internationalised’, as it was his first realised project in Europe; the
Suzhou Museum (2002-2006), which signifies Pei’s ‘return’ to China after his many international
commissions and suggests an involvement of international language in Chinese identity.
2012-2013 MA (Merit) in History of Art (Architectural History and Theory)
MA Dissertation: The Director’s Office: a representation of Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus
(Supervisor: Prof. Michael White)
Beijing International Studies University, China
ABSTRACT : Architecture Criticism vs. the Public : ‘Mirvish+Gehry Toronto’ A Case Study
Stemming from my doctoral research on the current conditions in Canadian popular architecture criticism, this paper will focus on the critical response to the architectural case study of ‘Mirvish + Gehry Toronto’, a controversial large-scale, mixed-used development currently planned for the city of Toronto. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, and financed by theatre and art mogul David Mirvish, the highly publicized project resulted in an unprecedented amount of media attention and critique by both professional critics and the general public alike. As a result, and in addition to resistance from City Council, the project was modified substantially by the architect, despite being praised by the city’s leading architecture critic. This has led to questions about the public’s role and power in the critical response to such projects, and leads to academic considerations pertaining to the democratization of criticism (MacDonald, Death of the Critic, 2007), popularization of architecture, and changing nature of the critic’s role and authority.
As such, this paper will explore the shifts and potential ‘crisis’ currently taking place in architecture criticism, with a focus on the public’s growing interest, participation, and access to ways of engaging in critical debates around architecture. It will rigorously map out the critical response to the case study, paying attention to the media coverage, public discourse, and municipal debates, and relate these findings to established writings on architecture criticism. These include Peter Collins’ Architectural Judgement (1971) and Wayne Attoe’s Architecture and Critical Imagination (1978), in addition to more contemporary research on the theory of public journalism (Tanni Haas, The Pursuit of Public Journalism, 2007), and concept of cultural capital in architecture (Louise C. Johnson, Cultural Capitals, 2009). The paper will make the claim that there needs to be a balance found between the extremes of the authoritative critic and the complete disregard for expertise, in order for popular architecture criticism to remain vital.
BIO : Kristen GAGNON, Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism, Carleton University
ABSTRACT (Lecture) : Architectural Criticism on the Art Market: An American Debate, 1975-1985
When in spring 1975, with the informal exhibition Architectural Studies and Projects at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, contemporary architectural drawings were offered for sale to the members of a preeminent art institution for the first time, two architecture critics – Paul Goldberger (New York Times) and Robert Campbell (Boston Globe) – responded, in fact diametrically. Whereas Goldberger reacted mainly benevolently, a position he would continue to balance in favor of his standing within the architecture scene of the time, Campbell answered harshly to the exhibition and its content. At the beginning of the 1980s, when more and more art galleries and museums had included (and partly continued to include) architectural drawings and models in their program, a growing group of architectural critics served as a vital source for publicizing and evaluating architecture production. What had begun in New York at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies through its exhibition program, events, and the publication of the critical magazine Oppositions was translated by architectural critics like Joseph Giovannini, John Dreyfuss, Benjamin Forgey, and the widely respected Ada Louise Huxtable for a larger public via questioning the autonomy of architectural drawings within the art field. “Architecture as Art” became a public debate powered by architecture, not foremost art -, criticism, and only fueled by increasing commissions for large cultural institutions in the course of the 1980s. This became particularly clear, when Goldberger titled an article for the International Herald Tribune with “The Celebrity Architect Arrives”, focusing on Richard Meier’s commission for the Getty Center in Los Angeles in 1984. The presentation will highlight how between 1975 and 1985 architectural criticism in the United States provided a vital forum for debates and polemics on architectural representations as commodities.
BIO : Martin HARTUNG, gta/D-ARCH/ETH Zurich, Columbia University
Martin Hartung is a doctoral fellow at the Chair of Prof. Dr. Philip Ursprung at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta), ETH Zürich, where he researches the exhibition history of architectural projects on the art market. From January until June, 2016 he will be a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in New York. After his studies of art history, anthropology, and theology at Martin-Luther-University in Halle-Wittenberg (2002-2007), he worked as assistant curator at Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein (2009/2010), as scientific assistant at ZKM | Museum for Contemporary Art in Karlsruhe (2010/2011), and from 2011 until 2013 as Curatorial Assistant at the Department of Media and Performance Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where he co-curated, amongst others, the exhibitions Performing Histories (2012), Christian Marclay – The Clock (2012), and Isaac Julien: Ten Thousand Waves (2013). Hartung publishes widely on art, design and architecture matters, one of the latest projects including a contribution to the exhibition What Models Can Do (2014), which, under the direction of Eva Schmidt at the Museum for Contemporary Art in Siegen, Germany, explored the use of architectural models in art production.
ABSTRACT (Lecture) : American Debates around the Autonomy of Critique in Architecture, 1990-2004
In 1990, the art historian Sylvia Lavin objected to the emergence of an autonomous form of critique in architecture, that is to a “critical theory” which had lost its own object, namely architecture, and architecture’s concern about form. Her provocative criticism forced proponents of “critical architectural theory” to clarify their respective positions.
My paper examines some aspects of this debate and suggests that the rise of an autonomous critique in architecture in the USA was largely influenced by the reception of the work of Manfredo Tafuri in the American architectural academia around 1980. More precisely, the Tafurian ideological critique of architecture fostered an interest in the writings of French intellectuals such as Barthes, Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze, among others, authors whose ideas were disseminated in the USA under the guise of a coherent “French Theory”.
In 2004, George Baird suggested that the “critical” tendency waned with the apparent return of pragmatic attitudes in American architectural circles.