Critique as an Overarching Subject
Updated: Jun 14, 2019
Architecture is the creation of buildings. Critique of it does not reside in a question of how well it is built or how well it serves the function for which it was placed, but more of a discussion and a further look into how a certain building can add or take away value from a certain location, period, and cultural values found in relation and juxtaposed to each other.
Joan Ockman states that, “cultural critique was bound up with the ongoing trajectory of modernization” , and yet this becomes a paradox when contemplating architecture and the mediums in which it is discussed. Architecture is a built form, and critique occurs through the canon, which is not limited to the built form but encompasses other expressions such as books, works of art, newspapers, magazines, and other mediums. It is through this, Miriam Gusevich argues that, “architecture judgements do not occur in a vacuum, but in particular times, places, and under specific circumstances” , and in this case, criticism becomes an institution in which it operates under the public realm, however this does not constitute equal participation from all groups of people. In this, she delves into stating that there are three forms, commentary, criticism, and critique in which the process of reflection is magnified as one moves through the process of commenting on architecture to critiquing it. So that, much of the public offers a commentary on architecture but those who create, and form architecture are the ones who critique it. Through this, the question is raised that if a building is not critiqued, is it successful? For only the architectural pieces that reside in a cultural matrix and play off complex social, economic and political components in a way that mix these together to form one opinion or a singular identity rise to the occasion. Then it is not a question of how well it is built or how well it serves the function for which it was placed, but more of a discussion and a further look into how a certain building can add or take away value from a certain location, period, and cultural values found in relation and juxtaposed to each other.
The influence of the public is noted more strongly through Joan Ockman commentary on the history, the rise and fall, of the movement. She starts with the aftermath of WWII and the need for new and quickly built mass housing, which resulted in architects such as Buckminster Fuller and Le Corbusier to design and create the optimum housing structure for individuals of the new generation to inhabit. As the world media moved away from the allure of these principles, Peter L. Lawrence argues that modernism did not end but merely changed avenues, as the 1960s brought upon a shift in thinking from referring to modernism as the new and improved, sprouting utopias of sorts, to failed post-war urban renewal projects. Thus, the changing in name from modern architecture to contemporary did not spur on new forms or forward thinking but allowed for continuation of the same principles, with some minor changes, under the approval and direction of the public.
K. Michael Hays proves this further by stating that theory has displaced architectural criticism and, “since 1968 architectural theory has all but subsumed architecture culture”  so thus, criticism has not stayed in the sphere of architecture, mainly to be discussed among experts and those practiced in the field, but has rippled into the public, in which their voices have allowed more presence to be given to a specific piece of architecture. He ends with the thought that,
“theory’s vocation is to produce concepts by which architecture is related to other spheres of social practice.”  Critique of architecture occurs through many forms of media in which public input creates value and basis for cultural analysis, a chance for that building to integrate itself with history, politics, and society, with the boundary to change its identity across time to serve different functions. In the same way, the guidelines of critique have an ever-evolving identity in which they serve to evaluate the success of a building by how it formulates itself with the ideals of the public and the never-ending challenges of specificity and contemporaneity.
“...changing in name from modern architecture to contemporary did not spur on new forms or forward thinking but allowed for continuation of the same principles,”
Joan Ockman, “Introduction,” Architecture Culture 1943-68: A Documentary Anthology. Edited by Joan Ockman with Edward Elgen (New York: Rizzoli, 1993),13.
Miraim Gusevich, ”The Architecture of Criticism: A Question of Autonomy,” in Andrea Kahn (ed.), Drawing Building Text (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1991), 11.
Peter L. Lawrence, “Modern (or Contemporary) Architecture circa 1959,” in Elie G. Haddad and David Rifkind (eds.), A Critical History of Contemporary Architecture 1960-2010 (Surrey, England/Burlington, VT:2014:xi
Peter L. Laurence, Modern (or Contemporary) Architecture circa 1959,”:xiiYou’ll be posting loads of engaging content, so be sure to keep your blog organized with Categories that also allow visitors to explore more of what interests them.