the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

hawthorne on architectural criticism

Posted by rigorousm on December 14, 2014

[LA TIMES Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne] understands that the role of the critic is to bring to the forefront the ways in which architecture impacts society and culture at large, not just developers, architects, and those who occupy the buildings they create. At an event in 2013… Hawthorne said, ‘Maybe this is one advantage, finally, that we architecture critics have over the buildings we write about: that we and our work are mobile, that our influence can radiate out into the world from many places at once.’

[SB] How do you see the role of the architecture critic changing?

[CH] The chief shift is that we can’t take an audience for granted. The “architecture critic” title itself doesn’t carry — or may not carry– the same authority it used to. I think that’s a good thing. As critics, we have to question what we’re writing, how we’re writing it, and why.

As some of that institutional certainty is crumbling, a lot of new opportunities and avenues have opened up. We have a bigger audience than we ever had, even though that audience isn’t consuming criticism in the print paper at the same level it once was. We have more direct ways of communicating, too, and different ways to tell our stories. I’ve been using video– I’m very interested in the further potential of video and podcasts. I don’t think [either medium] has been tapped to the degree it should be.

There a lot of talk about the crisis of criticism. I just think that means that some basic definitions are up for grabs. In some ways, it’s like architecture was in the ’70s, when all the certainty of the modern movement was breaking down. There were all sorts of experiments happening, architects thinking about new ways to practice. The same thing is true of architecture media at the moment.

Christopher Hawthorne interview by Spencer Bailey for Surface November 2014, pp 141, 147.


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