Architecture criticism

Architecture criticism is the critique of architecture. Everyday criticism relates to published or broadcast critiques of buildings, whether completed or not, both in terms of news and other criteria. In many cases, criticism amounts to an assessment of the architect's success in meeting his or her own aims and objectives and those of others. The assessment may consider the subject from the perspective of some wider context, which may involve planning, social or aesthetic issues. It may also take a polemical position reflecting the critic's own values. At the most accessible extreme, architectural criticism is a branch of lifestyle journalism, especially in the case of high-end residential projects.

Media coverage

Most major national newspapers in developed countries cover the arts in some form. Architectural criticism may be included as a part of their arts coverage, in a real estate section or a Home & Style supplement.[1] In the USA, reviews are published in specialist magazines ranging from the popular (e.g. Architectural Digest, Wallpaper) to specialist magazines for design professionals (e.g. Architectural Review, Detail). As with other forms of criticism, technical language is used to a varying extent to convey impressions and views precisely. The rapidly changing media environment means that much criticism is now published in online journals and publications, and critics write for a range of publications rather than being employed full-time by newspapers.

Lewis Mumford wrote extensively on architecture in the nineteen thirties, forties and fifties at The New Yorker.[1] Ada Louise Huxtable was the first full-time architecture critic working for an American daily newspaper when The New York Times gave her the role in 1963.[1] John Betjeman, a co-founder of the Victorian Society, wrote and broadcast from the 1950s to 1970s, principally covering historical rather than new buildings, but contributing to a trend for criticism to expand into radio and then television. Charles, Prince of Wales, is outspoken in his criticism of modern architecture, memorably describing a proposed extension to the National Gallery in London as a "monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend".

In 2017 the New Architecture Writers program was established in London to address the underrepresentation of black and minority ethnic writers in architecture and design criticism and curation.[2] The free program was initiated by Phineas Harper and Tom WiIkinson and aims to develop the journalistic skill, editorial connections and critical voice of its participants. It is supported by The Architectural Review, The Architecture Foundation, the Royal College of Art and the RIBA Journal.[3][4] Inaugural participants were Josh Fenton, Shukri Sultan, Thomas Aquilina, Aoi Phillips, Nile Bridgeman, Samson Famusan, Siufan Adey, Tara Okeke, and Marwa El Mubark.[5]

Changing contexts

The rapidly changing media landscape has impacted on architectural criticism and shifted both modes of criticism and the media in which it is published. Recent books that explore these issues include Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities by Alexandra Lange and Semi-detached: Writing, representation and criticism in architecture, edited by Naomi Stead (2012).[6][7][8]

A number of essays also reflect on the contemporary state of architectural criticism, the changing media and contexts of production, and the futures of criticism. These include:

  • Thomas Fisher, “The Death and Life of Great Architecture Criticism,” Places Journal, December 2011[9]
  • Eva Hagberg Fisher, “Criticism in Crisis,” Architect magazine, December 2018[10]
  • Blair Kamin, “Architecture Criticism: Dead or Alive?” Nieman Reports, July 2015[11]
  • Alexandra Lange, “How to Be an Architecture Critic,” Places Journal, March 2012[12]
  • Nancy Levinson, “Critical Beats,” Places Journal, March 2010[13]
  • Nancy Levinson, “Print and Pixel,” Places Journal, October 2013.[14]
  • Michael Sorkin, “Critical Mass: Why Architectural Criticism Matters,” The Architectural Review, May 2014[15]
  • Naomi Stead, "A New Belle-Lettrism and the Future of Criticism," Places Journal, June 2012.[16]


The critic's task is to assess how successful the architect and others involved with the project have been in meeting both the criteria the project set out to meet and those that the critic himself feels to be important. Specific criteria include:

Architectural journalists and critics

Some large newspapers have permanent architecture critics, however many critics now write for multiple publications and many new online venues are emerging. Contemporary critics writing for major newspapers, journals and online publications include:


  • Alex Bozikovic, staff columnist and architecture critic, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)[17]


United States

United Kingdom


Specialist periodicals

List of architecture magazines

See also


  1. Goldberger, Paul (2003-11-12). "Architecture Criticism: Does It Matter". Paul Goldberger. Archived from the original on June 22, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
  2. "About". New Architecture Writers. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  3. "New Architecture Writers program raises underrepresented voices". 2018-07-30. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  4. October, 9; 2017. "NAW: Free architectural writing course for BAME aspiring design critics". Architectural Review. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  5. Harper, Phineas (2019-01-08). "Members 2017/2018". New Architecture Writers. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  6. Alexandra, Lange (2012). Writing about architecture : mastering the language of buildings and cities. Lange, Jeremy M. (1st ed.). New York: Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 9781616890537. OCLC 747018933.
  7. Arieff, Allison (2012-03-02). "Why Don't We Read About Architecture?". Opinionator. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  8. Semi-detached : writing, representation and criticism in architecture. Stead, Naomi, 1975-. Melbourne: Uro Media. 2012. ISBN 9780987228130. OCLC 799159939.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. Fisher, Thomas (2011-12-01). "The Death and Life of Great Architecture Criticism". Places Journal (2011). doi:10.22269/111201.
  10. "Criticism in Crisis". Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  11. "Architecture Criticism: Dead or Alive?". Nieman Reports. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  12. Lange, Jeremy M.; Lange, Alexandra (2012-03-01). "How to Be an Architecture Critic". Places Journal (2012). doi:10.22269/120301.
  13. Levinson, Nancy (2010-03-06). "Critical Beats". Places Journal (2010). doi:10.22269/100306.
  14. Levinson, Nancy (2013-10-01). "Print and Pixel". Places Journal (2013). doi:10.22269/131001.
  15. Sorkin, Michael. "Critical Mass: Why Architectural Criticism Matters". Architectural Review. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  16. Stead, Naomi (2012-06-21). "A New Belle-Lettrism and the Future of Criticism". Places Journal (2012). doi:10.22269/120621.
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