Blair Kamin is the architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, a post he has held since 1992. Kamin has held other jobs at the Tribune and previously worked for The Des Moines Register. He also serves as a contributing editor of Architectural Record. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1999, for a body of work highlighted by a series of articles about the problems and promise of Chicago's greatest public space, its lakefront. He has received numerous other honors, authored books, lectured widely, and served as a visiting critic at architecture schools including the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
|Occupation||Chicago Tribune architecture critic|
|1999 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism|
|Spouse(s)||Barbara A. Mahany|
Born in Red Bank, New Jersey, Kamin is a graduate of Amherst College, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts with honors in 1979, and the Yale University School of Architecture, from which he received a Master of Environmental Design in 1984. In 1999 he was a visiting fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities at the University of Chicago. In 2012–2013, he was a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He holds honorary degrees from Monmouth University and North Central College. At North Central, he is an adjunct professor of art.
Prior to being the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, Kamin served as its culture and suburban reporter from 1987 to 1992. He was a reporter and architecture writer for The Des Moines Register from 1984 to 1987. He had once worked as an office clerk for a San Francisco interior design and architecture firm. He has lectured in forums such as American Institute of Architects' National Convention, the annual meeting of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the Ravinia Festival and Steppenwolf Theatre. He has discussed architecture on programs ranging from ABC's Nightline, History Channel, National Public Radio to WTTW-Ch. 11's Chicago Tonight. In 2014, he briefly appeared on "The Daily Show", when the show's then-host, Jon Stewart, made light of a large and controversial sign that the real estate developer Donald Trump placed on his Chicago skyscraper.
In 2001, the University of Chicago Press published "Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago," a collection of Kamin's Chicago Tribune columns. In 2010, the University of Chicago Press published "Terror and Wonder: Architecture In a Tumultuous Age," a collection of Kamin's columns from the Tribune and other publications. Kamin also wrote the commentaries for "Tribune Tower: American Landmark," a guide to the newspaper's neo-Gothic Tribune Tower skyscraper published in 2000. During his Nieman Fellowship, Kamin co-wrote and edited an ebook, "The Gates of Harvard Yard: The Complete Story, in Words and Pictures, of a Great University's Iconic Portals." The ebook was published by the Nieman Foundation.
Kamin cites as his influences Paul Gapp, Paul Goldberger, Lois Wagner Green, Ada Louise Huxtable, Vincent Scully, Allan Temko, and Joel Upton. Kamin's wife is the author and former Tribune reporter Barbara Mahany. They have two sons Ted and Will who are both athletes.
Published in 1998, Kamin’s six-part series, “Reinventing the Lakefront” shed light on numerous problems along the city's shoreline, such as the disparity between lakefront parks bordered by largely white and affluent areas on Chicago's North Side and those lined by black and poor neighborhoods on the city's South Side. Following the publication of the deeply reported essays, Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago Park District authorized comprehensive plans for four of Chicago’s seven lakefront parks, an area of nearly 2,000 acres and more than 10 miles of shoreline. In addition, the city altered its plan for a former U.S. Steel site on the far south lakefront, bringing the total area affected by the series to almost 2,500 acres and 12 miles of shoreline.
Kamin's 1999 Pulitzer entry in criticism consisted of four parts of the six-part lakefront series, plus six other works of criticism on subjects ranging from the renovation of the North Michigan Avenue Marriott Hotel to an addition to Chicago's Adler Planetarium. After the first round of the two-round Pulitzer judging, his entry was moved from the criticism category to the beat reporting category. The Chicago Reader described the situation as one in which "every jury that read his stories wanted someone else to judge them". One of the criticism jurors described the dilemma "He seems to do some investigative reporting and some advocacy editorializing, and some members of the panel didn't quite know what to make of it. So we did the cowardly thing and sent it to another panel." But the Pulitzer Prize Board, which has the ultimate authority, reversed the decision and moved Kamin's entry back to criticism. Kamin's Pulitzer Prize citation praised "his lucid coverage of city architecture, including an influential series supporting the development of Chicago's lakefront area.”
Kamin is the recipient of more than 35 awards. Among his other honors are the George Polk Award for Criticism (1996), the American Institute of Architects' Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievement (1999) and the AIA's Presidential Citation, conferred in 2004. Kamin was part of the collaborative team that won the 2003 National Magazine Award for General Excellence for the Architectural Record. He has twice served as a Pulitzer Prize juror.
- Kamin, Blair (1998-05-31). "An Activist Critic and The Inescapable Art Series: The Art of Criticism. Part 3: Architecture". Chicago Tribune.
- "Blair Kamin". pulitzer.org. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
- "About Blair Kamin". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
- Chicago Tribune reprint of lakefront series
- Von Drehle, David (1999-04-13). "Post Wins Pulitzer for Police Series". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
- Miner, Michael (1999-04-22). "The Wandering Pulitzer". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2010-07-13.