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Alexandra Lange | Essays

Critical Mass

Not to be overly self-referential (except, isn’t that was blogs are for?) but I have to highlight this paragraph of Places editor Nancy Levinson’s response to the comments on her response to my Nicolai Ouroussoff piece.

It’s very hard to have a sustained critical culture if you don’t have a network of people who are doing it professionally — whose work is supported by an employer and who thus can afford to take the time, week after week, to immerse themselves in the critical process, and whose work is published regularly. (And whose employment gives them critical independence, at least potentially.) It remains to be seen whether blogging — which depends upon personal initiative, interest, time — will produce a sustained body of criticism.

I’ve written on this blog a number of times about the importance of seeing architecture in the flesh, and the problem of the architecture blog: you can’t produce enough posts per day about things you have actually seen to make a popular, fast-moving blog. Hence, architecture blogs end up being mostly about the products of architects (films about them, renderings of their work, images of their work, exhibitions of their work) rather than the main event. If criticism moves from paid work to personal initiative, I fear it will become increasingly atomized, and lose any hope of having power to change.

I must confess I struggle with the problem of support every day: I am a freelancer, so every morning I have to decide whether to spend my work hours writing something or looking at something. At the moment people are barely paying me for the former, so I need to compress the latter into the minimum amount of time. I made up my own standards of professionalism, and try to stick to them. My hope now is the demise of print publications about design will lead to a rise in what might be called super-blogs: sites that can support a staff, and concentrate the kinds of long- and short-form criticism, slideshows and historical forays that are now happening on lots of excellent smaller sites. I think there would be strength in numbers and above all variety.

Posted in: Architecture, Theory + Criticism

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