Mark Lamster + Alexandra Lange | Essays

Lunch with the Critics: Fourth-Annual Year-End Awards

Like the Nieman Marcus catalog, the Rockettes, and Mannheim Steamroller, the Lunch With The Critics Year-End Awards has become a holiday tradition, beloved and hotly anticipated. Our intrepid critics, Alexandra Lange and Mark Lamster, did not let geography deter them from returning for the fourth year in a row to celebrate (and castigate) the best and worst architecture and design of 2013. This year’s list of winners and losers follows. You’ll have to imagine their surprise.


All Architecture Critics Go to Heaven Award: Ada Louise Huxtable, RIP.

Keep It Simple Award: To David Chipperfield, for his Miesian addition to the St. Louis Museum of Art — the rare addition that didn’t bankrupt and doesn’t overwhelm the original.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Award: To The Renzo Piano Industrial Complex. The AIA 25-Year Award, the Kimbell, a giant Gagosian show? That was just 2013. And here come Harvard and the Whitney….

Shine On Award: To Museum Tower in Dallas, still shooting light rays at Piano’s Nasher. Honorable mention: Rafael Vinoly’s London Walkie Talkie, which melted a Jaguar with reflected heat.

Marion Barry Award for Civic Responsibility: To Rob Ford, who transformed the often dull business of municipal governance into an R-rated gift that won’t stop giving.

Bronze Medal for Obstinance: To Phyllis Lambert, who said No No No No No to her father, and gave us the mighty Seagram Building. Her memoir/history of that tower is our book of the year.

Future FAIA Award: To Kanye West. Yes, internet, everything can be “architected.” You really needed Yeezus to tell you that?

Iron Cross für Architektur: To Leon Krier, who still thinks genocidal mediocrity Albert Speer, destroyer of people and cities alike, is an underappreciated genius. Not then, not now.

You Can’t Afford Me Award: To Santiago Calatrava, whose dinosaur PATH station is at $3.74 billion and counting, the latest in a string of costly public works.

If You Build It, They Will Ride Award: To Citibike. No deaths, 93,000 members. As riders, lanes, and political allies grow, the all-powerful bike lobby is no longer a joke.

To Save Everything, Click Here Award: To the 3D printer, savior of libraries, museums, schools, Christmas?

The Future is Yesterday Award: Rainbow Loom pulled kids off their iThings, and turned them into obsessive-compulsive crafting impresarios. Wanna buy a bracelet?

Buffering… Award: Somehow, the most design-thinking, tech-savvy politician in history gave us HealthCare.gov. Reboot.

Leave Them Wanting More Award: To Louis Kahn, who died in 1974, back in the news with a book, a museum, and (last year) a memorial.

Melts Into Air Award: To Marshall Berman, prescient then, prescient now.

Howard Carter Award for Discovery: To Christopher Rawlins, who uncovered the lost career of beach house virtuoso Horace Gifford, taken too early by the plague of AIDS.

Going, Going, Gone Award: The Astrodome, Prentice Hospital, and Mummers Theater, mid-modern landmarks all, to meet (or have already met) the wreckers’ ball. Three strikes and we’re all out.

Location, Location, Location Award: The graphic design world has an all-out, clash-of-the-titans debate on the future of the AIGA’s Manhattan HQ — in a Design Observer comment thread. Oh, but for the good ol’ days….

Unfortunate Design Trend of the Year: In cities worldwide, billionaires forsake estates and classic sixes for supertall luxury tower aeries. This is urbanism?

What Me Worry? Award: To the NYPL, for retracting — sort of, maybe, is anybody still looking? — its ill-conceived gut renovation plan. Hey, NYPL: Yes, we’re still watching.

Mitts Off Medal: To the Museum of Modern Art, for thinking no one would care if they disappeared the 12-year-old American Folk Art Museum. Points to #FolkMoMA for letting us all join in the public shaming — which bore fruit.

Bad for Women in Architecture Award: To the Pritzker Prize committee, for declining to revisit Robert Venturi’s 1991 “solo” win.

Good for Women in Architecture Award: To Women in Design, the student advocacy group that called for recognition of Denise Scott Brown, and provoked discussion of women, architecture, and the nature of collaboration. Honorable Mention: to the AIA, which changed the rules for the Gold Medal to include partnerships (but only of two).

MegaBuilder of the Year Award: To Zaha Hadid, who has displaced Norman Foster as the go-to architect for projects of mythic national aggrandizement.

What’s Good for MoMA… Award: To Barry Bergdoll, departing chief curator, who showed how a white-box museum could get its feet wet, while still honoring modernism’s greats. Who will be next?

Could Have Been a Contenda Award: Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin’s ‘Never Built: Los Angeles,’ a technicolor examination of the city (skyscrapers! monorails! artificial islands!) that might have been. Next stop New York.

Not How I Wanted to Make A1 Award: MOCA’s ‘New Sculpturalism’ show, and director Jeffrey Deitch’s tenure, become a tedious and wasteful soap opera.

Bucky Fuller Spaceship Earth Citizenship Award: To SLO Architecture, for making their Harvest Dome of repurposed urban detritus a floating reality, now on the Gowanus.

Take A Number Award: To the Rain Room, James Turrell’s ‘Aten Reign’, and Yayoi Kusama’s ‘I Who Have Arrived in Heaven.’ Thanks to Instagram, the biggest exhibits in New York this year turned the wait into an event and the rest of the galleries into afterthoughts.

Jogo Bonito Spirit Award: To the Brazilian protesters enraged at the excessive cost of World Cup and Olympic infrastructure, in a nation beset by poverty. Honorable Mention: Sochi, which may not be ready for its Winter Olympics close-up.

Best Conversationalist: Gary Hustwit, whose Helvetica, Objectified, Urbanized: The Complete Interviews raised $92K on Kickstarter … and is a most-anticipated book of 2014.

Pick Your Battles Award: To GoldieBlox, who found that girl power doesn’t trump intellectual property rights.

Pick Me, Pick Me, Pick Me, Award: Robert A. M. Stern debuted a blah Presidential Center for Dubya in 2013. Now the Barry O. sweepstakes are on. David Adjaye? Jeanne Gang? Phil Freelon? Vegas odds to come.

The Man Who Would Be King Award: To Mike Bloomberg. For better and worse, he transformed New York City as no one since Robert Moses. It will be a different place without him.


Wishing you the best for the New Year,

Posted in: Architecture, Arts + Culture, Infrastructure, Social Good

Comments [5]

Even better than last year's...
john massengale

I have faith the 'Dome will be saved; voters didn't seem to like the $217m plan to restructure it, hopefully the county commissioners will come around.

"Elite Design Criticisms That Don't Matter Disconnected From Those That Do Award:"

Lunch with the Critics

Sorry about that. The country / world is a-hurtin' my brothers and sisters. Wake up.
Carl Wohlt

It would be a bit more critical to have said something not off of best of Twitter controversies 2013. Something like:

Calatrava's PATH Station costs less than a rebuild of Grand Central today, and perhaps is just as beautiful?

Denise Scott Brown is a mediocre/bad architect? Zaha Hadid is a great one?

Prentise Hospital and the Astrodome deserved to die? (The Samuel L. Jackson Time to Kill award)

Instagram matters more to social media obsessed critics than actual museum-goers?

A few bitter women / PR / editors are ghettoizing women as a whole with "Women in [insert phrase here]" articles/shows. Or perhaps those that didn't make it in real careers where other women have succeeded.

Kanye West would not accept a mediocre beatmaker anymore than we should accept him as an architectural spokesman?

The Rob Ford this has nothing to do with actual design, perhaps because blogs don't pay: This column

Citibike is an annoyance and eyesore and leads to less bike ownership? (not sure about that one).

You are right about Albert Speer and the 3D printer B.S. though.

Dan the Man

2013 is the year of the arch-media gimmick. Calatrava is suddenly a bad architect now because his clients cannot afford him and Renzo Piano is bad because he doesn't give the press anything to write about. Please. And Vinoly's easily correctible death ray now overshadows the actual content of his work...
But lets just write more articles about 3D printers and how twitter will save us all.

Meanwhile another train flies off the track... the engineer was probably checking his tweets.
Mike Lowe

Jobs | July 13