Paul Goldberger: Criticism, architecture & the Age of Twitter (September 19, 2012)

Paul Goldberger begins his talk about the relationship between words and architecture with a review of the global economic and technological crisis in journalism. Newspapers and magazines regard architecture criticism as a luxury, making architects and building seem distant and irrelevant. While new media offer new venues for criticism, it is image-based and discourages the long-form article. Goldberger explores two contemporary trends: the fascination with celebrity architects and the counter-reaction of social responsibility posturing. While acknowledging that both have annoying aspects, he identifies in both as signs of public interest in architecture, which critics should try to engage. Goldberger cites examples of buildings where awareness of their social context enhances appreciation. He argues that critics shouldn’t be ideologues. He discusses three current controversies: the campaign against Frank O. Gehry’s memorial for Eisenhower, the proposed demolition of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, and the fight against the campaign to preserve Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital. Goldberger argues that critics have a duty to support new architects they consider the best, noting that critics of the past who have neglected this tend to be forgotten, contrasting John Canaday with Clement Greenberg. He concludes by affirming that architecture cannot sustain life, but architecture makes the already sustained life more meaningful, and the critic’s job is to encourage and enhance this.

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