Until recently, when the internet emerged as the main conduit for information about design, a reader was normally led to understand design ideas through an author’s critical response in print media, illustrated by project drawings and other representations and references. Today the project of criticism is often close to reportage. What is the status of design criticism today, in relation to the production of buildings and architecture? With Christopher Hawthorne (Los Angeles Times), Florencia Rodriguez (PLOT, Buenos Aires), Michael Sorkin (architect, urbanist, and educator, New York), and Oliver Wainwright (The Guardian, London). Moderated by Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory.
Christopher Hawthorne has been architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times since 2004. He is also professor of practice at Occidental College, where he directs the Third Los Angeles Project, a series of public discussions on architecture, urbanism and mobility in Southern California. Before coming to the Times he was architecture critic for Slate; his writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and many other publications. Hawthorne grew up in Berkeley and earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale, where he studied political philosophy and architectural history and readied himself for a career in criticism by obsessing over the design flaws in his dormitory, designed by Eero Saarinen.
Florencia Rodriguez is an Argentinian architect and critic as well as founder and editorial director of PLOT since 2010. She is a Loeb Fellow at Harvard GSD, class 2014, and a Professor of Theory of architecture at Universidad Torcuato di Tella. Her publication conforms a platform committed to the dissemination of practices and critical thinking about contemporary architecture. One of its main aims is to integrate Latin-American architecture within global debates and production, and to promote the active role of criticism and theory in the transformation of our built environment. She recently curated the exhibition, “What Criticism?” (2014, Harvard GSD).
Michael Sorkin is Principal of the Michael Sorkin Studio, a global design practice with a special interest in the city and green architecture. Sorkin is President and founder of Terreform – a non-profit institute dedicated to research into the forms and practices of just and sustainable urbanism – currently engaged in a long-term alternative planning project for a completely self-sufficient New York City. Sorkin is President of the Forum and Institute for Urban Design, Distinguished Professor of Architecture and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at The City College of New York. He is also the architecture critic for The Nation. Oliver Wainwright is the architecture and design critic of the Guardian. He trained as an architect at the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Art, and has worked in a number of practices – including OMA in Rotterdam and Muf in London – and in the public planning sector at the Greater London Authority. He has written extensively on architecture and design for a wide range of international publications, from Building Design and the Architects’ Journal, to Icon, Domus and Frieze. He has served as curatorial advisor to the Architecture Foundation and is a regular visiting critic at a number of architecture schools.