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“Architecture Criticism: Dead or Alive?” by Kamin Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Aug 13th, 2020

Introduction

Blair Kamin is one of the most famous architecture critics in the United States, and current debates regarding changes in media and the role of architecture criticism in this process are also discussed by Kamin in his works. The article “Architecture Criticism: Dead or Alive?” was published by Kamin in 2015 as a response to these debates, and it needs to be reviewed in this paper. Thus, the questions to be answered in this review are whether architecture criticism is viewed by the author as dead or alive and what arguments are proposed to support his standpoint. It is important to note that Kamin asserts that architecture criticism is not dead, but it has another form because of the impact of social media; thus, critics’ words should not be viewed as claims, but as triggers to start a discussion because critics do not have a ‘monopoly’ on assessing architecture anymore.

Summary

In his article, Kamin provides a range of arguments to support his idea that architecture criticism is alive despite being changed. Therefore, the author begins by saying that statements about dead criticism are meaningless since criticism exists, but it is represented by the work of bloggers or tweeters who are inclined to use new social media to spread their ideas. Furthermore, Kamin accentuates the fact that the absence of professional critics’ hegemony does not mean the absence of effective criticism. As a result, it is possible to speak about the development of a new form of architecture criticism that is rather creative and dynamic while being dependent on using new media. The author develops his ideas while discussing the history of architecture criticism, explaining its purposes, presenting its approaches, and proposing ways to adapt criticism to new environments. To further discuss the author’s main arguments, it is important to analyze the key points in the article in detail.

Critical Discussion

All arguments provided by Kamin in his article are oriented to supporting the view that architecture criticism develops as a dynamic phenomenon that changes depending on times and contexts; therefore, it is still alive. From this perspective, the most effective point that is accentuated in Kamin’s article is the author’s reference to the phenomenon of ‘open journalism’ and its impact on criticism. To explain how traditional architecture criticism has been transformed into debates on online platforms, Kamin refers to discussing the history of this phenomenon’s development. According to the author, more than fifty years ago, the principles of architecture criticism were formulated by Ada Louise Huxtable, who worked for The New York Times. This discussion adds to understanding Kamin’s argument because he pays attention to the fact that Huxtable has demonstrated other critics that their works should be full of judgments which are based on assessing a visual impact of a building without ideological premises. This approach is viewed by architecture critics as traditional, and it is rather difficult to accept other views that are spread today.

What is more important is that Kamin develops the idea of traditional criticism while discussing his criteria for evaluating buildings and stating the purpose of criticism. According to Kamin, it is important to focus on the quality of a building and its structure, its utility, continuity, humanity, and its association with the public. The reference to these criteria is effective to emphasize not only the nature and purpose of architecture criticism but also the author’s vision of this practice. Furthermore, Kamin supports his idea that criticism exists by attracting readers’ attention to approaches to criticizing objects which were determined by Alexandra Lange. Thus, critics can assess an object while referring to formal criticism, experiential criticism, historical criticism, and activist criticism. It is important to note that these methods are known to the audience, and they can be easily recognized. Therefore, it is possible to state that when people observe different approaches to evaluating buildings, they are inclined to speak about the death of criticism.

From this point, Kamin develops his argument saying that modern architecture criticism is characterized by interactivity and the active involvement of the audience in the evaluation of objects rather than by traditional approaches. As a result, to emphasize the presence of a new interactive approach to architecture criticism that is based on sharing views, Kamin proposes three methods to improve modern criticism and make it more ‘alive’. According to the author, it is necessary to involve readers in discussions, initiate dialogues, and still convey messages.

Conclusion

To remain both vibrant and effective, architecture criticism needs to be adapted to modern environments as any other phenomenon. Therefore, in his article, Blair Kamin is focused on explaining why and how architecture criticism is still alive. In this context, the author refers to providing a background for explaining how traditional architecture criticism has become interactive and dynamic.

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"“Architecture Criticism: Dead or Alive?” by Kamin." IvyPanda, 13 Aug. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/architecture-criticism-dead-or-alive-by-kamin/.

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