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Our Last 50 Referrers

« Fact for the Day | Main | Elsewhere »

August 29, 2008


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A line of questions for the day, prompted by this typically beyond-absurd Nicolai Ouroussoff piece from the NYTimes: Why are mainstream architecture critics so focused on such a narrow sliver of building-activity and aesthetic experience? And why are they so averse to taking note of life as it's actually lived?

Translated into action, this latter question might lead a critic to -- oh, I don't know -- pass up the latest Gehry or Hadid and instead visit the malls, developments, schools, restaurants, and parks that real people really interact with, learning about and from them, and offering critiques and appreciations.

A pretty radical thought, I know ...

And -- further! -- why are civilians (and editors, who are supposed to represent the interests of their readers) so willing to put up with this kind of twee carrying-on?

Funny how certain kinds of kooky behavior can become the expected thing, isn't it? For example, we take it for granted that an architecture critic should be spending most of his column inches pontificating about the likes of Steven Holl. Yet if the Times' food coverage only concerned the latest $500-a-plate chic eateries -- neglecting cheaper places, farmer's markets, home cooking, etc -- we'd all be having daily laughs at the expense of the newspaper's clueless and pompous twerpery.

Further comparisons: What if a magazine's "music coverage" only took in the latest bits of spikey experimentalism? Of if its "movie coverage" paid attention only to the hottest expressions of post-avant-garde-ism?

All of which makes me wonder: Where architecture and architecture criticism are concerned, why don't we have a more active (perhaps even a "vibrant") let's-ridicule-these- snobs-out-of-existence movement in the blogosphere?

My hunch of an answer: Since many people spend zero time taking note of their environment, it never occurs to them to search out quality conversation about it. Too bad.

Link thanks to the smart, funny, and quirky Gil Roth, who has recently been reading Montaigne and enjoying the company of Rufus the daffy and irresistible greyhound. For some reason, when I try to link to Gil's site, the effort torpedos this posting. Gil's site, which otherwise behaves perfectly well, is at:

Get to know Rufus at:

Go and visit.



posted by Michael at August 29, 2008


It's like haute couture. An insecure elite reinforcing their status as against the bourgeoisie. Le monde, as Tom Wolfe called them. Art, fashion, architecture. And yes $500 a plate dining. Helps them feel special.

Ouroussoff et al are just courtiers lickspittling their masters, running interference on the squares. Same old same old.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 29, 2008 6:57 PM

Three posts in a row Michael. Just a heads up. Unless my browser now travels through time grabbing previous iterations and putting them on display.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 29, 2008 6:59 PM

Ha-HA! My site's links are so powerful they destroy other sites! I can't be stopped!

Thanks for the praise, and for elucidating all my ineffable rage at that Ouroussoff piece.

I can't wait to finish this phase of my Monday Morning Montaigne project, though. For your frustration/enjoyment.


Posted by: Gil Roth on August 29, 2008 7:21 PM

Ouroussoff is what I call a Maynard. Remember Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik character in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"? He had a neat little beard and some bongo drums...and the harder he tried to be hip, the klutzier he looked.

Check out Ouroussoff:
"...too radical, too bold for the cultural establishment."
"...designing urban visions intended to shake up the status quo."
"...the mind-numbing conformity of suburban subdivision..."
"...what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits..."

Nicolai, daddyo, you're, like...a Maynard!

Posted by: Robert Townshend on August 30, 2008 6:41 AM

Hi, Michael;

Lebbeus Woods is a fascinating sort of visual artist (no comment on his designs as architecture, since he has not made it to the ranks of the starchitects). And you have to admit Woods was a pioneer who was left behind.

This time around, however, Nicolai Ouroussoff writes some gems, and no irony is intended:

"A lot of architecture has begun to look like a sophisticated form of marketing. Architects who once defined themselves as rebels are now designing luxury residential towers for the super-rich. The greatest influence of this trend, however, may be on a younger generation of architects. Reared in an era when there seems to be an irresistible supply of work, these architects often seem eager to build at any cost. And their facility with computer software can make it easy to churn out seductive designs without digging deeply into hard social truths."

Well, I agree with this entirely. Are we witnessing a convergence of thought? Is there hope after all... ?

Best wishes,

Posted by: Nikos Salingaros on August 30, 2008 10:31 AM

Piranesi, who drew vast fantasy dungeons, is classified as an artist, not an architect. His vast dungeons look cool, but the fewer subterranean prisons that actually exist, the better for humaity.

Woods looks like a talented artist with a knack for dreaming up hateful monstrosities. He should have gone into comic book illustration. I don't want him categorized as an architect because I don't want him influencing in any way buildings that are actually built.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on August 30, 2008 5:09 PM

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