As we now all know, Nicolai Ouroussoff may not have been good enough. But in his ArchDaily column The Indicator, Guy Horton argues that we shouldn’t be too quick to jump for joy at the news of the critic’s departure from the New York Times. This isn’t simply about judging the work of Ouroussoff and trying to measure in some way whether it was good, bad, great, or just adequate. Horton opens the conversation up to discussing criticism as a whole.
“To be an architecture critic, though, is to be in the position of easy target. They should all wear little signs on their backs that say ‘kick me.’”
It’s certainly true that we all like to examine critics and the work of critics (myself included) and point out what should have been done differently. We judge them on what they did say, and what they failed to include. Architecture criticism is going through a difficult transition as more is published on the internet and Horton argues, “the profession will miss [Nicolai Ouroussoff] because, as a writer for The New York Times, he brought architecture to the consciousness of the masses. He and other critics are the public’s continuing education in architecture.”
But this does not mean we shouldn’t expect good criticism. We can’t have an attitude of simply being happy there are still newspaper architecture critics in the first place. The web may make room for a less focused field of criticism, and as Horton says, “most of the architectural writing on the web is editorless. This does not mean it is bad. You might say it is less mediated, less screwed with, more authentic.”
As we can already see now, printed and online writing does not necessarily have to compete with each other. Both have pros and cons, and offer valuable platforms for critical discussions. We should expect quality in both mediums.