chapter  4
12 Pages

Architecture in/out of the boudoir? The autonomy of architecture and the architecture of autonomy

Architecture is a deeply self-critical cultural practice: architecture students are introduced

to the discipline with weekly reviews by their instructors, concluded by the ritual of the

‘final crit’, where a group of academic jurors picks at students’ work in public. The design

process itself is characterised by an iterative feedback loop between developing

alternatives and judgmental decision-making, selecting and rationalizing. Architectural

acquisition follows similar processes of (anonymous) competitions or charrettes, where

design teams compete with each other and are judged by experts (often peers and

clients). Once a design has been commissioned, is fully developed and gets finally built,

the architectural critics (often again peers and scholars) inspect the work and exercise

value judgments directed to specific audiences. This latter public discourse on edifices

is what we normally regard as architectural criticism proper, similar to the ones in other

cultural areas such as art, opera, music, dance, theatre, literature, cinema, fashion,

design or cuisine. While reviews of past and current buildings proliferate through media

outlets from online blogs and newsletters to trade magazines, journals, daily press,

fashion and lifestyle formats and sometimes TV features, this form of criticism remains

on the level of journalism, advertising and public outreach, and in its best examples turns

into a piece of literature. At times of dramatic changes in the media landscape, the

importance of mediators between architecture and the larger public cannot be

acknowledged enough, though on the other hand, reviews do not exhaust the

possibilities and roles of criticism in architecture.