Architecture criticism is a confused topic. Everyday criticism relates to published or broadcast critiques of buildings, whether completed or not, both in terms of news and other criteria. In many cases, criticism amounts to an assessment of the architect's success in meeting his or her own aims and objectives and those of others. The assessment may consider the subject from the perspective of some wider context, which may involve planning, social or aesthetic issues. It may also take a polemical position reflecting the critic's own values. At the most accessible extreme, architectural criticism is a branch of lifestyle journalism, especially in the case of high-end residential projects.
Criticism is also a branch of academic study, practised not by architectural journalists but by architects and scholars. In this case, a different set of values is usually present, reflecting the intellectual apparatus of architectural practice and theory. Such criticism is usually published in professional and academic journals, and may be couched in language that lay readers find difficult to penetrate.
Most major national newspapers in developed countries cover the arts in some form. Architectural criticism may be included as a part of their arts coverage, in a real estate section or a Home & Style supplement. In the USA, reviews are published in specialist magazines ranging from the popular (e.g. Architectural Digest, Wallpaper) to specialist magazines for design professionals (e.g. Architectural Review, Detail). As with other forms of criticism, technical language is used to a varying extent to convey impressions and views precisely.
Lewis Mumford wrote extensively on architecture in the nineteen thirties, forties and fifties at The New Yorker. Ada Louise Huxtable was the first full-time architecture critic working for an American daily newspaper when the New York Times gave her the role in 1963. John Betjeman, a co-founder of the Victorian Society, wrote and broadcast from the 1950s to 1970s, principally covering historical rather than new buildings, but contributing to a trend for criticism to expand into radio and then television. Charles, Prince of Wales, is outspoken in his criticism of modern architecture, memorably describing a proposed extension to the National Gallery in London as a "monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend".
The critic's task is to assess how successful the architect and others involved with the project have been in meeting both the criteria the project set out to meet and those that the critic himself feels to be important. Specific criteria include:
- Architectural style
- Choice and use of building materials
- Built environment or context
Contemporary critics working for major newspapers include:
- Justin Davidson of New York Magazine
- Martin Filler of The New York Review of Books
- Jonathan Glancey of The Guardian
- Paul Goldberger of Vanity Fair (formerly of The New Yorker)
- Christopher Hawthorne of The Los Angeles Times
- Edwin Heathcote of The Financial Times
- Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune
- Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post
- Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times
- Rowan Moore of The Observer
- Christian Narkiewicz-Laine (formerly of The Chicago Sun-Times)
- Nicolai Ouroussoff formerly of The New York Times
- Hugh Pearman of The Sunday Times
- Goldberger, Paul (2003-11-12). "Architecture Criticism: Does It Matter". Paul Goldberger. Archived from the original on June 22, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
- Glancey, Jonathan (2007-10-03). "<img class="contributor-pic" src="http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/contributor/2007/09/28/jonathan_glancey_140x140.jpg" alt="Picture of Jonathan Glancey" title="Jonathan Glancey" />". The Guardian (London).
Goldberger, Paul (2003-11-12). "Architecture Criticism: Does It Matter". Paul Goldberger. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
- "The Dark Knights Return: four profoundly unfashionable buildings in London"
- Hugh Pearman, architecture critic of The Sunday Times, analyses architectural critics' responses (including his own) to postmodernism and unfashionability.
- Weinstein, Norman (2008-05-28). "Built on Soaring Words". The Australian. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- This article, whilst not an example of architectural criticism, describes the importance of architectural students developing a strong vocabulary with which to describe buildings.
- Our critics' advice - The Guardian July 8, 2008.
- In this article Jonathan Glancey gives advice to young, ambitious, would-be architecture critics.