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11308 Reading and Writing Architectural Criticism

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Design, Architecture and Building: Architecture
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.

Description

This subject examines the theory and practice of architectural criticism, in Australia and internationally. It approaches this broad field in three ways. First, it examines fundamental philosophical questions of what criticism actually is, its role and function (in architecture and other disciplines), and the relationship between criticism and judgement, discernment, and discrimination, amongst other things. Second, the subject approaches architectural criticism as a rhetorical or writerly practice – through analyses of specific texts and the work of exemplary architectural critics, it identifies the different modes of writing employed in different forums and for different audiences, and the different subject positions taken by critics on various issues. In this way the subject also seeks to examine criticism critically – to read 'between the lines' of public criticism and probe the unspoken ideological positions and complicities held by critics, and also by the forums in which their work is disseminated. It notes the ways in which criticism is affected by its mode and method of presentation – in terms of its voice, vocabulary, projected audience, apparent level of objectivity and so on. Finally, the subject approaches architectural criticism in terms of its specific relationship with architectural practice, and questions the role that criticism plays in the profession, the academy, and in architectural culture more generally. In this way it opens a debate on whether architectural criticism does, and indeed whether it should, contribute to better buildings. The subject concentrates particularly on criticism published in architectural journals, but also touches upon the popular press, as well as film and television.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

1. develop historical and critical arguments
2. analyse the content of critical arguments into their elements
3. persuasively depict critical argument into a schema using abstract symbols
4. effectively describe a building or environment
5. exercise critical judgment about building or environment descriptions
6. prepare a polished prose piece suitable for published
7. gain first hand experience of the dissemination of media
8. demonstrate competency in academic research procedures
9. develop a critical and reflective argument building on arguments through diagrams and publishable criticism
10. prepare arguments in the format of an academic essay
11. demonstrate and develop formal skills in both writing and reasoning.

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject is delivered over a period of 3 hours on a weekly basis throughout the semester.

Run as a seminar, the delivery is intended to be open-ended, loosely structured, and flexible. There will be occasional guest lectures by the coordinator and guests. Students will be encouraged to direct the objects of discussion, to discuss and workshop their own critical writing, and to comment critically on the work of their peers. There will be an emphasis on writing as a craft, and discussions will centre around the analysis of texts about criticism, as well as criticism itself.

Content (topics)

The subject is run as a seminar, which is intended to be open-ended, loosely structured, and flexible. There will be occasional lectures by the coordinator and guests. Students will be encouraged to direct the objects of discussion, to discuss and workshop their own critical writing, and to comment critically on the work of their peers. There will be an emphasis on writing as craft, and discussion will centre around analysis of texts about criticism, as well as criticism itself.

Assessment

Assessment task 1: The Argument as Diagram

Weight: 15%

Assessment task 2: Publishable Criticism

Weight: 40%

Assessment task 3: Final Theory Paper

Weight: 45%

Other resources

Architectural Criticism is a very broad subject, requiring a wide range of reading. It is not necessary to read
all the material for each week, but students will benefit from broad reading. Students preparing an essay or
presentation on a given topic should read more widely and thoroughly.
Attoe, Wayne, Architecture and Critical Imagination, Wiley and Sons, Chichester, 1978.
Baird, George, ‘”Criticality” and its Discontents’, Harvard Design Magazine, Fall/Winter 2004, vol. 21,16-21.
Banham, Reyner, ‘Convenient Benches and Handy Hooks: Functional Considerations in the Criticism of the
Art of Architecture’, in The History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture: Papers from the 1964 AIA-ACSA
teacher seminar, ed Marcus Whiffen, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1965, 91-105.
Banham, Reyner , ‘A Black Box: The Secret Profession of Architecture’, in Mary Banham et al eds., A Critic
Writes: Essays by Reyner Banham, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1996
Boddy, Adrian, ‘Clarifying Architecture: Max Dupain, David Moore and John Gollings at Yulara’, Photofile,
vol. 63, August 2001, 4-12.
Bohn, Richard, ‘Vocabulary: A critical discussion of architectural criticism, with the view that its vocabulary
isn’t much help to professional or public understanding’, Architecture Plus, vol. 2, no. 5, Sept-Oct 1974, 70+
Bokern, Anneke, ‘How to choose an architecture photographer’, in Wonderland. Platform for Architecture,
2008, 40-43.
Boyd, Robin, The Australian Ugliness, Pelican Books, Sydney, 1972
Collins, Peter, ‘The Philosophy of Architectural Criticism’, Architecture: The AIA Journal, January 1968, v.
49, n. 1, 46-49.
Collins, Peter, ‘The Interrelated Roles of History, Theory and Criticism in the Process of Architectural
Design,’ in The History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture: Papers from the 1964 AIA-ACSA teacher
seminar, ed Marcus Whiffen, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1965, 1-9.
Eagleton, Terry, The Function of Criticism: From the Spectator to Post-Structuralism, verso, London, 1990
(see especially chapter 1), 9-27

Eisenman, Peter, ‘Post-Functionalism’, in Architecture Theory Since 1968, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1998,
236-239
Fisher, Thomas, ‘A Call for Clarity: American architectural criticism should be less misleading and obscure’,
Architectural Record, July 1999, 47+
Foster, Hal, ‘Three Master Builder’, in Design and Crime and other Diatribes, verso, London, 2002
Fry, Tony, ‘The Architecture of Criticism’, Transition, Spring 1988, no. 26, 69-74.
Gusevich, Miriam, ‘The Architecture of Criticism: A Question of Autonomy,’ in Andrea Kahn (ed), Drawing
Building Text, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1991, 8-24.
Hogben, Paul, ‘Maintaining an Image of Objectivity: reflections on an Institutional Anxiety’, Architecture
Theory Review, vol. 6, no. 1, 2001, 63-75.
Huxtable, Ada Louise, ‘On Architecture. Collected reflections on a century of change’, Walker & Company,
New York, 2008
Ibelings, Hans, ‘A parallel Universe’, in Wonderland. Platform for Architecture, 2008, 8-9.
Macarthur, John and Stead, Naomi, ‘The Judge is not an Operator: Historiography, Criticality and
Architectural Criticism’, OASE no. 69, 2006, 116–138.
Meier, Richard, ‘What good are critics? We need them to excite and provoke the public,’ Architectural
Record, March 2000, 57+
Obrist, Michael, ‘How to disappear completely’, in Wonderland. Platform for Architecture, 2008, 14-17.
Ockman, Joan, ‘Resurrecting the Avant-Garde: the History and Program of Oppositions,’ in Beatriz
Colomina (ed), Architectureproduction, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1988, 181-199.
Oppenheimer Dean, Andrea, ‘Listening to Critics: The Stage is Set’, Architectural Record, Jan. 1999, 68+
Raman, Pattabi, and Coyne, Richard, ‘The Production of Architectural Criticism,’ Architecture Theory
Review, vol. 5, April 2000, 83-103.
Russell, James, ‘Fading Photographs’, Harvard Design Magazine, Fall 1998, pp. 44-49.
Schumacher, Thomas, ‘Over-Exposure: On Photography and Architecture’, Harvard Design Magazine, Fall
1998, 4-7.
Sekler, Eduard, ‘The Function of Architectural Theory and Criticism’, Architectural Design, August 1968,
vol. 38, 347-348.
Stead, Naomi, “Three Complaints about Architectural Criticism’, Architecture Australia, 92/6
November/December 2003, 50-52.
Stern, Laurent, ‘Voices of Critical Discourse’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 60:4, 2002,
313-323
Sontag, Susan, ‘Against Interpretation’, in Against Interpretation and Other Essays, 1966
Stephens, Suzanne, ‘Assessing the State of Architectural Criticism in Today’s Press’, Architectural Record,
March 1998, 64+

Academic Journals:
Grey Room, Transition, Form/Work, Architectural Theory Review, Harvard Design Magazine, Oppositions,
Assemblage, Fabrications
Journal of Discourse:
Lotus, Archis / Volume, Casabella, Progressive Architecture, Daidalos, October
Professional Journals:
Monument, Architectural Review Australia, Architectural Review UK, Blueprint, Frame, Metropolis, Detail
Architecture Australia, Architecture: the AIA Journal, RIBA Journal, Domus, Ume, A+U / JA, L’Architecture
d’Aujourd’hui
Monographes:
El Croquis
‘Shelter’ Magazines:
Wallpaper, Eigenhuis, Architectural Digest, Nest, Hauser

Archined: http://www.archined.nl/
Polyoxygen: http://www.poloxygen.com/
Volume 5: http://www.volume5.com/
Mimoa: http://www.mimoa.eu
Butterpaper: http://www.butterpaper.com
Umsitio: http://www.umsitio.com/
Architektura-Murator: http://architektura.muratorplus.pl
NIB: http://www.newitalianblood.com/
AAI: http://architecturalassociation.ie/
PA. http://www.plataformaarquitectura.cl/
Nextroom: http://www.nextroom.at
Bldg blog: http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2006/05/architectural-criticism.html