Every few weeks/months/years there comes a critique of the perhaps the nation’s most well-read architecture critic, the NY Times‘ Nicolai Ouroussoff. Among countless other complaints, he’s always either ignoring Buffalo’s female architects, loving starchitects too much, or spreading liberal paranoia. Most have either been nitpicky, angry, or in the case of the latter, just plain nuts. Now Alexandra Lange has shown how to do it right with her essay at Design Observer‘s Observatory, “Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough.” Here she argues the critic’s various demerits, but the general idea is presented right there in the title, that if he’s the most well read and has the highest profile, he should be better at his job. Even if you’re the biggest Ouroussoff fan, it’s a worthy read, as Lange is a terrific writer and makes very some solid points (ones that even sway us a bit here and there). Here’s a bit more of the central argument:
Ouroussoff has an opinion about design, but his reviews offer not much more than that opinion. His approach — little history, less politics, occasional urbanism — shrinks the critic’s role to commenting only on the appearance of the architecture. He might have been the perfect critic for the boom years, when looks were the selling point, but this formal, global approach seems incongruous in a downturn. His evaluative criterion was never clear to me until I embarked on this essay; in re-reading him, I found frequent defenses of one quality: the new.