For those, of which there were many, who either regularly disagreed with, or outright despised, one of the country’s most high profile architecture critics, the NY Times‘ Nicolai Ouroussoff, their red letter day finally came at the end of June, when he left the paper to pursue writing books. Now it’s come time to judge the new guy: Michael Kimmelman. As we told you back in early July, upon his hiring, Kimmelman was an internal transfer at the paper, moving both from its “Abroad” section (he’d also previously worked reviewing music and was the Times‘ lead art critic for a stint) and from Berlin, where he’d been living since 2007, to take on the new post. Yesterday marked both his first review for the paper in the new position (a look at a new housing project being built in the South Bronx), as well as penning a short introduction for himself for the Arts Beat blog. Here’s a bit from that:
…I’m interested in urbanism, city planning, housing and social affairs, the environment and health, politics and culture — in all the ways we live, in other words, and not just in how buildings look or who designs them, although those things are inseparable from the rest. The influence on architecture of social scientists and medical experts now investigating how actually to quantify the success and failure of buildings, to establish criteria of proof, an increasingly important word, in terms of, say, the claims of green and healthy sites, seems no less urgent than Zaha Hadid’s or Norman Foster’s latest undertaking. Who uses works of architecture, and how, and who benefits from them and who doesn’t, also matters, obviously, and from Colombia to Coney Island, Dubai to Detroit, ways of rethinking these issues have already begun to reshape thinking in architecture schools and offices and beyond.
It’s early days, for sure, but we’re certain there’s already lots of speculation on how he’ll differ from his predecessor. Tangentially related, the NY Observer made note that Kimmelman’s first review made the front of the Times‘ homepage, something very rare for architecture criticism, and something they wonder might be a sign of either lending more importance to the subject or was just a on-off passing mention because they have someone new steering the ship.