Lange vs. Ouroussoff: Knockdown
March 20, 2010
Alexandra Lange, a Brooklyn based writer and professor of architectural history at the School for the Visual Arts, has given me a reason for hope. I’ve been writing critically about the Times critic for months in my blog, with some of the same points made in Lange’s incisive essay. Her piece in Design Observer on Nicolai Ouroussoff, of the New York Times, nails it. Mr. Ourroussoff is just not good enough for the people of New York. He should go.
Lange courageously takes on the most powerful architectural critic in America (by virtue of his seat at the Times) and considers both the nature of criticism and the content of his many pieces in the newspaper. She correctly asks about his point of view, his personal values, and his responsibility to both New York city and the architectural community. In all the areas architects and citizens of New York should care about, Ourousoff’s criticism is found wanting: he doesn’t seem to care about people who use buildings, he doesn’t walk the beat in New York City, his point of view is simplistic: new is better, he promotes only starchitects, and he writes one-note essays on complex topics that deserve multi-faceted analysis. Most important, as Lange correctly points out, he is writing during a time when all cultural criticism is waning, and may become the last “critical” voice on architecture in newsprint before long.
When your’re in the hotseat, you’d better be hot, not cool, not tepid. Hot. Watch for my next blog on the critic who deserves the Times job.