On the Duty and Power of Architectural Criticism

On October 9-10 and 16-17, 2021, the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin will host an international online conference on the power and duty of architectural criticism.

Should architectural criticism be enlightening? Should it help in the creation of a better built environment? Is there a factual basis to it? Does it have a duty to present evidence in the evaluation of a building? Or should it take on what architects say about their designs?

In the context of a flat internet, should architectural criticism be able to define best practices? Does it wield the power over who is in and who is out?

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Architectural criticism is at a crucial juncture

Architectural criticism, like all human endeavors, is at a crucial juncture. While serious architecture struggles for recognition, much so-called architectural criticism is merely a poorly paid, decorative legitimation for hyperbolic practice. Incisive architectural criticism is rare, while the definition of criticism itself has become opaque.

The conference organisation team has been seeking contributions that define the goals and methods of architectural criticism: What should be the ethical basis of architectural criticism? Can it be objective in the context of paid content? Should it outline ideal practices? July 30 is the deadline for submission of draft papers.

Conference Format

The online format of the two-day conference will allow active debate between audience and lecturers. The Keynote Lecturers are:

  • Kenneth Frampton, New York City, USA
  • Philippa Tumubweinee, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Ruth Verde Zein, São Paulo, Brazil
  • Zheng Shiling, Shanghai, China

Presentations will be concentrated to allow for ample discussion time. Besides the four keynotes, there will be a maximum of 16 short papers. The entire conference will be recorded and placed on Youtube. The conference language will be English. Registration for free audience places (max. 300) will open 2 July via icac2021contributions@gmail.com.