theory thursday: value of critique

Yesterday, our humble website strode clear over a milestone. For the first time we had over 100 visits to the site in a single day. By midnight, we actually had 184 visits. Our previous high was 79 visits, set on April 14th during National Architecture Week.

We built this website back in January with the help of Paprika Studios to feature the steadily growing archop exhibits. We also wished to introduce content that can’t be found in any other Fresno media. That is critiques and commentaries about Fresno’s built environment, uniquely focused on design. Other local media report on architecture and the built environment. The focus is often on economics or reported as a current event, rather than exploring the implication for the built environment. The question of ‘why does that building look that way?’ or ‘is that a good or successful design?’ or ‘what does this building say about us and our city?’ rarely get explored. Also the question of ‘who is the architect?’ is left unanswered.

In other cities it is common place for newspapers to employ architectural or urban design critics, much like providing readers with food critics or cultural arts critics. John King who writes for the SF Gate and SF Chronicle come to mind. That is not currently the case in Fresno. We intend to change that paradigm here.

The 1st critique I wrote was of Tower Tattoos. That was a success story of good architectural design. That was a small tenant improvement project that we were able to dig into details of the design. It was also the beginning of what I believe is essential for pushing our Fresno’s and the region’s built environment forward.In that post I wrote:

“We need to offer constructive criticism to buildings, architects, and developers that are not preforming. We also need to highlight and reward those that demonstrate high quality design and positively contribute to a healthy and vibrant built environment.”

On Tuesday I wrote what I hope is constructive criticism on the Granville Homes’ L Street Village project. The post was the main driver for site traffic yesterday. It launched our site traffic through the roof (would our roof be a flat glass roof, maybe a sheet metal butterfly roof, or even a green roof?). The post has drawn 247 visits since Tuesday.

This has got me thinking about the theory behind design critique and a driving theory behind the archop effort.

Architectural education is not a pat you on the back, everyone gets a gold star kind of education. It is rigorous and often merciless. Part of that gauntlet is to prepare us for a professional practice that is highly competitive, low in compensation, and high in liability. A profession where creativity, communication, and cool under pressure are equally essential.

Remembering those critiques, I was forced to completely reevaluate things I had accepted as fact. In that process I discovered so much about myself and the built environment we live in. And when you do something right it shines, like an awakening the world is new and makes sense. To impart that on Fresno would be a dream come true.

This is not an effort to be critical for the sake of being critical. It is not intented to be high brow. It is not out of spite or dislike for any person. We will strive to make these critiques constructive and accessible. Please call us out if that is not the case. This is a learning process for us all.

Let us work together toward architecture, landscape and urban planning that is: a steward to the land, authentically Fresno, offers all the amenities we require with the ease we desire, innovating the whole way through.

This post was written by:

kiel - who has written 140 posts on archop.

Kiel Schmidt is founder and curator of archop

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2 Responses to “theory thursday: value of critique”

  1. kiel says:

    Our German blogging friends has some excellent thoughts on architectural criticism in a post titled A new architecture criticism

  2. Hank Delcore says:

    If you’ve been through an advanced degree program then you’ve experienced “rigorous and often merciless” critique as a way of life. The problem is that not everyone can see the difference between critique and criticism. They are not the same. Keep up the good *critique* — we need it!

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