A director with one of the world’s most renowned architecture firms has used social media to attack critics for the way they ply their profession.
One of the directors of Zaha Hadid Architects has pilloried “superficial and ignorant” architecture critics for engaging in the “star-bashing” of renowned members of the profession in order to court public attention.
Patrik Schumacher took to Facebook to air his grievances against the professional conduct of today’s architecture critics.
“To criticize iconic buildings and the hype around architects as superficial is an all-too-easy point-scoring, which usually misses the point,” wrote Schumacher. “The denunciation of architectural icons and stars is itself superficial and ignorant.”
Schumacher singled out Ellis Woodman, architecture writer for the UK’s Daily Telegraph and head of the recently established Architecture Foundation, as the very embodiment of the gratuitously disparaging critic, turning his surname as a catch-all term of abuse for “dismissive critics” who “relish…condescension.”
Woodman has previously panned Zaha Hadid’s Maxxi Museum in Rome with a review entitled “Roman Horror Day” in 2009, in which he conceded to “very considerable misgivings about the plausibility of the completed work.”
“When it has come to the crunch, I have always erred on the side of optimism, but I hardly need to say that a less sympathetic observer might find much to object to in the practice’s built output,” wrote Woodman in his review.
While Schumacher pointed to the prevalence of a “star-system” within the architecture profession as being part of the problem, he also insisted that such an institution is a necessary part of the industry for branding purposes, and actually serves to protect clients from chicanery.
“The star system indeed complements the idea of iconic architecture as it is the only way clients can reassure themselves against falling prey to the superficial, short-lived spectacles of the charlatan epigones,” wrote Schumacher. “The star-system thus functions very similarly to the system of brands in general…the name of an architectural star becomes a trusted brand.
“Like brands in general, they cannot easily be dispensed with in our increasingly complex world. They condense necessary information and thus reduce uncertainty.”
Schumacher attacked those critics who would look to the star-system for “easy prey” and “star bashing,” proposing instead that the professional duty of critics should not be to rebuke architects for the audacity of their successes, but instead to make their accomplishments more accessible to the general public.
“Rather than seeing conspicuity and success merely as a red cloth and occasion to knock down icons, it should perhaps be the task of critics to first of all explicate the reputations and inspiration works that command the attention of the discipline and the public,” wrote Schumacher. “ Explanation rather than dismissal and substitution should be seen as the critics’ task.”