Criteria and Instruments of Criticism: The Quest for an Architectural Specificity
“Architectural criticism is not a literary genre, nor is it a profession. It is, above all, an intellectual attitude by means of which discourse becomes – in loneliness and in consciousness of the crisis – judgement, separation, decision.” By these words, in 1995 the Spanish critic and historian Ignasi de Solà-Morales (1942-2001) implicitly rejected the analogy of architectural criticism with art criticism understood as a “literary genre”: a definition coined by art historians at the beginning of the 20th century, drawing on the practice of criticism in 18th century French Salons. By declaring that architectural criticism is not a profession, Solà-Morales equally dismissed the idea of criticism as architectural journalism. Solà-Morales’ assertion thus raises the issue of architectural criticism’s autonomy and specificity. For the Anglo-Canadian architectural historian Peter Collins (1920-1981) as well, these concepts were crucial. Drawing on some of Collins’ writings on criticism and architectural judgement, the lecture will attempt to disentangle the various meanings of the “autonomy” of architectural criticism, its relations to the notion of judgement and the claimed specificity of its criteria.
Hélène Jannière is Professor of History of contemporary architecture at Rennes 2 University. After several publications on the architecture periodicals of the 20th Century (Politiques éditoriales et Architecture moderne, 1923-1939, Paris, 2002 and Architectural Periodicals in the 1960s and 1970s, CCA, IRHA, Montreal, 2008, co-edited with France Vanlaethem and Alexis Sornin), her current research focuses on architectural and urban criticism in France in the 1950s-1980s. Among her main publications on this topic: Critique et architecture: un état des lieux contemporain (Criticism and Architecture: a Contemporary State of Affairs Paris, 2019); in 2009, with Kenneth Frampton, the special issue of Les Cahiers de la recherche architecturale et urbaine „La critique en temps et lieux“. With Paolo Scrivano (Politecnico di Milano), she recently co-edited a special number of CLARA / Architecture + Recherche, devoted to “Architectural Criticism and Public Debate” as well as an issue of the journal Histories of Postwar Architecture entitled: “Committed, Politicized, or Operative: Figures of Engagement in Criticism from 1945 to Today”. She is currently the scientific coordinator, together with Paolo Scrivano, of the international research program and network Mapping Architectural Criticism http://mac.hypotheses.org/
The event is part of the lecture series Designed Orders. The lecture will take place on the Westend Campus of Goethe University Frankfurt (HZ 8) and will be held in English.