The main Theories of Architectural Criticism in the West: Its history from the 19th Century to the Present

Document Type : Original Article


1 PhD Candidate, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University

2 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University


There is difference between criticizing architecture and speaking about architectural criticism, its terms, principles, and methodology. One is architectural criticism and the other is its theory, which refers to foundations, approaches, philosophy, and criticism of architectural criticism. Regarding the world crisis of architectural criticism, more study and research on its theory is needed; and that's while theories of criticism aren't yet studied enough.
On one hand, Architectural criticism has no unique and persistent theory, and on the other hand, when we review its history, we see that different theories have been developed and refuted constantly. Changes of these theories is explicable by studying the history of architectural criticism; and in order to find its main theories and their changes, we investigate the theories of architectural criticism from its emergence in 19th century up to now. To show this history, this research is based on secondary sources of architectural criticism, and documentary research methods and conceptual history approach is applied.
In this article, theory of architectural criticism in the west will be examined in five principal eras: first, from the end of the 19th century to the mid of 20th century, during which the critique of the journalist criticism commenced and the controversial nature of architectural criticism and intermediary criticisms between the professionals and a non-specialized audience were constantly debated in architectural journals. At the same time the modern movement changed the concept of architecture and caused discussions about psychology and aesthetics criteria in architectural criticism; second, the 1960s, in which architectural theories were mainly affected by research in the methodologies of design studies and linguistics theories of the sign, both attempting toward a scientific theory for architectural criticism. in the meanwhile, theory of normative criticism supported by theory of modern architecture was developed; third is 1970’s era, when Marxian analyses of urban and architectural space, linguistic, anthropological and sociological matters of architecture were transposed into theory of criticism; 4th, the 1980s and 1990s, that was influenced by ever more individualized architectural tendencies, the absence of dominant doctrines, and the disintegration of ideologies, caused debates the paradigm shift of architectural criticism and change of its role from judging to mapping; the last is 21century, when the concept of critical architecture referring to the critical potentiality of architecture gave rise to harsh debate in the USA. Finally, the most recent research, 2016, titled "Mapping Architectural criticism, 20th and 21st Centuries: A Cartography" does not establish a theory or definition, rather, it aims at comparing several concepts of architectural criticism by historiography.
In this article, it is shown how the transformations of theories in the history of architectural criticism are influenced by the way theorists and critics consider the concept of architecture itself. It means whether considering architecture as an autonomous intellectual production, or an interdisciplinary production, directly affects the way of developing a theory of architectural criticism.


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