The Transformation of Architectural Criticism and its Types over Time

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


Architectural criticism currently encompasses a range of diverse concepts and meanings, indicating uncertainties and difficulties in this field. Despite the wide range of existing literature, one can spot many overlaps and ambiguities that leave the question of architectural criticism unclear. Architectural criticism is not a constant and timeless concept. It changes during history, and these historical changes are neglected in most research. Furthermore, the concepts have emerged from a variety of cultures, schools, and languages with various goals, which renders further inquiries and detailed investigations all the more necessary. In order to show transformations and differences, and based on the secondary sources, this research investigates the history of architectural criticism from its emergence in the 18th century until now, which can be divided into three periods: the emergence of architectural criticism in the 18th century in Jacques- Francois Blondel’s publications and the first architectural magazines in Germany, France, and England; its development in the 19th when first architectural critics, as distinct from art critics, historians, or journalists, appeared gradually professionalising architectural criticism through; and its flourishing and decline in the 20th century in which architectural criticism was expanded and diversified and faced a crisis attributed to the gap between diverse types of architectural criticism, with its death being annpunced.
It is clarified here that the function of architectural criticism has fundamentally changed over its history. Its primary function is descriptive, based on a single, personal and subjective critique that was influenced by art criticism in France referring to an edifice. By connecting journalism and criticism, public architectural criticism also grew and flourished and opened a dialogue between architecture and the public. So, the social function prevailed in criticism in this period. With the development of the idea of formalism and design critique in architecture, evaluation of form and design process based on objective criteria was suggested and discussed. Finally, the academic architectural criticism connected to the architectural theory and history departments of American universities has fundamentally changed criticism’s function. This new architectural criticism as a speculative discourse does not endeavour to comment on a singular work. But it is intent on separating architectural criticism from the profession and tends to cover theories of the humanities and social sciences, critical theory, and critical history of architecture.


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