When Michael Kimmelman took over for Nicolai Ouroussoff in 2011, I was initially fearful. Though I had grown increasingly frustrated by Ouroussoff’s superficial admiration of starchitecture (I’m not the only one), I assumed an art critic such as Kimmelman would continue to ‘critique’ architecture solely on its artistic merits. But my fears (as well as my prejudiced misjudgments) were quickly dispelled. Here’s an interview with Kimmelman from last year in which he discusses his role as architectural critic. A year and a half later, it still brings me relief and satisfaction to read the New York Times architecture criticism section.
Most recently, Kimmelman set his sights on the controversial New York Public Library project, following the unveiling of the latest set of renderings from Norman Foster’s firm. But just as he understands architecture to be more than just solitary buildings or the further reductive imagery, his critique sets its sight on the vast interrelations of political, economic, and social issues that are embedded in, and affected by, the very process of public architectural projects, let alone the buildings themselves. Reading Kimmelman, you quickly get the sense that he didn’t assume this ‘dying’ position of architectural critic to make friends in the architecture profession: his tone is much closer to a Jane Jacobs or a Matt Taibbi than the obsequious, so-called ‘critic’ that formerly held his post.
If you happen to be attending the Structures for Inclusion Conference next month in Minneapolis, try to get there a couple days early to hear Kimmelman’s Thursday night keynote speech for Public Interest Design week.