Critical futures VS Future criticism

January 14, 2011

Yesterday I had the pleasant experience of attending a live conference in London via streaming.
This was the Critical Futures debate, organized by Domus and broadcast on Domusweb, website/blog amazing for its freshness as well as for the quality of its content, even being the online version of the second Italian architecture magazine by definition, which this year happens to have nothing less than its 83th birthday.
Here you can read all the details of the event. These were the speakers:

Shumi Bose – writer [so said on Domusweb, with a masculine translation in the Italian page; but, instead of a "male writer", there actually seemed to be an asian girl which is doing a thesis on the themes of mutation of architecture press in the era of blogs. I also find on the site of the AA School: Shumi Bose is Teaching Assistant in History & Theory Studies]
Charles Holland – author of Fantastic Journal
Peter Kelly – Director of Blueprint
Kieran Long – architecture critic of The Evening Standard
Geoff Manaugh – author of BLDGBLOG
Beatrice Galilee – author and curator, Domusweb, The Gopher Hole

Moderator: Joseph Grima, Domus.

The conversation was very pleasant and informal, with fine participation by the audience. It will not be possible to provide a detailed account of everything that was said, partly because the difficulties of listening to a streaming conference are many (for example, understanding the words of Geoff Manaugh, who was connected from Los Angeles, has been very difficult because, in addition to a particularly fast talking – so much that it even hit the London public – a series of problems with audio feedback and volume swings compromised its understandability – for me, at least). I will then brutally copy my notes about it, I hope to remember well.

Peter Kelly: he thinks to the debates exchanged in the past between editorial magazines, such as those between Mendini, who wrote on Domus, and Maldonado, who responded from Casabella. Today there is no sense for this to happen, if not online. What will this change?

Kieran Long: [somewhat nicely histrionic, Ed.] one can not speak of true journalistic-critical tradition in architecture [I think in England, Ed.], because there was no intention by the past generation to create one. The average age of the editors of the magazines is very high and it is no one’s interest to lower it.
In the blog there is generally more freedom of expression, which instead is bound in the official press because of problems associated with the ownership of newspapers and general issues of economic interest.

Joseph Grima: however, in the universe of blogs «stroncatura» [which is the Italian for "harsh criticism". Grima says it in Italian, adding he is unable to find the suitable  English translation, despite speaking it almost as a first language, Ed.] does not exist.

Charles Holland: his work on the blog addresses topics that are only tangentially related to his profession as an architect, so there is not always directly link to the professional world.

Shumi Bose (?): but we can not compare all of the old blogosphere or online journalism and traditional publishing. Reflection on cultural background. The main effect of online activities is the “de-specialization”, or the loss of specialism both in input (writing) and output (reading). Cause and effect of this is that for the most part, those who write online are doinf it for free. Towards them, there is distrust, one wonders who are these people who have never published, if not online.

Joseph Grima: there is an ethics of online architecture writing?

Beatrice Galilee: maybe not, but we can observe that the continuous stream of glossy images on the architecture blogs is pornographic. Many blogs reach massive flows of traffic for this very reason. What is the effect of this phenomenon on the contemporary architectural culture? May this damage it?

Shumi Bose (?): but this is a highly political act. Think of how important social effects can many architecture blogs of Spanish language have, which are particularly centered on the use of images, on the cultural environment of Latin America.

Beatrice Galilee: this can really become an area of competition for magazines. Why should I buy one, if I can find the pictures that I’m looking for online?

Kieran Long: the problem is that there are not enough intellectuals and theoreticians of architecture!

Joseph Grima: in Italy the problem is the opposite! [hints sarcastically, audience laughs, Ed.]

Geoff Manaugh: he wonders how many of his posts that he considers thematically and geographically marginal are shared online by a large number of people.

Comment from the public: there is much more passion in the blogs, you can more easily stand up and take clear positions. For this reason it is likely that in the near future will be  blogs and online content to shift the debate, rather than the magazines, which are almost always on neutral positions, induced as slaves of the search for objectivity and professionalism.

[I cannot remember who]: the social importance typically attributed to architecture in the ’60s and ’70s has been lost with the emergence of the starsystem. It is that spirit that today inspires bloggers.

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One Response to “Critical futures VS Future criticism”


  1. [...] Critical Futures debate, which took place last month in London. I’ve been talking about it here. Here are abstracts and [...]


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