Who critiques the critics? Well, Jack Hughes has a try. He's interested in the pack mentality that raises some architects to prominence, and dashes others to pieces. Or worse ... that ignores vaste swathes of what gets built.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

What If de Monchaux is Bad for Design?

I have been perplexed by Winterhouse Award-winner Thomas de Monchaux's recent take on Apple: "What If Apple is Bad for Design?". In this piece he seems to argue that the use of "default" solutions to problems, though appropriate for software design, is a "curse" when applied to hardware. This argument seems to be taking us back to the mid-C20, if not earlier, when designers felt obliged to rethink every problem from the ground up, without recourse to ready-made templates or "patterns".

The "signature building" is a survivor of this, on the whole meretricious, idea; and these don't come much more influential than Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim. But there is a growing body of critics out to locate the anti-Bilbao, even in that most 'nineties and 'noughties of building types: the museum extension. That's why some (generally non-Spanish) critics have fallen upon Raphael Moneo's new Prado extension with such evident relief.

The architectural critics of the London Times and The Guardian have been trying to outdo one another with the restraint of their superlatives: "quietly serious", "beautifully crafted", "wonderfully polite", "immaculately dressed".