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Architecture Critics: Architectural Theorists

Architectural Theory – Criticism of the Built Environment

post updated 1 October 2023

Architectural Crit Posts, alphabetical:

Architectural Criticism Posts – chronological list

Architectural Critics

Architectural Theorists featured on the e-architect website, alphabetical order:

Alain de Botton

Charles Jencks

Jeremy Till Architecture

Jonathan Glancey

More Architecture Critics suggestions are welcome

International Architecture

American Architecture

Architecture Debate

Charles Jencks

Charles Jencks was a British architectural critic and alongside his wife Maggie Keswick-Jencks helped set up the Maggie’s Centres. Maggie’s is a charity providing free cancer support and information in centres across the UK and online.

Charles Jencks is one of most famous architecture critics:
Charles Jencks one of most famous architecture critics
photo : Bill Fleming

Brief note by Founding Editor of e-architect, Architect Adrian Welch: I had the fortune to attend a debate where the late Charles Jencks was probably the key guest speaker. The event was held at The Panopticon on Argyll Street, Glasgow, Scotland, in around 2007. I recall it was organised by Penny Lewis of Prospect Magazine, which is now urban realm in a different set-up. I had written quite a few architectural essays in print and online criticising iconic architecture.

Charles defended it as the zeitgeist, aligned with the current global financial system. He was very firm on this point, but my view remains that just because it is prevalent and almost inevitable due to global attitudes to branding doesn’t mean we cannot criticise it.

My taste is catholic, I enjoy a range of architecture from the rationalism of say David Chipperfield to the playfulness and ephemerality of studios like FAT (sadly no longer active). Iconic buildings such as Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim have impressive moments, and I rate Zaha Hadid’s Baku building amongst the best in recent decades, due to its sublime handling of form and space.

However this endless search by clients across the world (often cities trying to repeat the Bilbao effect simply to increase revenue) for iconic architecture has some negative influences. One being the notion of branded buildings, architecture not rooted in site context and the specific nature of its future users, but instead driven by some branded style.

I believe architects’ have a primary responsibility to form high quality functioning and sustainable buildings that work well for the building’s users long-term. Of course it is possible for adept starchitects to design a high-quality functional building then throw their stylistic cloak over the exterior form. However, having witnessed some of these efforts first hand, you find odd details and massing that most probably resulted from trying to mash an ‘iconic’ from to a rational programme.

Comments welcome – Ed. Adrian Welch

Iconic Buildings

Additions to our selection of current architecture critics from around the world are welcome. Please ensure any photos provided have the correct photographer credit. Please also provide text preferably a minimum of 700 words but ideally more.

Jonathan Glancey

Jonathan Glancey is the architectural correspondent of The Guardian

He gave the The 4th Annual Cockburn Association Lecture at the Royal College of Physicians, Queen Street, Edinburgh, in 2001:

“Jonathan had a gleam in his eye as he unwrapped his thinking about architecture, life and dreaming. The unifying strand of dreams linked poetry, biblical and political readings, theoretical discourse and occasional introspection.

We have heard the tirade about the suburb before, but it was an enjoyable talk in that it did stray into unusual territory: it’s lack of tangible solutions to Mr Glancey’s unloved consumerism allowed one’s mind to drift, even dream.”

Snippet from a review of the talk by architect Adrian Welch, Founding Editor of e-architect.

Building Designs

Contemporary Buildings – recent architectural selection of key buildings on e-architect:

National Museum of American Jewish History
Design: Ennead Architects

Masdar Institute Campus, Abu Dhabi
Design: Foster + Partners

The Shard London – now the ‘Tallest Tower in UK’

More information and credited images for the Architecture Critics page are welcome

Architectural Walking Tours

Absolute Towers, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Design: MAD

Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House, Scotland:
Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House, Scotland, design by Charles Jencks one of most famous architecture critics
Charles Jencks Garden, Dumfriesshire, Scotland – photo from The Architectural Association School of Architecture

Power Wing, Bang Kapi District, Bangkok, Thailand
Design: Openbox Group and Openbox Architects
Car Parking Solar Roof Bangkok Architecture News, Thailand
photo : Panoramic Studio
Car Parking Solar Roof Bangkok

Wormhole Library, Haikou, Hainan Province, China
Design: MAD Architects
Wormhole Library Haikou Building
image courtesy of architects
Wormhole Library in Haikou

Comments / photos for the Architecture Critics Information – Charles Jencks, Jonathan Glancey, Jeremy Till and Alain de Botton page welcome

Website: Ellis Woodman Daily Telegraph architecture critic since 2007