The Design Observer Group


Posted 12.05.11


Mark Lamster + Alexandra Lange

Lunch With The Critics: Second-Annual Year-End Awards



From Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo (MIT Press)

How will 2011 be remembered in architectural history? A year in which the public reclaimed public space? The last hurrah of starchitectural extravagance? After long deliberation, our intrepid interlocutors offer you their awards for the year.

The Silver Star Award: Michael Kimmelman, for his conversation-shifting debut as The New York Times’s new sheriff in town. [ML]

Old[er] Dog, New Trick Award: Paul Goldberger, for his engaging engagement with the architectural masses on Twitter. [ML]

Best Impersonation of Jane Jacobs Award: @jane_jacobs, tweeting news on planning, neighborhoods and public space, and exploiting social media, just like her namesake would have done. [AL]

Pauline Kael Critical Evisceration Award: Esther Zandberg, for her cri de couer on the moral and aesthetic bankruptcy of so much formalist architecture, and those who theorize it, in her review of Preston Scott Cohen’s new Tel Aviv Museum. Honorable mention: Philip Kennicott, for his critique of Moshe Safdie’s U.S. Institute of Peace and the empty symbolism of its atrium. [ML]

I Waited Ten Years and All I Got Was a Massively Over-Budget and Highly Compromised Project Overshadowed By Banal Corporate Towers that May Never Be Finished Award: the 9/11 Memorial. [ML]

Be Careful What You Wish For Award: Section 2 of the High Line, so popular that the walking experience is more like a treadmill, less like the passeggiata. [AL]

Best New Museum: Brad Cloepfil's craggy building for craggy painter Clyfford Still in Denver. Honorable mention: Neutlings-Riedijk's spiraling MAS in Antwerp. [ML]

If You Build It, They Won’t Come Award: the American Folk Art Museum, which overspent on its Tod Williams Billie Tsien-designed townhouse on West 53rd Street, and had to sell out to its oversize neighbor, MoMA. A cautionary tale for the competitive. [AL]

Best Excuse to Drop $11.5 Million on Industrial Vernacular: Shigeru Ban's Metal Shutter Houses, the latest in Chelsea starchitecture. [ML]

Good News for Women in Architecture Award: Jeanne Gang of Chicago-based Studio Gang, a certified MacArthur genius and designer of the stunning Aqua Tower. [AL]

Bad News for Women in Architecture Award: Architect Barbie. No matter how many times you explain it to me, I still think there’s a better way to balance the genders in the profession. And where’s the laptop? [AL]

Crappy Neighbor Award: Osama Bin Laden, proprietor of the year’s most apocalyptically crummy suburban compound. [ML]

An iPhone is Not Architecture Award: the donut-shaped, spaceship-like Apple headquarters, designed by Foster + Partners, which seems to confuse what works for gadgets with what works for offices. [AL]

Ground Control to Major Tom Award: Nicholas de Monchaux for his orbital design history, Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo. [ML]

It Always Comes Back to Helvetica Award: to Paul Shaw’s definitive (for now) Helvetica and the New York City Subway Station, a history of the search for clarity, typographic and otherwise, underground. [AL]

Exhibition of the Year: Jean-Louis Cohen's history-rewriting study of World War II, Architecture in Uniform, at the CCA. [ML]

Good News for Preservation Award: the TWA Flight Center, finally opened to the public and looking better than ever. Now we just need a reason to visit, besides the nostalgia. [AL]

Bad News for Preservation Award: Rem hates you. And his globe-trotting exhibition, “Cronocaos”, argues that saving existing neighborhoods is like setting your city on snooze. [AL]

Doorstop of the Year: Todd Oldham and Keira Coffee’s 12 x 16, 672-page monograph on Alexander Girard, architect, designer, decorator and collector. Honorable mention: The new and definitive Saul Bass monograph, weighing in at 6.6 lbs. [AL and ML]

Best Online Argument for Modernism: Things Organized Neatly, in which Austin Radcliffe demonstrates the eternal pleasures of grids, sets, monochrome and straight lines. [AL]

King of POPS Award: Brian Lehrer and the listeners of WNYC, for mapping the city's privately owned public spaces, and reminding us that not all plazas are created equal. [ML]

Put On a Happy Face Award: When everyone’s designing for good, what’s there to criticize? [AL]

You Don't Look A Day Over 25 Award: Metropolis Magazine, which celebrated its 30th birthday in April. Many happy returns. [ML]

Most Egregious Attempt at Gaming this List Award: To the shameless PR firm who emailed us suggesting the opening of a certain downtown skyscraper was "one of 2011's most compelling events!" No dice. [ML]

Fight the Power Award: To everyone, worldwide, who has #occupied public space in the name of political and economic reform. [ML]