bought the TV show based on New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, who says criticism is dead?"/>

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Comments Posted 04.20.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Approving of the Approval Matrix


Who says criticism is dead? Bravo just bought the TV show based on New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix and developed by one of my first bosses at New York Magazine, Michael Hirschorn. (Yes, I keep referring to the olden days at New York. I learned a lot while always wearing the wrong thing. Since this week the magazine referred to someone in their late 30s as a member of an older generation, I want to make sure I remember my place.) Everyone loves the Approval Matrix, but what I especially love is that they have truly highbrow things in the highbrow section. Even, sometimes, architecture and design (Debbie Millman).

Highbrow, as you may know, was a term popularized by Russell Lynes that eventually ended up in this chart in LIFE and his 1954 book, The Tastemakers. If you scan across the chart, at the intersection of Highbrow and Reading is “Little magazines, criticism of criticism, avant garde literature,” so while the magazine as a whole is obviously Upper Middle-Brow, except in the matter of Highbrow, Salads (“Greens, olive oil, wine vinegar, ground salt, ground pepper, garlic, unwashed salad bowl) the matrix strays into Highbrow territory. My territory, for better or worse.

Since it is Bravo, I have a shred of hope they will keep that mix. There is something closet Highbrow about Project Runway, despite itself. To hear someone (who is a younger, hotter, less unctuous Charlie Rose?) fighting for the inclusion of the latest typeface from Hoefler & Frere-Jones, or subversive wallpaper made in Brooklyn or (more likely) arguing that selling the original Whitney would be Highbrow Despicable would be so fun. If the whole show devolves into a wrestling match over the lower left quadrant, whose residents are often unknown to me (Lowbrow, Games, “Craps”), it will be a lost opportunity to have criticism on TV, and architecture maybe treated like it is part of mass culture.

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Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
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BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

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