It's been two weeks since the news broke (via an in-house memo) that New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Oroussoff would be "moving on" after seven years at the paper to write a book about "the architectural and cultural history of the last 100 years." The folks at the Architectural Record have already put together a poll where you can vote on the most likely replacement for the frequently controversial (at least within the design world) Oroussoff. We understand that casting an informed ballot may be difficult for those without access to the inner-workings of the hiring process at the paper's culture desk, or just maybe don't know that much about design criticism, and its current leading voices. To help you cast an informed ballot, we've taken the bios provided for each of the candidates and profiled a brief guide to their strengths and weaknesses.
Justin Davidson (New York magazine architecture critic)
- Strengths: Pulitzer laureate; also a critic of classical music.
- Weakness: Would he leave National Magazine Award juggernaut New York to go to the Times?
Martin Filler (Architecture critic for House & Garden until it folded 2007; "frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books")
- Strengths: Would bring his own "brand of uninhibited opinion" to the position.
- Weaknesses: Would bring his own "brand of uninhibited opinion" to the position.
Paul Goldberger (Former Times architecture critic, now at The New Yorker)
- Strengths: Pulitzer Prize winner. He spent 25 years at the Times, so he knows all about the paper's corporate culture...
- Weaknesses: ...just like he did in 1997, when he joined up with the New Yorker.
Sarah Williams Goldhagen (New Republic architecture critic)
- Strengths: Strong theorist and historian; possesses a "three-name byline in the manner of Ada Louise Huxtable," the Times's first architecture critic.
- Weaknesses: According to the Architectural Record, she "doesn't have the name-recognition of a [Christopher] Hawthorne or a [Blair] Kamin."
Christopher Hawthorne (architecture critic at the L.A. Times)
- Strengths: Would increase the amount of attention given to less-heralded designers.
- Weaknesses: Would he make the move east?
Julie Iovine (executive editor at the Architect’s Newspaper)
- Strengths: More than ten years experience at the Times and New York Times Magazine as an editor and reporter on the design beat, according to her official biography; Architectural Record points out that she'd be the first female Times design critic since Huxtable.
- Weaknesses: None that we can see, although we wonder if she'd be willing to give up the executive editor at a "fortnightly newspaper" for the design community to write for the masses again at the Times.
Blair Kamin (Chicago Tribune architecture critic)
- Strengths: Pulitzer Prize winner; has spent the last twenty years writing about architecture not just at any daily newspaper, but one located in an "architecture capital."
- Weaknesses: None. Or at least not any that the poll organizers at the Architectural Record can detect.
Michael Kimmelman (New York Times art critic)
- Strengths: In-house; versatile enough to occasionally blog about tennis.
- Weaknesses: Currently living in Berlin, where he writes the paper's “Abroad” column.
Alexandra Lange ("architectural historian" and design gadfly)
- Strengths: The anti-Ourousoff, which is to say, she isn't "slippery," and has the ability to "win the hearts and minds" of readers. In a blog post on the Design Observer published in 2010, she blasted Ourousoff for lacking these very qualities, in addition to just plain "not being good enough" and not even living in New York.
- Weaknesses: Isn't so much an architecture critic as she is a "Brooklyn-resident and iconoclast," according to poll organizers.
Philip Nobel (Contributor to The Nation, Vogue, Metropolis)
- Strengths: Would bring "crackle" to the Times, which is always appreciated.
- Weaknesses: At this point, he's still only a "dark horse candidate."
Witold Rybczynski (University of Pennsylvania professor and Slate architecture critic.)
- Strengths: We'll let the fine folks at Architectural Record have this one: "Rybczynski would bring both his hard-to-pronounce moniker and uncommon skepticism of the High Line to the Times critics table."
- Weaknesses: But in all seriousness, that is a hard to pronounce moniker, as monikers go; we're also not sure we can trust a High Line skeptic.
Inga Saffron (Resident critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.)
- Strengths: Strong critic on a beat that's nearby.
- Weaknesses: Will the paper be blinded by bigger names from more cosmopolitan cities?
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