The future of architecture criticism will be accessible and irreverent. 
The purpose of this statement is not to wag a finger at the “ivory tower” or old-guard architecture critics. This is the rallying cry of someone who has stumbled upon a way to coax people outside of architecture into critically examining the built environment. Superimposing arrows and witty captions on pictures of ugly, oversized houses isn’t effective because it is funny or gimmicky, it is effective because it teaches people to look at buildings and see in their hidden language truths about society and culture. What else is a clueless, cheap two-story portico if not a statement of wealth and power, reduced to inadvertent self-mockery?
We can bemoan the death of “real” criticism and worry about its future until the last light above the desk of the last newspaper architecture critic goes out for the last time. Or we can build something new in tone, choice of language, visual cues, and medium, yet still constructive and productive. We can sustain criticism by giving it a new audience – the audience it deserves: anyone affected by the change architecture creates in the built environment, which is to say, everyone. 
Criticism isn’t just one branch of the big sprawling tree that is architecture, it is an innate sense that everyone has but is rarely cultivated. People already see things in buildings that they find ugly, bland, insincere, and pretentious. People already critique the politics of architecture every time they protest displacement, border walls, or unethical labor practices. So is the problem that people no longer care about “real” criticism, or is it that “real” criticism doesn’t care about people? Our duty as critics is to educate and empower the critic in others. If we fail to do that, we will be unable to build a future for our work. After all, what use is criticism if we write to an audience made only of people like ourselves? 

Those who fret about the decline in “quality” or courtesy, or about the erosion of norms are often just fearful of the status quo changing. But who exactly benefits from the status quo? And what status quo hasn’t already been eroded by the insanity that is the current political and cultural landscape, or by the chaotic, hegemonic rise of technology and its intentional disruption of pretty much everything? The world is on fire, yet so much pundit-class energy is devoted to bemoaning the death of civility at the hands of angry Twitter users, or the decay of thought or language because teens prefer to make memes instead of reading Literature™. Instead of joining in such useless hand-wringing, architecture criticism would be wiser to harness the power of irreverence, constructively channel the energy of anger, and ultimately redirect the innate, human desire to make sense of our senseless, upsetting world towards building a better one, a more informed one, a truly critical one. 

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Image courtesy of McMansion Hell

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