My Favorite Architecture Critic

Charles Mudede is my favorite architecture critic. And while I fully consider this column of his to be about architecture, I welcome disagreement because it would be fun to talk about.

Mar 21, 13 12:25 pm
Sarah Hamilton

Donna started a thread!!!

Mar 21, 13 12:58 pm

maybe they were laughing because someone terminated the vinyl wallcovering on an outside corner instead of an inside corner?  we may never know.

Mar 21, 13 1:17 pm

I like anyone who drinks, is funny, and writes well.  And I have to agree that explosions of loud laughter fueled by alcohol are annoying --until, that is, the annoyed achieves the same blood-alcohol level as the annoyer.

Mar 21, 13 1:30 pm

Brilliant, curtkram. 

Creating social spaces is one of the responsibilities with which we are charged.  We have to make places where people feel comfortably able to be human, to go about the myriad  formal and informal processes that make us a society.

We're also charged with making sure color/material changes don't happen at an outside corner. For godssake, never.

Mar 21, 13 1:42 pm

(Also, citizen, I'm a loud laugher, whether drunk or not.)

Mar 21, 13 1:43 pm

And, also, this is the column that introduced me to Mudede's writing and made me a fan.

But even into this cheery holiday atmosphere judgment must descend and do its mean (or meaningful) work. For six of the seven gingerbread structures on display were not produced by children afflicted with juvenile diabetes—those naughty diseased children could not be trusted with the raw materials, with the gingerbreads, sweets, and icings—but by the most prestigious architectural firms in the city. So we must assess these structures with a critical eye. Which is best? Which is worst? If an architectural firm is incapable of decent gingerbread design, what of the buildings that firm is inflicting on our helpless city?

Mar 21, 13 1:45 pm

I don't believe Mudede wrote that. There's not a single reference to Marxism, Racism, or Africa.

Mar 21, 13 2:53 pm

I think the article - the original one I posted - also brings up social media space together with social physical space.  You used to have to whisper and exchange knowing glances with your table mates if the person at the table behind you was laughing too loudly.  Now you can complain about it to the world, silently.

Didn't the Blur Building attempt to make a physical space where you could read another's thoughts in the ether?

Mar 21, 13 3:28 pm

(I'd already guessed that, Donna.  Laughing, loud or otherwise, is one of my favorite things.)

Mar 21, 13 4:01 pm

The older but second piece you posted seems to be more obviously about architecture, although perhaps, architecture more as Sam Bompas and Harry Parr would practice.

The second one also actually has I think more to say about the intersection between building/design/space and human experience. is really literally a launch of a new food/bar review column i guess?

Finally, re: the gingerbread houses, personally I would say i would grade Callison Architecture's "A Very Kremlin Christmas" not the KMD design as "By far the best on display" but agree that NBBJ's "March of the Arctic Nesting Dolls" is no doubt "The worst".

Plus, that (at least render) of Sheraton by Callison Architecture is pretty fugly/uninspiring...

As far as I know I haven't consciously read his writing before but look forward to more.  Donna, could you point me to some of your favorite of his, more conventional architectural criticism?

Mar 21, 13 5:26 pm

Well he's definitely not a conventional architecture critic, but architecture (and urbanism) and how it interacts with/forms culture is at a lot of his writing.  I think I like his writing so much because it always tweaks my view; he always brings a bizarre perspective that resonates, at least with me, and weakens a shibboleth or two.  There's this statement about cities vs. nature:

The city is totally human. The steps in an apartment building are for human feet, the door knobs afford human hands, the bed is for a human back (a horse would crush a mattress, abhor a toilet bowl), the window is there for you, the streets are paved for your modes of transportation. This urban world didn't fall on you; it sprang from you. The woods are alienating. The river hates you. 

I love that this passage reminds me that even buildings I don't like are of humans, and must resonate for one reason or another with some humans somewhere.  So maybe I need to get into a frame of mind, as a member of the human community, that would allow me to appreciate them too?  Then I remember that I'm actually okay with being a little bit elitist about architecture. But at least it made me think.

He also did a series on The Ugliest Building In Seattle.  Let me see if I can find it.  

Mar 21, 13 8:56 pm

This is fantastic, Donna, thanks for sharing!  I am also a loud laugher, although perversely super annoyed by other loud laughers.  Ah, humans.  

I totally agree on his urbanism statement.  I've said many times that one of the best classes I took in school was about the psychology of the built environment - and was actually taught by someone trained in the subject, was housed in the humanities department, etc.  It was fascinating and really opened my eyes to what architecture really is about: humans.  

curtkram: speaking of loud laughter... HA!

Mar 21, 13 10:56 pm

my first thought when reading that donna was bachelard and poetics of space.

Mar 22, 13 1:20 am

Mudede is at it again.  This one is a delight: long and rambling and harsh.  With a headline like this, who can resist diving in?

I Hate the Beacon Hill Library, and You Should Too.


I should write one called I Hate MoMA's Jaw-Droppingly Stupid Decisions, and You Should Too.

Apr 17, 13 9:33 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

Thanks for posting, Donna. He's a really good writer.  His tone and style reminds me a bit of David Foster Wallace.

Apr 19, 13 1:48 pm

Killer ending on this one.

May 22, 13 2:09 pm

I like WBEZ's Lee Bey, he is good at explaining to the public what we are all about.
Mostly advocating preservation his blog and on air contributions give the whole profession a good public face.

May 23, 13 1:10 pm

Another thought-provoking post by Mudede, on democracy and trends.

Jul 25, 13 12:58 pm

A lovely minimal bar review by Mudede introduces me to the term afterwardsness.  I feel like this word is so apt in describing how we experience architecture.  Apparently Lacan has written about exactly that application of the word, but I've never read any Lacan.

Mar 10, 14 12:34 pm

And if any of my former students are reading this, afterwardsness has a lot in common with my use of the word "untoasterlike".

Mar 10, 14 12:37 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

I didn't see "afterwardsness" mentioned in the piece, Donna.  Am I missing something?

Mar 10, 14 2:30 pm

It's referred to in the comments - Charles' depiction of the first drink as not really existing (we've all experienced *that* phenomenon, yes?!) led a commenter to the term afterwardsness.

Mar 10, 14 3:02 pm
Saint in the City

Mudede's political agenda creates a not-so-subtle undertone to most of the writings you posted.  Curious, does the Marxist intent make you more, or less, of a fan? 

Mar 11, 14 9:36 am

Wonder if  Charles  Mudede drinks with Lawrence Cheek since there both in the same hood?

Mar 11, 14 10:10 am

re: the architecture of waiting. i'm with those who responded that it's about getting out of the way, donna.

at least that's me. 

but then i'm constantly looking for ways to be out of the way. 

Jun 19, 14 11:53 am

Just gonna post the whole text this time, but if you want to read the original go here. Bolds below are mine, for emphasis and delight.

The (ed: news) story from China is that 11 men were recently arrested for the dark business of exhuming the bodies of women (the fresher, the better) from graveyards and selling them on a market that meets the needs of families in the difficulty of having on their hands a beloved uncle or son who exited the state of all affairs unmarried. When a deal is settled, the body of the dead woman (who may have been married in life) is buried next to the dead bachelor. This is called a ghost wedding, and the resulting marriage is certainly more peaceful than anything you will find in the land of the quick.

Though the practice is very old and maintained mostly by people who live in rural China, it is by no means barbaric. Indeed, because civilization only begins when the living live with their dead—meaning, when the living are settled rather than nomadic, we can see in the ghost marriage something like the deep and wonderfully twisted roots of the modern urban consciousness.

The city is about a very close relationship between inhabitants who are made of matter and those made from the faintest stuff of memories—ghosts. Inhabited and uninhabited buildings, rooms, hallways, staircases are all haunted by those lost in the past of those buildings, rooms, hallways, and staircases. You can only remove ghosts by demolishing a building. This is why it is utterly ridiculous to fear ghosts in the forests. What is there to haunt? Trees? Moose? Mud? What nonsense. Humans are the haunted animal. Humans live in houses, apartments, castles, and the cities of their dead.


Happy Halloween, everyone!

Oct 31, 14 1:03 pm


You been spending to much time with Ghost....????  Let them out of the Closet!

Happy Post Halloween!

Nov 1, 14 4:37 pm

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