Almost an English Sonnet: ABAB+ Responses to Non-Critical Nostalgia in Architectural Writing

The basics of the discussion:

  • Tim Abrahams from Blueprint is angry that people like to look at pictures online, angry that anyone can make a blog, angry that people are being nostalgic online, angry that people aren’t treating the future like the future, angry that people are downloading and not analyzing.
  • Charles Holland of Fantastic Journal understands that it might be confusing to have too many “correct” opinions, but doesn’t think it’s fair to blame the internet, says Things is actually visually critical, thinks the future isn’t something you talk about – it’s something that happens, and points out that maybe these blogs stuffed with eclectic images and seemingly irrelevant interests are contributing something more, because everyone’s been talking about the same thing for so long.
  • Abrahams is a little defensive.
  • Things Magazine (and again, here) says people want to look at pictures, not text, and that images don’t necessarily induce a negative nostalgic experience, though it doesn’t do much of anything, but can inspire something new (or not new).
  • Abrahams is a little defensive again.

Despite the fact that I made Abrahams seem a little intense here, bloggers aren’t necessarily superheros and critics certainly aren’t a bunch of old farts. Neither is it the other way around. Like people in general, there are good bloggers and bad bloggers, good and bad critics as well.

There is an interesting concern for legitimacy all around, but I think the approach to reading a blog is very different than a book, even if the topic is the same (a big vague “architecture” heading…). There’s no need to point this out, though: people KNOW the internet isn’t the real world, even if they spend more waking hours in front of a computer than physically interacting with other people.

And I don’t think books will ever go out of style; nor with formal criticism.

As for being “nostalgic”, I don’t see what the problem here is.  Writing about and linking to things that have already happened or old trends or out-dated ideas isn’t about denying the future; it’s acknowledging the fact that history repeats itself, that fads come and go and sometimes come back again, that architecture is very much related to culture but might not be explicitly linked to current culture, that the past often inspires the future, and, maybe more importantly, the present.

It’s like Digital vs. Analog: Architectural Criticism Edition.

I could rant on and on about all this, but I wanted to keep this fairly short (haha yea, still kind of long…).  What are everyone’s thoughts on this general topic?


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