Monday, April 14, 2008

Is Ouroussoff the next Kakutani?
I delight in reading Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times' most feared book critic. You won't find her in the Sunday paper, but rather in the Monday-Saturday editions. When she hates a book, she let's you know. (Kakutani recently called Martin Amis' new collection of essays "a weak, risible and often objectionable volume."

On Saturday, I got around to reading Nicolai Ouroussoff's review of the Newseum, a new Washington, D.C. museum promoting the First Amendment and journalism. The review begins: "How many mediocre buildings can one city absorb?" In this excerpt, Ouroussoff describes the building's facade, designed by Polshek Partnership Architects.

"A marble slab etched with the words of the First Amendment is suspended on one facade like an ancient Roman tablet. An expansive window setback in the center of this facade frames a gigantic video screen in the lobby, evoking a TV screen. (An early sketch even envisioned the building as a row of newspaper sections.)

The intent, one suspects, is to conjure the rapid pace at which information is gathered and transmitted in the Internet age. But there’s nothing new or spectacular about this kind of high-tech billboard. And the heaviness of these forms is light years away from the multihued, fluid world of the Internet. Instead, the effect is as cringe-inducing as watching a neophyte nervously trying to navigate a computer screen."

To see a slideshow of the Newmuseum, click here. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)


William Beyer said...

I took the time to read Ouroussoff’s review of the Newseum in the New York Times. He actually seems to like the building a little, if not the exhibit designs (for which he doesn’t blame the architect).

Most of the review is a jumble of non sequitors. In the end, he derides a rooftop terrace as “uninspired”, then claims an “epiphany” upon arriving there. And what is his blinding flash of spiritual understanding? Something about Pei’s East Wing standing up to its Classical neighbors without eclipsing it or compromising Modernist values. A possibly worthy theme, but nowhere present in the rest of the review. Get me rewrite, indeed.

Is Ouroussoff the next Kakutani? Should we take this to suggest that he is the most feared architectural reviewer at the Times? The only fear Ouroussoff inspires in me is that anyone will take his incoherent drivel seriously.

Todd Melby said...

So, what architecture critics do you like better?

William Beyer said...

Since Ada Louise Huxtable left the field, Bob Campbell is the only critic worth reading.