Without a full-time architecture writer, Chicago loses


Chicago is known around the world as a laboratory for modern design, so it’s hardly disappointing that we’ve been doing without a full-time architecture critic at a major daily newspaper for over a year.

Reactions were surprisingly muted – not much sustained bang is heard from media pundits, the business community, or even the design community. If we call Chicago the city of architecture, then we should admit that our competitiveness suffers.

Thoughtful commentators have cited the need for multiple voices in our critical landscape. I agree. But we must not allow decentralization to dilute our response to key events in the built environment, or shift conversations to smaller online platforms and industry newspapers.

Where was the constructive design comment when the Chicago Casino Proposals were released? Where’s the routine celebration of local design excellence? When it comes to buildings and infrastructure, is climate change even mentioned?

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An established critic has a bully pulpit when needed, keeping developers and politicians at bay who aren’t always adept at self-regulation. This prominent voice resonates far beyond our region, inspiring civic pride and drawing millions to Chicago.

As a larger community of designers, academics, and business and community leaders, we must embrace a new ecosystem for criticism while upholding the importance of the mainstream critic. I offer a few thoughts below, but let’s get the ideas flowing.

  • A double nomination earned acclaimed critic Mark Lamster a column Dallas morning news and a professorship at the University of Texas at Arlington College of Architecture, where he nurtures the next generation of talent. Why not repeat this in Chicago?
  • A rotating critic’s chair could allow for some visibility while a campaign for a new full-time critic is launched. This has the benefit of amplifying new voices, but admittedly it doesn’t address the lack of full-time (read: well-paying) writing jobs.
  • The role of the critic should evolve to reach new audiences through engaging interactive content and visualizations that reflect the fact that most of us are reading on our phones. We’ve seen Michael Kimmelman and The new York Times use them to great effect.

Architectural organizations across the city continue to engage in the struggle, reporting, reflecting and meeting on important issues, like the recent effort to save the Thompson Center. But we usually don’t have the resources for a full-time critic.

To move Chicago forward, we need an ongoing dialogue about architecture and cities.

Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of the Chicago Architecture Center

Ken Griffin’s old Republican political tricks

Anyone who’s followed Ken Griffin’s “career” in politics – from his remark that wealthy people don’t have enough say in government policy to his tens of millions in donations to support Bruce Rauner, a fair progressive income tax in Illinois to defeat and stand up to Governor JB Pritzker — knowing his only concern is to limit any dip in his billion-dollar fortune or 10-figure annual income.

Just like Rauner, who cared so much about Illinois that he fled the moment he lost, Griffin threatens to do the same. I reckon he can take the bat and ball to his multi-million dollar abode in Manhattan.

His laments about crime as his supposed central issue is simply the old Republican political ploy of campaigning for fear rather than for the actual betterment of people’s lives. Instead of celebrating guns, he might consider investing about $1 billion in rehabilitation projects in impoverished areas, like commercial developments involving grocery stores and other job-creating businesses. He could even build an extension on the west or south side of the art institute’s modern wing without having to write his ex-wife’s name on it.

Joel Ostrow, Deerfield

Neil Steinberg is right

Thank you for printing Neil Steinberg’s column Ukraine’s Woes May Foretell Our Own. He quoted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a comment on Putin as saying: “The heart of the matter is whether power can break the law.”

He then brilliantly applied that comment to Donald Trump as he denied the latest election results, incited his minions to attack Congress while performing their constitutional duty, and urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to dump taxpayer-funded stashes on Biden’s son to soil.

Because the Republican Party continues to do Trump’s bidding, he has called it “chronically dishonest and morally empty.” He also warned us that if this party comes back to power, we will no longer have a union.

Watching this party during State of the Union was horrifying. They refused to stand when the President spoke about American-made goods. I thought that was a Republican Party sacred tenet of putting American industry first.

US Representatives Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., whispered to each other like adolescents. And U.S. Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., heckled loudly as the President spoke of his late son.

Thank you, Mr. Steinberg, for pointing out what is at stake.

Jan Goldberg, Riverside


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