Nicolai Ouroussoff, The New York Times’ architecture critic whom I’ve previously praised here, is stepping down. An internal Times memo was released on June 6 by Julie Iovine at the Architect’s Newspaper detailing his resignation: his is resigning in order to write “a book about the architectural and cultural history of the last 100 years, ‘from Adolf Loos’s Vienna and the utopian social experiments of post-revolutionary Russia to postwar Los Angeles and the closing years of the 20th century,’ as Nicolai describes it.” The memo is quite positive:
He’s a critic whose seven-year run has been distinguished by qualities of unfailing intelligence and integrity and the kind of relentless journalistic drive that propelled a worldwide search for steel-and-concrete manifestations of big, important ideas. His recent series on efforts to use architecture to transform the Middle East was only the latest example.
I’ve always enjoyed Ouroussoff’s sophisticated if a bit staid writing as well as his thoughtful opinions, and I look forward to reading his book. But now another questions arises: who will replace him at The Times? Architectural Record has a poll on the matter with bios of potential replacements. I don’t yet know enough about all of them to have a definite opinion on the matter myself.
There’s always the chance that he would not be replaced. Architectural criticism is rather esoteric, even for The Times. It’ll never be totally mainstream, but then again, neither will art criticism. I think we’re all hoping that The Times makes the right choice and selects a strong new critic to uphold its tradition of great architectural criticism, from Huxtable to Goldberger to Muschamp to Ouroussoff.
The memo, written by culture editor Jonathan Landman, also says:
On a different scale, I have another favorite, a review that shows off all of Nicolai’s discernment, courage and skill in a smaller package. That was his appraisal of our new building. There was a lot he didn’t like about the place and he said so – there’s the courage part. On the discernment front, there are fascinating observations about the building’s interplay with the history and ideals of modern journalism. Skill? Look at the direct and good humored way he handles the problem of reviewing the boss.
Landman is absolutely correct: Ouroussoff’s review was fantastic. For old times’ sake, here’s the review.