This is the third post in a series of short interviews with renowned writers about the field of Writing & Commentary, a new category in the Core77 Design Awards. Here we speak to Alexandra Lange , a critic, journalist, author and architectural historian. As well as teaching architecture criticism at SVA, Alexandra regularly contributes to Design Observer and has written for The Architect's Newspaper, Icon, Metropolis, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
How important or valuable is it to honor design writing and criticism with an awards program?
Alexandra Lange: It's very important. A) Everyone loves to win an award. B) anything that helps attract attention to our small field, and to the best writing in that small field, is valuable.
Which qualities do you most appreciate in writing about design and architecture and what kinds of writing do you hope will surface from this call for entries?
I've always appreciated clarity—why be coy?—and lately I find myself drawn to description. How you move through a space, how it looks, how it feels, the details that give it personality. You can pack a lot of criticism into what seems like a walking tour, including a walking tour of an app. I also hope the entries reflect the breadth of what design criticism can be about, and how intertwined design is with more obvious popular culture.
Name two writers, perhaps one historical and one contemporary, that you are influenced or challenged by.
Well, one of them is on the jury: Michael Sorkin. When I first read "Exquisite Corpse," the collection of his Village Voice reviews, I was blown away by how funny and how strident they were. I appreciate their energy, their pragmatism, and all the good lessons about real buildings along the way. Historically I feel challenged by Reyner Banham, for many of the same reasons. I love the diversity of his topics, and again, the humor. I would like to be thought of as funny, but that's a tough row for both critics and women.
Tell us about a publication that features writing about visual culture, design, or architecture, that you're enjoying reading right now.
I have to admit, the only publication I read really regularly all the way through is The New Yorker. And its writing on design usually makes my blood boil. Judith Thurman's piece in the recent Style issue, on Prada and Schiaparelli, was terrific, and I think the concept she discusses of "Ugly Chic" has applicability far beyond fashion. Two years ago I wrote a proposal for a book on bad taste in design called "Ugly," but no one liked it.
Visit the Writing & Commentary on the C77DA site to learn more about the category and jury. Entries for the Core77 Design Awards close April 10. Core77 recognizes that many design writers work freelance and if you feel you qualify for special consideration pricing for your entry, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.