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Architecture Critics Worth Your Time

As more and more of the design press moves to the web, I'd like to take a moment to remind you blog-hungry architecture fiends that some of the best writing on design still happens in those hidebound old dinosaurs: newspapers.

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Hardly alone among the fine architecture and urbanism writers in the US, these four stand out for their clear prose, insightful criticism and strong sense of place.  As certain papers lurch further toward greater national and international coverage, and away from being local broadsheets, papers with national reach but more of a hometown focus offer the best in smart, regional architecture coverage. Earlier this week I posted on an LA Times list of the best architecture of 2008, and in addition to the Times' Christopher Hawthorne, here are a handful of top-drawer design writers.

First on the list is John King's column "Place" in the San Francisco Chronicle, which is a weekly reminder that architecture is an essentially local event, despite the 10-figure price tags and the involvement of petrogarchs that often come along with it.  A Dwell contributor, King eschews aesthetic snobbery placing a greater emphasis on communities, innovation and what actually works.  And if that means praising a Target, as he does here, so be it.

Another critic worth your time is Pulitzer Prize-winning Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune. I like what he does in the Tribune, and am also fond of his blog The Skyline which gives a daily account of how the Windy City is taking shape. Prepare yourselves, if you can, to learn about more than just modernism, as Kamin's breadth of expertise extends beyond the post and beam. He first hooked me with a fascinating piece on how the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead drew up a masterplan for the campus of Amherst College, from which Kamin graduated, and how Amherst managed to get only half of it right.

The spicily-named Inga Saffron keeps her eye trained on the mid-Atlantic with her column "Changing Skyline" in the Philadelphia Inquirer where she tackles the problems and triumphs of the City of Brotherly Love.

Also in the mid-Atlantic is another  Dwell contributor Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post, for my money the best paper in the country. Though officially dubbed the Post's "Culture Critic" Kennicott devotes most of his time to architecture, though his writings on classical music and other cultural happenings around the District are equally perspicacious.

So there are four to check out in your architectural wanderings, and with all the black news about the future of newspapers, love this quintet while you still can.

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