Saturday, 16 March 2013

At last, Dezeen has an opinion

I reacted badly to the opinion piece by Marcus Fairs, the chief editor of the archi-pop site dezeen, when he ventured "Sorry green design, it's over" some weeks ago. 

So it was a pleasant experience to read his most recent piece on gated communities as a solution to the fears and insecurities of more affluent residents, in the many places on earth where crime and lawlessness are perceived as pervasive.  He navigates the issues with enough subtlety to engage a reasonably intelligent reader, and though the conclusion of the piece is fairly noncommittal, Fairs' article does good service in making sure that those issues remain at the forefront of our thinking when we examine and compare the burgeoning cities that are mankind's crowning design artefacts.

But the real benefit of my revisiting Dezeen's opinion column was in fact the back link to the first of the series, from which my title is drawn.  I had not realised that Dezeen had deliberately eschewed opinion for the first six years of its life, and had actually just reintroduced opinion pieces this last January.  That introductory piece is a straightforward personal explanation, but also an elegant commentary on some of the same concerns as I have, of how online information available about design – and architecture in particular – contributes to our understanding of it.

Fairs briefly traces the erosive influence of the internet on the long form journalism, and clearly identifies the dominant problem as the obliquity of information – "if you Google a phrase from an architect’s press release you will find the exact same wording on dozens of sites".  As part of his rationale for reintroducing 'serious' writing now, he offers this interesting insight:
......Google, so long viewed as the nemesis of good writing since it seemed to promote quantity over quality, has started to act as its saviour. Since its Penguin update last year it now marks down sites that publish generic content while elevating those that create their own. Now, instead of a race to the bottom there is a race back to the top.
If Fairs is right, I do look forward with greater hope to the resolution of my despair with the current state of design commentary.  Clearly, it is going to be a patchy road with some of the newly higher ranked pages merely original (like the premature report on the death of green design), but hey, even jaded journalists have to start somewhere.

Read the piece about gated communities here.
And the introduction to the Dezeen Opinion Column here.

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