Writing, Curating and Lecturing on Visual Arts, Public Space and Architecture

Architecture and Design Criticism

Hands-on course for writing design and architecture criticism. No previous criticism writing experience is necessary, but students are expected to write 10 critical texts throughout the course and provide feedback to fellow students’ texts. On the one hand the course is a general introduction to creative and critical writing and thus helpful to anyone writing his or her BA report or MA thesis, while on the other hand the course seeks to boost analytical skills in thinking about art, design and architecture and discuss the related topics in a friendly cross-disciplinary atmosphere with students from different fields.



1) Introductory seminar


During the first meeting we will get to know each other. Everyone is expected to share their experience about writing as such and previous experience about writing critique. Furthermore, let’s talk about expectations in terms of the class. I’m open to making changes in the schedule and the assignments according to your interests. During the introductory seminar we’ll also learn about compulsory reading materials and I’ll explain the assignments, the use of Moodle platform and will give a general overview of the course.


2) Exercises in Style


This seminar will provide a chance to get over ’the writer’s block’ by starting with a short but provocative assignment. We will read Raymond Queneau’s playful book Exercises in Style in which the author re-tells a simple story in 99 ways thus highlighting the joy and dangers of rhetorics.


You will have to write three short texts (I will clarify the assignment during our first meeting) and post them on Moodle a day before our meeting. Students are expected to read all the texts before our meeting and give each other feedback.


3) What is criticism / when is criticism?


This meeting will be more lecture-like, as I will give a presentation of the main functions ascribed to architecture and design criticism.


4) What’s cookin'?


For this seminar, we’ll select one recently opened restaurant or cafe in Tallinn which is significant from a design/architecture aspect and write a review about the place.


You will have to write a max 400 word review and post it on Moodle a day before our meeting. Students are expected to read all the texts before our meeting and give each other feedback.


5) Assessing (urban) space


For this assignment you will have more freedom and space for creativity. The goal is to review public space in Tallinn by attaching critical notes to urban space. But before you head to urban space, take some time to reflect on your past experience of being assessed as a student of EKA or any other art school. What are the words which are most often used by professors and teachers to give you feedback? How, when, why is the feedback communicated? Have you experienced delightful or horrific critique from your supervisors? Does your department (or in a more broad sense, your discipline) have specific prizes and stipends which are handed to best (?!) students? What kind of feedback would you ideally expect? What about feedback which is transmitted as a sexist remark? Experienced any bullish critique? Some nice words you would never forget or some astonishingly boring/incomprehensible comments you still can’t get out of your mind?


Once you have gathered these remarks (I strongly advise you to share these experiences with your peers), head to Tallinn, possibly with it post-it notes (or a permanent marker or graffiti or something less ephemeral if you’re against further polluting this city) and hand out your prizes, good words, swear words etc to objects, situations related to our topics of architecture and design.


You will have to put together a pdf presentation consisting of ten photos / gifs / videos / choose your medium and post it on Moodle a day before our meeting. Students are expected to watch all the presentations before our meeting and give each other feedback.


6) EKA building


After a century of waiting for its very own building, EKA finally moved to its premises on Põhja puiestee a few years ago. Architects – recent graduates of EKA – envisioned that the historic sock factory and architectural design should delicately step back as a delicate backdrop for the real show which is the students work. But how does the whole thing work? What would you expect from an art academy? What’s your opinion as a user?


You will have to write a max 400 word review and post it on Moodle a day before our meeting. Students are expected to read all the texts before our meeting and give each other feedback.


7) Meta-criticism


What is the art of art, design and architecture criticism? Does architecture criticism actually need buildings? Do designers actually read design criticism? Do critics write for themselves and other critics? For this class we’ll read three texts from different decades on a similar topic and discuss the art of manifesting oneself through writing.


You will have to write a max 400 word review and post it on Moodle a day before our meeting. Students are expected to read all the texts before our meeting and give each other feedback.


8) Arts and crafts


For this class we’ll read excerpts from Richard Sennett’s Craftsman and write a review of a contemporary craft/design exhibition shown at one of the galleries in central Tallinn.


You will have to write a max 400 word review and post it on Moodle a day before our meeting. Students are expected to read all the texts before our meeting and give each other feedback.


9) Critic’s life


For this class we’ll invite over a design and/or architecture writer to discuss his/her practice and daily writing rituals.


10) Things


For this class we’ll read an essay on the recent upsurge of ’new materialism’ and write a review of one thing. But instead of focusing on something new – our world is obsessed with producing new things – we’ll look at things old and used or re-purposed and write a review of it. The object will be chosen by each student themselves.


You will have to write a max 400 word review and post it on Moodle a day before our meeting. Students are expected to read all the texts before our meeting and give each other feedback.


11) Field visit to Estonian Museum of Design and Applied Art


12) Conclusions


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