Critical Thinking: An Unsung Hero

Critical Thinking: An Unsung Hero

Critical Thinking is a weekly series highlighting the work of architecture critics and thinkers from around the internet.  Each week I recommend a few of my favorite pieces.

(Header image by wikimedia commons user Lykantrop, CC BY-SA 3.0, National Assembly of Bangladesh, or Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, in Dhaka)

First up this week, I’m recommending Inga Saffron’s story about Henry Wilcotts, the largely unknown architect who oversaw the completion of the National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh after Louis Kahn’s death.  Too often, architecture is portrayed as the pristine product of an individual genius, but Saffron’s story helps shed light on the collaboration necessary to realize the most memorable projects.  Few practicing architects will ever reach the notoriety and stature of a Louis Kahn, but many will play the role of a Henry Wilcotts.  It’s those often unnamed and unknown architects who are truly responsible for the success (or failure) of a building.

And as a follow-up to my story on the new USC Village, I’m recommending two more pieces that address recent examples of so-called “Collegiate Gothic”:

  • At Yale, Blair Kamin visits two new residential colleges designed by Robert A.M. Stern.  Kamin compares the new buildings to a series of early twentieth century buildings on the campus by James Gamble Rogers, and reports that “It all feels like Yale...” but “Stern’s treatment of the Gothic is a very mixed bag.”

  • In contrast, Christopher Hawthorne describes USC Village’s weakness as an ignorance of the university’s own history: “It’s precisely the Village’s misreading of the architectural history of the USC campus—and the cultural history of Los Angeles—that leaves it looking so undernourished and out of place.”

Do you know of a critic we should feature on Critical Thinking?  Send your recommendations to