Perhaps the most hilarious piece of literary criticism I have ever read is Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses. His opinion of the Deerslayer:
It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.
You don't see writing like that anymore, and certainly not in architectural criticism. Unless you are writing the nomination paper for the Carbuncle Cup, the contest to choose the worst building in the UK. Ike Ijeh has come close in BDOnline in his review of Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street in London, known to TreeHugger readers as the Walkie Scorchie and the Walkie Windy. He writes:
How do we seriously define bad architecture? Contextual insensitivity? Inelegant form? Environmental damage? Whilst this question has taxed the minds of academics and philosophers for thousands of years, the City of London has conveniently and unwittingly rendered services to mankind by providing a building that conclusively answers this thorny question once and for all.
He concludes with a description of what the Walkie Talkie truly is: "a gratuitous glass gargoyle graffittied onto the skyline of London." And now, the building has managed to offend yet again; one of the justifications for allowing such a monster in the first place was the " free public garden" that was going to be built at the top. But now, BDOnline reports that the Walkie Talkie owner could be ordered to rebuild Sky Garden. Evidently the City got a lot less garden and it is not quite free. The restaurant is bigger, public spaces are smaller or were not even built. The Chief planning officer complains about changes to the original proposal:
The City is of the view that these changes are not consistent with the requirement to ‘provide and retain the Sky Garden as illustrated on the Sky Garden drawings’ as they were to illustrate the areas which non-diners could access. The City has discussed with the owner what might be done to mitigate the loss of these elements which were considered significant to the amenity and experience of visitors to the Sky Garden.
So why is this on TreeHugger? Because we keep talking about the importance of cities, and how we have to make them better, and that a good pedestrian experience is critical. This building alternately fries the public, blows them off their feet and cheats them out of promised public amenities. And did I mention it's bloated, top-heavy and just plain ugly.
City building is less about building and more about City. Yet as Alain De Botton notes," London is becoming a bad version of Dubai."