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New Dallas Architecture Critic Talks in Town This Week

by Jerome Weeks 15 Apr 2013 8:04 AM

Bad timing? Mark Lamster’s moving from New York to Dallas – just when the downtown/Arts District building boom seems to have leveled off. So what in the world’s the new architecture critic going to write about?


UT-Arlington holds the Second Annual David Dillon Symposium Thursday and Friday. It’s named for the late architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News. But it’ll feature the first public appearance of the paper’s new architecture critic, Mark Lamster. KERA’s Jerome Weeks spoke with Lamster about his move from New York to North Texas.

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Jerome Weeks: Professors often write journalism on the side, and journalists sometimes teach classes. But you have a double appointment, two jobs. You’re both a critic on staff at the News and a professor at UT-Arlington. That’s rare.

Mark Lamster: It’s a unique situation – for now. The Dallas Morning News needed an architecture critic and, you know, the newspaper business is a pretty tough business. So it needed a way to make that happen, and UT-A would like a faculty member to help teach writing. So it’s your chocolate and my peanut butter: two great tastes that taste great together.

Weeks: You’ve been an editor at Architectural Review, and you’re writing a biography of Phillip Johnson, who designed buildings like the Amon Carter Museum. But it’s ironic you’re moving here because we definitely have some of Johnson’s weaker projects — like the JFK Memorial. Or the Crescent.

Lamster: “I’d agree with you there. But in a way Dallas-Fort Worth is a perfect place to write about Johnson because it has some of his best work and some of his worst work. I didn’t take him as a subject because I think he’s the world’s greatest architect and just a great fellow. I think what makes him interesting is that he was deeply flawed.”  

Weeks: When it comes to architecture, Dallas has bet heavily on prestige designers and using the arts to revitalize downtown. But you’ve written, we should be past the big, iconic buildings now. What cities need are bike lanes. 

Lamster: “Yes, I think Dallas has become very attached to what we call ‘the architecture of genius.’ And I think now it’s a question of figuring out how we make the city a more humane, connected place, a city that’s a network rather than a city of discrete objects and roads.”  

Weeks: A tough sell in a city that has always preferred grandiose plans to small amenities. But what you’re saying  — and one reason you’re moving here — is that downtown Dallas is still an experiment, a great, big petri dish. We’re still asking, can we make this thing livable?

Lamster: “It may be looking on the positive side but I think people are really moving to downtown. And I see a possible future there because I’m actually moving to downtown – at least for awhile. And I think the more people move downtown, the more amenities there are. It’s gonna be like a snowball rolling downhill. Not there are a lot of snowballs in Dallas.”

Image outfront from Shutterstock

Full schedule of the David Dillon Symposium:

Keynote address – Thursday, April 18

7 pm, reception before at 6:15

Robert Bruegmann, author of Sprawl, A Compact History and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Avenue, Dallas

Symposium – Friday, April 19

Symposium schedule  (for full speaker bios click here)

11 am – Nasher opens

11:15 – introduction

11:30 – Morning session:  Thinking about DFW

Mark Lamster, new architecture and design critic for the Dallas Morning News and fellow of the Dillon Center

Paula Lupkin, assistant professor, Department of Art History, University of North Texas

Kathryn Holliday, assistant professor and director, David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture, University of Texas at Arlington

1:00 – Lunch break, on your own (Nasher Cafe and food trucks nearby)

2:30 – Afternoon session: The Networked City

Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet 

Robert Bruegmann, author of Sprawl, A Compact History and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Mark Lamster, new architecture and design critic for the Dallas Morning News and fellow of the Dillon Center

Diana Lind, executive editor of Next City

Jonathan Massey, associate professor at the School of Architecture, Syracuse University

3:30 – break

3:45 – reconvene

4:40 – closing remarks

5:00 – reception with speakers at DCFA