Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for The New York Times, is leaving the paper after seven years there, according to the Architects Newspaper. Prior to his podium at the NYT, Ouroussoff was critic at the Los Angeles Times. While here, he garnered a reputation as a promoter of Class A architecture by the darlings of the design world — his favorites: Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid — while paying scant attention to the efforts of local architects trying within often tight constraints to raise the quality of schools, libraries, affordable housing, police stations, transit development and other basic but essential elements of the urban fabric. Of Russian heritage and long interested in the utopian architectural experimentation of that country, perhaps the real-world struggle to get decent buildings built was too mundane for him. According to Julie Iovine, writing in the Architects Newspaper, New Yorkers also found Ouroussoff insufficiently concerned with their local planning and design issues, a shortcoming made clear in this sharp review that also raised important broader questions about what should be the proper role of an architecture critic.
I have been acquainted with Ouroussoff since his arrival at the LA Times as a 30-ish pipsqueak, and was always amazed at his absolute self-assurance and conviction about his opinions. These were qualities that did not lend themselves to doubt or self-reflection in his articles, but made him a very good speaker (the image above is from Charlie Rose, in 2004), and he was a bracing voice on DnA. Reportedly, he leaves to work on a book about about the architectural and cultural history of the last 100 years, “from Adolf Loos’s Vienna and the utopian social experiments of post-revolutionary Russia to postwar Los Angeles and the closing years of the 20th century.”