Announcing Places Critics-in-Residence: Thomas de Monchaux and Gideon Fink Shapiro

Left: Thomas de Monchaux, in a 2020 photograph taken with mid 19th-century technology, a time-shift that speaks to the theme of his essay series “Temporary Measures.” Right: Gideon Fink Shapiro.

We are pleased to announce that our inaugural Critics-in-Residence will be Thomas de Monchaux, in architecture, and Gideon Fink Shapiro, in landscape architecture.

The Critics-in-Residence program, made possible by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, will provide a dynamic new platform for serious criticism of architecture and landscape architecture. During one-year virtual residencies, each critic will produce four essays that move beyond the limits of the traditional project review to address various social, political, and environmental challenges that the design disciplines are facing today.

Thomas de Monchaux’s project, titled “Temporary Measures,” will be organized around an urgent question: How can the discipline of architecture become instrumental in the repair, redress, and reparation of the crises, crimes, and cultures of cruelty with which it has long been made complicit, and been complicitly made? Each critical essay in this series will engage a dialogue between an architecture of 2021 and an architecture of another year. The first will reference the year 1681 — during which a Maryland colonial statute first enacted the word “white” to enforce a concept of race, in order to regulate labor — and subsequent essays will use similar annual juxtapositions to examine the ostensibly temporary and the deceptively permanent.

Gideon Fink Shapiro’s project, titled “Deep Scapes,” will explore landscape as a designed surface floating on the depths of culture, politics, and ecology. This series of essays will test that proposition through critical readings of landscapes that are buried, enclosed, fortified, virtualized or otherwise enigmatic, ranging from grottoes, seed vaults, and fish farms to sacred lands, doomsday retreats, and digital environments.

The critics-in-residence were selected by Places’ editors and an external jury including Brian Davis, associate professor of landscape architecture at University of Virginia; Lesley Lokko, founder and director of the African Futures Institute in Accra, Ghana; Elizabeth Mossop, dean of the School of Design, Architecture and Building at University Technology Sydney; and Adam Yarinsky, a founder and principal of Architecture Research Office in New York City.

The call for applications attracted more than 160 proposals, and jurors were impressed by their depth and quality. For Davis, “the tremendous response to the program demonstrates both its potential and its need. Thomas de Monchaux’s and Gideon Fink Shapiro’s proposals present timely and provocative critiques of the roles and responsibilities of architecture and landscape architecture as public arts.” As Yarinsky noted, “it is long past time for accessible, thought-provoking criticism in architecture and landscape architecture. The winning proposals, by Thomas de Monchaux and Gideon Fink Shapiro, promise to challenge architecture’s relationship to the past to reimagine its potential to create a better future, and to provoke a more expansive understanding of landscape architecture’s role in shaping the environment.”