10 November 2015
Architecture critic changes conversation in Philadelphia

By Alex Ji

Architecture criticism is writing about democracy, Inga Saffron, architecture critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, said at Hong Kong Baptist University last week.

If there is a highway next to your house, this impacts you, she said. “What I want to do is to create a conversation,” she said.

Writing about architecture, design and planning issues is “point of view” journalism in that it gives readers a sense of the world, she said.

In Philadelphia, her writing about waterfront development and garage-front homes has changed city policy, though she was thought “ridiculous” when her columns first addressed the issue. “You may lose the battle in the first round, but you may win at last,” she said.

Saffron uses her experience as a foreign correspondent and conflict reporter to approach her work at the Inquirer. She avoids press conferences, visits the buildings to imagine how it will affect the neighborhood and digs deep into the documents and plans.

In Chechnya and Yugoslavia Saffron saw cities torn down. Now she wants to do “something related to creating cities instead of destroying them.”