As many of you know, I am I am no longer the architecture critic for Bloomberg News, though I continue to write for the company. My column, along with almost all cultural coverage, was eliminated at Bloomberg late last year in favor of a yet-to-be completed revamping that focuses on luxury and lifestyle.
Obviously, the decision saddens me personally, but it’s also a regrettably powerful signal that culture doesn’t matter in our society and economy. Bloomberg News is a much-respected media brand because it covers business, government, and general news with enormous integrity, quality, talent, relentlessness and passion. I have been very proud to be part of that, and have worked hard to meet the very high standards set by people of extraordinary professional skill and insight.
When such an important media company as Bloomberg decides culture doesn’t merit sustained, informed coverage, the message unfortunately echoes very loudly in a media universe that already reels from declining revenues and diminished reporting. The idea that culture doesn’t matter is certainly a widely held view in America, though less so in the many global hubs where Bloomberg has a substantial presence.
Arts and design demonstrably matter, certainly to a business audience. A focus on luxury is perfectly sensible given Bloomberg’s readership, but that marketplace does not exist apart from culture. Cultural trends and creative people inspire and create design, fashion, and products. Artists create the value that we see reflected in prices for recent works at auction. Arbiters like reviewers help readers understand that value.
It is especially inexplicable that Bloomberg News would ignore arts and design when award-winning and insightful architecture and design in its own facilities and terminals has abetted the company’s success. Contemporary art is widely found in the Bloomberg workplace.
As Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, the company’s founder, championed arts as valuable to the vibrancy of the city and as a powerful force for economic development. The city has seen unprecedented growth in arts facilities, thanks both to his administration’s efforts and his personal philanthropy. His post-mayoral activities are intended to nurture cities as fields of wealth creation by helping them become cauldrons of innovation, which he recognizes is entwined with vibrant cultural and lifestyle trends.
How can culture not find a central place in Bloomberg News? It could be argued that specialized outlets would do a better job. Certainly there is a lively debate about architecture in more media than ever. The problem is most of these platforms speak only to other architects — which is reflected across the electronic news spectrum by the isolated realms of interest most of us occupy, where our outlooks aren’t challenged by the echo chamber.
As coverage and criticism vanish from outlets that reach broad audiences, insightful architecture that tries to solve our abundant pressing problems — or simply aspires to enhance our surroundings — cedes its deserved place in culture. The people who matter — those who hire architects, the non-specialist citizens who want their communities improved — no longer hear about the value architecture can bring.
My diverse skills allow me to explore a wide variety of opportunities, and I am very excited by them (including the imminent relaunch of this redesigned blog, which will give it greater reach). My future may not involve a major focus on either reporting or criticism. That, regrettably, reflects the times we live in.
I suspect the essential relationship between artists, makers, markets, and well-being will ultimately be recognized at Bloomberg News. Audiences that hunger for culture coverage can move that process along by raising their voices.