New City Critics
Urban Design Forum and The Architectural League are launching a fellowship program to empower new, fearless, and diverse voices to challenge the ways we understand, design, and develop our cities. The fellowship will support the development of five critics from underrepresented backgrounds through guest lectures and workshops, research guidance, mentorship opportunities, networking, and production of new critical projects in Urban Omnibus and other leading publications. Through public programs and other channels, the fellowship will encourage a more expansive conversation on the future of cities.
New City Critics aims to drive change in the culture of criticism. In 2022, architectural criticism and urban analysis in mainstream media remains the domain of just a few, largely older, and mostly male, white writers. Though it is a shrinking arena, as newspapers and magazines have moved away from having full-time critics on staff, it remains extremely powerful. A handful of professional critics from similar backgrounds means attention to a limited selection of topics and perspectives. We want to see kaleidoscopic coverage from a much wider variety of perspectives and rewrite public understanding of why urban design and development matter.
New City Critics is for a criticism of city design and development that reflects the people who live in cities. We need more informed and sustained examination of citymaking in media beyond small professional circles, for a broader public. Housing, workplaces, infrastructure, public spaces and monuments define the contours of our lives. They demand critical attention and a critical imagination expressed through novel formats and in new forums. Our goal is to equip a new generation of critics with new skills and a meaningful network, to conceive and carry out potent projects that advance the work they want to see in the world.
Fellows will meet twice each month over the course of the 18-month program. Some sessions will be conversations with guest speakers: writers, editors, advocates, practitioners, and change makers in the built environment. In other sessions, Fellows will develop and workshop their projects together. The Architectural League, Urban Omnibus, and Urban Design Forum staff will support Fellows’ research and networking. In addition, Fellows may be paired with mentors to hone their skills and network across the broader media community.
In the first phase, participants will prepare a major editorial project for publication in Urban Omnibus. We will focus on supporting participants’ research and writing, but welcome experimentation with other storytelling formats.
In the second phase, participants will prepare a major feature for another leading publication, with support from The Architectural League and Urban Design Forum. We will actively network participants with leading editors and cultural institutions.
Who Should Apply
We welcome applicants who are passionate about introducing us to the varied, complex, delightful, fraught, and rich experiences of our cities and neighborhoods. We welcome emerging observers, analysts, and storytellers of varying ages and experiences–writers, journalists, designers, planners, scholars, advocates, artists, curators, organizers, DIY newsletter writers, zine publishers, podcasters, photo essayists, and others–who are committed to producing critical work about the shape and experience of our city.
New City Critics is intended for people who do not see themselves or their experiences reflected in the fields of criticism, urbanism, and design today. We aim to build a cohort of five individuals who will lean on each other’s curiosities and grow together. Beyond support in developing projects and skills, applicants should be searching for co-conspirators to broaden their understanding and imagination. Fellows must live or work in the New York metropolitan area for the duration of the program to be considered.
What We Offer
Fellows will learn together and collaborate to shape a curriculum that develops their skills and expands their thinking on writing, design, and cities. Fellows will also work with Urban Design Forum and Architectural League leadership to develop public programs on the culture of criticism.
Produce Original Work
Fellows will have an opportunity to develop new work that advances a critical perspective on issues in the built environment, to shape and refine it working closely with experienced editors, and to present it to an engaged audience.
Leverage Our Networks
Fellows will be encouraged to connect with the Urban Design Forum’s and Architectural League’s networks and audiences. They will have access to experts in design, planning, and development in New York City, as well as accomplished critics and cultural producers.
Participate in Forum and League Programs
Fellows will enjoy two years of complimentary Urban Design Forum and Architectural League membership and access to our lectures and discussions.
We expect to convene in person, following updated safety guidance from New York City health officials. Safety protocols will be confirmed with accepted Fellows in advance of orientation. If the public health context shifts, we will adapt the program to a hybrid or virtual format.
We will work with all accepted Fellows to accommodate individual accessibility requirements, caretaking responsibilities, technology needs, unique health and safety concerns, or other circumstances.
Fellows will meet Monday evenings twice a month in New York City. They should make reasonable efforts to attend all required meeting dates listed in the application portal and notify staff of anticipated conflicts.
Fellows will be awarded a stipend of $15,000 for participation in the 18-month fellowship. In addition, they will be provided a travel or research stipend of $2,000 and an allowance of up to $2,500 for project expenses (such as image rights or production costs).
Applications Open – February 3, 2022
Applications Due – March 23, 2022, 11:59pm
Frequently Asked Questions
If you were unable to attend the information session, you may view the recording below.
Who We Are
New City Critics fellows will be selected by the program’s advisory board:
Garnette Cadogan is the Tunney Lee Distinguished Lecturer in Urbanism at the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT.
Dario Calmese made history as the first Black photographer to shoot a cover for Vanity Fair with his portrait of Viola Davis. He hosts the radio series The Institute of Black Imagination.
Vinson Cunningham is a staff writer and a theatre critic at The New Yorker. A former White House staffer, he now teaches in the MFA Writing program at Sarah Lawrence College.
Sukjong Hong is the editor of Curbed and was previously managing editor and web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper and a reporter-researcher at the New Republic.
Carolina A. Miranda is a Los Angeles Times columnist covering art, architecture and urban design, along with various other facets of culture in Los Angeles.
In Memory Of
This program is founded in honor of Michael Sorkin. The death of Michael Sorkin in March 2020 was a huge loss to the world of thinking and action in architecture and the shaping of landscapes and cities. He was a spectacularly good writer, and fearless, and funny, and adept at exposing and explaining the systems of power that create the built environment and how they manifest in specific projects. One of his most important legacies is the generosity and care he took in fostering and encouraging development of young thinkers and writers and designers around the world.
Urban Design Forum mobilizes civic leaders to confront defining issues in the built environment. We are an independent membership organization that empowers professionals of diverse backgrounds, industries and perspectives to shape a better future for all New Yorkers. We investigate complex challenges in the built environment, study alternative approaches from cities around the world, and advance progressive strategies to build a more democratic city. Our history has been shaped by writers including our founder Ann Ferebee and late president Michael Sorkin, both of whom inspired legions of critics and cultural theorists. This program will be supported by Daniel McPhee, executive director; Guillermo Gomez, program director; Janrey Serapio, communications manager; and Tami Hausman, program committee chair.
The Architectural League of New York nurtures excellence in architecture, design, and urbanism, and stimulates thinking, debate, and action on the critical design and building issues of our time. Urban Omnibus is The Architectural League’s online publication dedicated to observing, understanding, and shaping the city. Urban Omnibus raises new questions, illuminates diverse perspectives, and documents creative projects to advance the collective work of citymaking. The publication provides a platform for the work and voices of people who are outside of dominant conversations in design and urbanism. This program will be supported by Rosalie Genevro, executive director; and Mariana Mogilevich, editor-in-chief, Urban Omnibus.
New City Critics was inspired by and learned from numerous organizations and programs helping to lift new voices and reshape the culture of criticism in architecture and urbanism and beyond. We are thankful for the generous conversations with Boston Review Black Writers Fellowship, Critical Minded, d.talks, The Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism, Firelight Media, The Laundromat Project Creative Change Fellowship, Next100, New Architecture Writers, Office Hours, The Studio Museum in Harlem and MoMA Joint Fellowship, SVA Design Research, and UnionDocs.
We thank our founding donors for supporting us in launching this fellowship. This project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
Eric Owen Moss
Charles H. Revson Foundation
Zach Mortice and Maria Speiser
Carol and Mark Willis
Mary Margaret Jones
Eva Franch i Gilabert
K. Emma Ng
Program Identity by Manuel Miranda