Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

On Cultural Criticism, Teenagers, and Shopping Malls

Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park / @langealexandra

Thanks to the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Design and Jayna Zweiman for this long interview about my work, how I pick topics, and what a kid agenda in politics might look like.

I’ve read your work in The New Yorker, Curbed, and what seems a million other places over the years, but I didn’t put it together that it was always you. Looking at your body of work, it makes so much sense. I am interested in the arc of your work, how you choose what you research, and the power and importance of being a critic.

Somebody who wasn’t as familiar with my work asked me that a few days ago and we ended up talking about this word “magpie.” I see myself as kind of a magpie. I do think that there’s a through-line to everything I do. And it’s interesting that you see it because I’m not always understanding it when I’m doing it. The mall book is such a great example of that. I feel like it was a perfect topic for me because it’s a really capacious topic. There are so many different ways to look at a mall. That turns out to be a common ground of all the topics that I pick: that it’s not just about one building or one architect. It’s about the relationships between all the different people that make a building. It’s also about the relationship of that building to culture.

Different chapters of the book are more about urban planning or more about architecture, and there’s one that’s mostly about movies, photography, and fiction. All of those things are tied to the mall, the mall in our general imagination. I like topics that let me pretend to be a literary critic and let me be a movie critic, along with being an architecture critic.