Mammoth directs our attention to this post from LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, talking about the systemic flaws of lists of the best buildings (and architecture criticism in general):
When Vanity Fair magazine recently released the results of a survey ranking the most significant pieces of architecture of the last 30 years — with Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, topping the list — the poll was met with more than a little grumbling. Some people griped about the many architects, including Richard Meier and Daniel Libeskind, who voted for their own work (talk about a vanity fair!); others noted that the average age of those polled, a group including architects, critics and academics, seemed to be pushing 70.
Mammoth also notes the tendency for architects to nominate their own buildings to the list – particularly the ones that don’t show up on any other lists. Another criticism was the list’s complete whiff on any green architecture, spurring an alternative contest with an emphasis on sustainability. Hawthorne delves into the more fundamental issue:
Asking voters to submit a list of single buildings necessarily produces results that give a skewed view of the way architecture — and more important, the way we think and write about it — has evolved in recent years.Among critics and architects alike, there has been a growing understanding that architecture is not just about stand-alone icons but is tied inextricably to real-estate speculation, urban planning, capital flows, ecology and various kinds of networks. Similarly, ambitious architecture criticism now means a good deal more than than simply writing about impressive new landmarks, green or not, produced by the world’s best-known firms [...]
Maybe, in other words, the most important achievement in green architecture over the last 10 or 30 years is not a single building at all. Maybe it’s a collection of schools or linked parks or the group of advisors brought together by a young mayor somewhere. Maybe it’s a new kind of solar panel, a tax credit or a zoning change. Maybe it’s tough to hang a plaque on — or photograph for a magazine spread.
Emphasis is mine. The same logic applies to the environmental benefits of urban density and city living, as opposed to just adding LEED certified buildings. How about hanging that green award on a carbon tax or the elimination of parking minimums.