Call for Applications: New City Critics 2024

Applications are now open for the 2024-25 New City Critics fellowship!

Apply through Thursday, June 20, 2024 at 11:59 pm.

Program

In 2022, Urban Omnibus/The Architectural League and Urban Design Forum launched a fellowship program to empower new, fearless, and diverse voices to challenge the ways we understand, design, and build our cities. The fellowship supports the development of critics from underrepresented backgrounds through guest lectures and workshops, research guidance, networking, and production of new critical projects on a dedicated platform. Through published work and other channels, the fellowship encourages a more expansive conversation on the future of cities. 

New City Critics aims to drive change in the culture of criticism. Today, architectural criticism and urban analysis in mainstream media is a shrinking arena, though it remains extremely powerful. Newspapers and magazines have moved away from having full-time critics on staff, and feature the work of just a few, largely older, and mostly male, white writers. 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 make urban processes legible and argue for a city they want to live in. 

Structure

Fellows will meet twice each month throughout the 9-month program. 

For this cycle, the fellowship will be organized into modules, each focused on developing a specific critical skill and new written work. Modules will focus on reading critical texts on the city, writing about urban places and projects, writing with and about actors in citymaking, and reviewing texts, objects, and events. 

Fellowship sessions will include conversations and workshops with members of the program Advisory Board, and guest writers, editors, advocates, practitioners, and change makers in the built environment. In other sessions, Fellows will develop and workshop their writing together. 

The Architectural League, Urban Omnibus, and Urban Design Forum staff will support Fellows’ research and networking across the broader media community and built environment professions.

Fellows will complete regular writing assignments and publish work in a dedicated New City Critics newsletter and section on Urban Omnibus. 

Who Should Apply

We welcome applicants who are passionate about introducing readers to the complex, delightful, and fraught experiences of our cities and shedding light on how neighborhoods are shaped, managed, and lived in. We invite applications from early- to mid-career writers or urbanists deeply committed to making cities legible to broad audiences. Candidates should possess experience in both writing and urban practice, though we expect the balance to vary. We encourage submissions that demonstrate prior publication and significant engagement with the field. In addition, we welcome 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 six 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

Shape Discourse

Fellows will learn together, developing their skills and expanding their thinking and writing on design and cities. We will provide numerous opportunities to publish on a new vertical by Urban Omnibus across the fellowship year and engage with Urban Design Forum and Urban Omnibus’ audiences.

Produce Original Work

Fellows will have an opportunity to develop new work that advances a critical perspective on issues in the built environment, shape and refine it by working closely with experienced editors, and 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. 

Important Dates

Info Session – Thursday, May 30, 2024, 12:00-1:00 pm
Register here.

Applications Due – Thursday, June 20, 2024, 11:59 pm
Apply here.

Finalist Interviews – Week of July 29, 2024

Additional Details

In-Person Programming

Sessions will be held at Urban Design Forum and Architectural League offices in downtown Manhattan, or offsite with a session speaker. Fellows will be given enough time in advance to schedule travel. 

Individual Accommodations

We will work with all accepted Fellows to accommodate individual accessibility requirements, caretaking responsibilities, technology needs, unique health and safety concerns, or other circumstances.

Time Commitment

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. During the 9-month fellowship, there will be an estimated total of 55 hours dedicated to program sessions, along with an expectation that fellows will commit substantial time outside of sessions for reading, research, and writing. 

Project Funding

Fellows will be awarded a stipend of $7,500 for participation in the 9-month fellowship.

Questions?

Applicants may direct any inquiries regarding the fellowship to submissions@urbandesignforum.org. A link to the Frequently Asked Questions will be provided after the Information Session on Thursday, May 30, 2024, from 12:00 – 1:00 pm.

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.

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.

Alexandra Lange is a design critic. She is a columnist for Bloomberg CityLab, and has been a featured writer at Design Observer, an opinion columnist at Dezeen, and the architecture critic for Curbed.

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.

Fellows will be selected by the program’s advisory board and program staff.

About Us

The Architectural League of New York supports critically transformative work in the allied fields that shape the built environment. As a vital, independent forum, the League stimulates thinking, debate, and action on today’s converging crises of racism, inequity, and climate change, in service of a more livable and just world. The League’s online publication, Urban Omnibus, is 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. 

Urban Design Forum connects and inspires New Yorkers to design, build and care for a better city. We are a member-powered organization of 1,000+ civic leaders committed to a more just future for our city. We believe the built environment — our neighborhoods, buildings, public spaces and infrastructure — shapes our city’s health, culture and economy. We bring together New Yorkers of diverse backgrounds and experiences to learn, debate, and design a vibrant city for all.

Supporters

This year’s program would not be possible without the support of Critical Minded, Joan Copjec, Paul Goldberger, Mark & Carol Willis, Nat Oppenheimer, and Mary Margaret Jones. 

We are also grateful to the founding donors of the program: Critical Minded, Mark & Carol Willis, Charles H. Revson Foundation, Graham Foundation, Thom Mayne, Moshe Safdie, Joan Copjec, Paul Goldberger, Eric Owen Moss, Zach Mortice & Maria Speiser, Tami Hausman, Stella Betts, Mary Margaret Jones, Nat Oppenheimer, Deborah Berke, Zach Mortice, Calvin Tsao, Rosalie Genevro, Mario Gooden, Lyn Rice & Astrid Lipka, Karen Stein, and Vincent Chang.

Acknowledgements

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.

In Memory Of

This program is founded in honor of Michael Sorkin, a longstanding Board Member of the Urban Design Forum and Architectural League. His death 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, fearless and funny, and adept at exposing and explaining the systems of power that create the built environment. We hope to honor one of his most important legacies: his generosity and care in encouraging the development of young thinkers and writers and designers around the world.

Program Identity by Manuel Miranda Practice

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.