January 12, 2021
Blair Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, is leaving the newspaper after 33 years. "It’s been an honor to cover + critique designs in the first city of American architecture," Kamin wrote in a Twitter thread announcing his departure. "My aim was to open your eyes to, and raise your expectations for, the inescapable art of architecture, which does more than any other art to shape how we live," he wrote.
Kamin became the Tribune's architecture critic in 1992, and won the Pulitzer in 1999 for a series of articles on Chicago's lakefront, its potential, and the inequities between its north and south stretches. In his nearly three decades as the paper's architecture critic, he witnessed huge changes in the city landscape, cajoling, cheering, and chastising the projects that shape our cityscape and lives. As he wrote on Twitter, "from the horrors of 9/11 to the joy of Millennium Park, and from Frank Gehry to Jeanne Gang, I have never lacked for gripping subject matter."
Kamin is the latest journalist to leave the Tribune, which began offering buyouts last year after Alden Global Capital became the paper's largest shareholder. Music journalist Howard Reich has also announced he is leaving, as is food critic Phil Vettel. Their departures happen as the paper has announced that it will move out of Prudential Plaza to the Freedom Center printing facility along the Chicago River, less than three years after it vacated Tribune Tower. Without Vettel and Kamin, Chicago now lacks a full-time architecture or food critic, while the loss of Reich leaves just a single full-time music critic.
Kamin has been a frequent guest on Chicago Tonight to discuss new buildings and proposals. In November, 2001, he was the focus of an entire episode. During that interview, he shared his favorite space in Chicago—which has remained relatively unchanged in the twenty years since, amazingly, even if tenants have changed and a new Apple store has appeared—and told a story about his very first architecture review, when he was at the Des Moines Register. Watch that excerpt below.