Blair Kamin

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin won't be coming to Salt Lake City to tell the locals what to do.

If he were to fly into town and 24 hours later give an authoritative speech about Utah architecture, well, "I'd have to be a fool or arrogant," he said. Kamin will not be offering an opinion on the skybridge over Main Street.

Still, he knows something about national trends. And he did, in 1999, win a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He'd probably be a fairly interesting keynote speaker, figured the staff of the Utah Heritage Foundation, when they invited Kamin to kick off their second annual Preservation Conference. Kamin will speak Thursday.

"My talk is about reinventing the preservation movement. I hope to shed some light on the challenges," he told the Deseret News in a phone interview from Chicago. After all, he noted, the preservation movement is more than 100 years old. Many of this country's oldest buildings have already been saved.

And yet, increasingly, architects and lovers of architecture find themselves faced with gray areas. For instance, is it better to engage in what Kamin calls a "facadectomy" when you can't save the whole building? In cities around the country, facades have been saved. The original ZCMI is just one example of a facadectomy in Salt Lake City. He'll also talk about the promises and the perils of making additions to historic buildings.

Kamin graduated from the Yale University School of Architecture and was a reporter for the Des Moines Register before going to the Chicago Tribune in 1987. He says he loves living in Chicago because it is one of the greatest cities in the world for architecture — and also one of the worst. Chicago is hog heaven for a critic, he says.

If you go ...

What: Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic

Where: Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah

When: Thursday, 5:30 p.m.

How much: free

Phone: 533-0858


Also: Workshops and educational sessions (ranging from $20-$150) and a free preservation marketplace on Friday, 4-7 p.m. at the Officers' Club at Fort Douglas.