Architecture Critic Ada Louise Huxtable, Champion of Preservation, Dies at 91

Ada Louise Huxtable on Charlie Rose/Video screen capture

Ada Louise Huxtable was the first full-time architectural critic in an American newspaper, and, as a New York Times editorial in 1981 noted, "Mrs. Huxtable invented a new profession and, quite simply, changed the way most of us see and think about man-made environments."

She was a pioneer in preservation and reuse. According to the Times:

At a time when architects were still in thrall to blank-slate urban renewal, Ms. Huxtable championed preservation — not because old buildings were quaint, or even necessarily historical landmarks, but because they contributed vitally to the cityscape. She was appalled at how profit dictated planning and led developers to squeeze the most floor area onto the least amount of land with the fewest public amenities.

She understood, as few appear to today, that not every building has to be a monument to be important, but that buildings of all kinds make up the texture and form of our cities. Speaking about some older buildings, she noted:

They rank as "street architecture" rather than as "landmarks"...Their value is contrast, character, visual and emotional change of pace, a sudden sense of intimacy, scale, all evocative qualities of another century.

Anyone who writes about design and cares about cities owes a debt to Ada Louise Huxtable, dead at 91.

Tags: Architecture | New York City

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