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January 8th, 2013, 6:11 pm
This week marks the passing of Ada Louise Huxtable, one of New York City’s most eloquent voices in the field of architecture and urban planning. An obituary that ran Monday in The New York Times details the accomplishments and highlights of her 91 years. Current architecture critic Michael Kimmelman followed with an homage to his predecessor.
Ada Louise Huxtable was born and raised in New York City, and in 1963 became the first architecture critic at The New York Times when Assistant Managing Editor E. Clifton Daniel created the post with Huxtable in mind. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism in 1970, and in 1982 MAS honored Huxtable with the President’s Medal (later renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award in 1994).
Her criticism served a great public purpose as her words inspired and educated many. She helped readers learn to see and understand architecture. Huxtable was the rare critic of her time who could appreciate the tremendous value that new and old buildings brought to each other.
In 2009 Ada Louise Huxtable sat down with MAS President Emeritus Kent Barwick for A Conversation: On Architecture. The two discussed the history and future of architecture and urban planning in New York City as well as Huxtable’s then recent book, On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change. At the talk, Huxtable praised the landmark Seagram Building and recently completed New Museum, displaying her known appreciation for modern architecture.
Just a few weeks ago Ada Louise Huxtable penned her last article for the Wall Street Journal, where she criticized the proposed changes to the New York Public Library’s Schwarzman Building at 42nd Street. Stating the library is about to “undertake its own destruction” she writes, “You don’t ‘update’ a masterpiece. ’Modernization’ may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language.”
Her clear-eyed view of the world and her precise words will be greatly missed.
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