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In Memoriam: Ada Louise Huxtable

Ada Louise Huxtable, photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine, 1974. (image courtesy of Dwell)

Yesterday, legendary architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable died at the age of 91 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  In 1963, Ms. Huxtable was appointed as the architecture critic for the New York Times where she became the first full-time architecture critic at an American newspaper and transformed architectural review into a mainstream and respected field of journalism.  In 1970, she won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.  In 1981, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation ‘‘genius grant.’’  Since 1997 she has been the architecture critic for the Wall Street Journal.  A Fulbright and Guggenheim fellow, author of eleven books, and former assistant curator of architecture and design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Ms. Huxtable was a great lover of cities and early champion of the preservation movement.Ada Louise Huxtable’s obituary in the New York Times spoke to her legacy:

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.

In 1965, Ms. Huxtable was one of the main driving forces behind the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.   She once said, “What preservation is really all about is the retention and active relationship of the buildings of the past to the community’s functioning present.”  A strong proponent for the preservation of Federal-era rowhouses, she has left an indelible mark on the preservation world both in Greenwich Village and beyond.

L: Ada Louise Huxtable circa 1960s. Photo credit Garth Huxtable; R: a more recent photo

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