Reading Ada Louise Huxtable
I picked up this copy of Kicked a Building Lately? by the onetime New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable while on vacation this summer. The used bookstores of small-town Maine are often a trove of wonderful finds, and though old Ada is still typing away for the Wall Street Journal, this jaunt through some of her best work of the early 1970s has been a joy.
We usually cover new books in this section of the website, but I wanted to devote a little time to an older work by one of America's best archtiecture critics. Huxtable's prose is lucid and spikey, informed and considered. She makes no bones about buildings she doesn't like and is quick to praise the ones that she does. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for criticism and this book, which includes pieces written from 1971-1975, shows her in similar form.
Whether the great glut of monuments built in Washington DC during this time, or the incremental changes to New York City, or more general essays on architectural theory and practice, Huxtable is the writer you want explaining things, questioning others, exhorting others still. Though I love her as a stylist, I love her more as an advocate for clear-eyed design, ennobling architecture and the cities we want to live in. So eat her up in the Wall Street Journal, and go back for seconds with her books.