We were very saddened to learn that the great architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable passed away Monday, January 7th, 2012. She was 91 years old. Born March 14th, 1921 in New York City, Huxtable became the first full-time architecture critic for a daily American newspaper for the New York Times in 1963. A meticulous reporter, sharp writer, and ardent preservationist, Huxtable argued for innovation in new construction and for hanging on to the best of the old. She eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1970, the first Pulitzer Prize awarded in the category.
In recent years, Huxtable contributed several essays each year on architecture to the Wall Street Journal, and when we last corresponded with her she was working on a book about ranch houses. We spoke with Huxtable in 2011 ("The Long View," March 2011, reprinted below) when she worried that architectural criticism was getting too far from the rigors of daily reporting.
“We’re treating architecture too much as art alone. And it’s too much a part of our celebrity culture,” she said. “People’s eyes glaze over at the prospect of talking about architecture’s sociological roles, but that doesn’t have to be boring and it’s absolutely essential to figure it in.”
“You have to know about real estate, development, urbanism, local commercial interests, and of course architectural history,” she said. “You have to get so much information to be entitled to write a piece of architecture criticism.”
She will be missed by anyone who seriously cares about architecture, the fate of our cities, and how we talk about the built world around us.