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Pioneering Architecture Critic Ada Louise Huxtable Dies at 91

The uncompromising writer, who pioneered the position of full-time architecture critic at an American newspaper, and exemplified the pinnacle of the profession for five decades, died on Monday.
January 8, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Before Huxtable started at The New York Times in 1963, there had never before been a full-time architecture critic for a general-interest newspaper in the U.S. And over the next five decades of fearless criticism, she "opened the priestly precincts of design and planning to everyday readers," said David W. Dunlap in a Times obituary. "For that, she won the first Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism, in 1970. More recently, she was the architecture critic of The Wall Street Journal."

“'Mrs. Huxtable invented a new profession,' a valedictory Times editorial said in 1981, just as she was leaving the newspaper, 'and, quite simply, changed the way most of us see and think about man-made environments.'”

"Though knowledgeable about architectural styles," added Dunlap, "Ms. Huxtable often seemed more interested in social substance. She invited readers to consider a building not as an assembly of pilasters and entablatures but as a public statement whose form and placement had real consequences for its neighbors as well as its occupants."

In a tribute to the critic delivered at the Museum of the City of New York in 1996, the writer who followed her at the Times, Paul Goldberger, praised Huxtable as "more than just the most important pioneer of architectural criticism in newspapers in our time: she has been the most important figure in communicating the urgency of some kind of belief in the values of the man-made environment in our time, too. She has made people pay attention. She has made people care. She has made architecture matter in our culture in a way that it did not before her time."

Huxtable's writing was cutting and courageous till the end. Architectural criticism, and the city of New York, will be lesser in her absence.

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Published on Monday, January 7, 2013 in The New York Times
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