Ada Louise Huxtable

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Ada Louise Huxtable (Lynn Gilbert 1976)

Ada Louise Huxtable (née Landman; March 14, 1921 – January 7, 2013) was an architecture critic and writer on architecture. Huxtable established architecture and urban design journalism in North America and raised the public’s awareness of the urban environment.[1] In 1970 she was awarded the first ever Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Architecture critic Paul Goldberger, also a Pulitzer Prize-winner (1984) for architectural criticism, said in 1996: "Before Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture was not a part of the public dialogue."[2] "She was a great lover of cities, a great preservationist and the central planet around which every other critic revolved," said architect Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale University School of Architecture.[3]

The concourse in 1962 of Penn Station, two years before demolition. "Not that Penn Station is the Parthenon," Ada Louise Huxtable wrote, "but it might as well be because we can never again afford a nine-acre structure of superbly detailed travertine, any more than we could build one of solid gold. It is a monument to the lost art of magnificent construction, other values aside."

Early life[edit]

Huxtable was born and died in New York City. She went to Hunter College in 1941 and after her graduation she studied architectural history at New York University 's Institute of Fine Arts. Her father, the physician Michael Landman, was co-author (with his brother, Rabbi Isaac Landman) of the play A Man of Honor.[4] Ada Louise Landman received an A. B. (magna cum laude) from Hunter College, CUNY in 1941.

In 1942, she married industrial designer L. Garth Huxtable, and continued graduate study at New York University from 1942 to 1950. From 1950 to 1951 she spent one year in Italy on a scholarship of the U.S.-Italy Fulbright Commission.


She served as Curatorial Assistant for Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1946 to 1950. She received a Fulbright Scholarship, which enabled her to travel in Italy and research Italian architecture and engineering. Given this opportunity, she left MoMa. In 1958, she also received a Guggenheim Fellowship to research the structural and design advances of American architecture. She was a contributing editor to Progressive Architecture and Art in America from 1950 to 1963 before being named the first architecture critic at The New York Times, a post she held from 1963 to 1982. Her architectural writings were about the humanistic meaning and artistic power that also involved her displeasure for projects that were missing civic engagement. She made architecture a more prevalent part of the public dialogue by appearing on the front page of The New York Times. From 1968 to 1971, her public opinion was found so successful that it was commemorated in New Yorker cartoons. She received grants from the Graham Foundation for a number of projects, including the book Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard?. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974.[5]

Huxtable was the architecture critic for The Wall Street Journal, a position she held from 1997 until 2012.

John Costonis, writing of how public aesthetics is shaped, used her as a prime example of an influential media critic, remarking that "the continuing barrage fired from [her] Sunday column... had New York developers, politicians, and bureaucrats, ducking for years." He reproduces a cartoon in which construction workers, at the base of a building site with a foundation and a few girders lament that "Ada Louise Huxtable already doesn't like it!"[6]

Carter Wiseman wrote, "Huxtable's insistence on intellectual rigor and high design standards made her the conscience of the national architectural community."[7]

She wrote over ten books on architecture, including a 2004 biography of Frank Lloyd Wright for the Penguin Lives series. She was credited as one of the main forces behind the founding of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.[8] At the same time, she was a severe critic of addressing the city's past, writing in 1968:

"Nothing beats keeping the old city where it belongs and where its ghosts are at home. [But] please, gentlemen, no horse-drawn cars, no costumes, no wigs, no stage sets, no cute-old stores, no 're-creations' that never were, no phony little-old-New York.... That is perversion, not preservation."[9]

Ada Louise Huxtable's oral biography, by Lynn Gilbert, is included in Particular Passions: Talk With Women Who Shaped Our Times.[10][11][12]

Through the years, she became such an important figure for the architectural world that she was invited to be involved in numerous juries and committees. For example, she served as a juror for the Pritzker Architecture Prize and Preamium Imperiale of Japan. She was also a member on the Architectural Selection and Building Design Committees for the Getty Center, Getty Villa and more.[13]


In 2013, the Getty Research Institute announced its acquisition of the Ada Louise Huxtable archive, which spans 1921 through 2013 and includes 93 boxes and 19 file drawers of Huxtable's manuscripts and typescripts, reports, correspondence, and documents, as well as research files full of notes, clippings, photocopies, and, most notably, original photographs of architecture and design by contemporary photographers.[14][15]

Selected works[edit]

  • Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life (2008) ISBN 9780143114291
  • On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change (2008) ISBN 9780802717078
  • The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion (1999) ISBN 9781565840553
  • The Tall Building Artistically Reconsidered, a history of the skyscraper (1993)[3] ISBN 9780394537733
  • Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard?, a collection of material appearing in The New York Times (1989)[3]
  • Kicked A Building Lately? (1989) ISBN 9780520062078 (first published in 1976)
  • Architecture, Anyone? Cautionary Tales of the Building Art (1988) ISBN 9780394529097
  • Goodbye History, Hello Hamburger: An Anthology of Architectural Delights and Disasters (1986) ISBN 9780891331193


  1. ^ Caves, R. W. (2004). Encyclopedia of the City. Routledge. p. 366. ISBN 9780415252256.
  2. ^ Dunlap, David W. (January 7, 2013). "Ada Louise Huxtable, Champion of Livable Architecture, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Miller, Stephen (January 8, 2013), "Lover of Cities Was Dean of Architecture Critics", The Wall Street Journal, p. A6, retrieved January 7, 2013
  4. ^ "A Man Of Honor". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  6. ^ Costonis, John J. (February 26, 1989). Icons and Aliens: Law, Aesthetics, and Environmental Change. University of Illinois Press. p. 54. ISBN 0-252-01553-3. Retrieved February 26, 2020 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Wiseman, Carter (2000). Twentieth-Century American Architecture. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-32054-5.
  8. ^ Bernstein, Adam (January 7, 2013). "Ada Louise Huxtable, Pulitzer-winning architecture critic, dies at 91". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  9. ^ Copied from a plaque at South Street Seaport, New York, April 2015.
  10. ^ Gilbert, Lynn (December 10, 2012). Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Shaped Our Times. New York City: Lynn Gilbert Inc. ISBN 978-1-61061-261-6.
  11. ^ "ADA LOUISE HUXTABLE -1921-2013, AMERICA'S MOST INFLUENTIAL ARCHITECTURAL CRITIC". Particular Passions. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  12. ^ "ADA LOUISE HUXTABLE – ARCHITECTURAL CRITIC FOR THE AGES". Particular Passions. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  13. ^ "Privacy And Technology". May 11, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  14. ^ Hawthorne, Christopher (January 7, 2013). "Noted architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable is dead at 91". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  15. ^ "Ada Louise Huxtable Archive". Getty Research Institute. Retrieved February 11, 2014.

External links[edit]