Architecture critic Alexandra Lange recently stumbled upon “On Architecture” – an Audible.com collection of over 16 hours of Ada Louise Huxtable’s best writings from the New York Times, New York Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal and more. Displeased with the narration, Lange has taken it upon herself to read Huxtable’s 1971 New York Times critique “A Look at the Kennedy Center” in honor of its “many famous witticisms.” Give it a listen, here.
ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this post, we take you back to AR’s June 2014 issue, which examines the state of architectural criticism in our age of online media and ever-present PR. Here, AR Editor Catherine Slessor argues that “more than ever, architecture is in need of provocative, engaging and entertaining critics.”
Ambrose Bierce, the great 19th-century satirist and author of the The Devil’s Dictionary, once defined a critic as ‘a person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him’. Critics occupy a curiously parasitical position in the modern cultural milieu, and an architecture critic perhaps especially so. But in an age when architects can easily find obliging PR minions to dispense their gospel and biddable publishers to churn out infinite, anodyne oeuvres complètes, who still needs critics and criticism?
“Even though I wished for her attention, I was scared of it.”
These words, spoken by Frank Gehry about the inimitable Ada Louise Huxtable, may be his alone, but you can be sure that their sentiment was – at some point or other – shared by almost every person in the architecture world.
Huxtable’s writing walked that unusual, and oh so difficult line, between impassioned opinion and critical voice. As a result she managed to achieve the holy grail of architecture criticism: respect from architects and the general public alike. She for ever changed the world of architecture criticism, and as her successor Paul Goldberger, said of her in 1996: “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.”
Blogger for The New York Times Arts Beat, Danny Dunlop attended Huxtable’s “memorial tribute” this past Tuesday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; his post provides a lovely summary of those who attended and spoke in honor of Ms. Huxtable, from Gehry to Goldberger. You can find it here.
And 5 articles that, according to HyperAllergic, best show Huxtable’s critical prowess (all well worth reading) here.
Ada Louise Huxtable was a renowned architecture critic who started at The New York Times in 1963. Her probing articles championed the preservation of buildings regarded as examples of historic design still imperative to the life of the city. Her arguments were leveraged by research and an in-depth understanding of architecture as an ever-relevant art form (“the art we cannot afford to ignore”). Alexandra Lange of The Nation points to the connection between Ada Louise Huxtable’s writing and its influence on the culture of preservation that eventually resulted in the establishment of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in 1965.
More after the break…
“Take Five: A Titan of Architectrual Criticism has Died, but Architects are Best Prepared to Carry on the Conversation” was originally published in AIArchitect.
In a stirring call-to-action written for AIArchitect, Robert Ivy, FAIA and AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer, reflects on the state of architecture criticism today. He recognizes that the late, great Ada Louise Huxtable was unquestionably the best critic of our time. However, the time of the singular architectural voice has passed; in the 21st century, and with the rise of the Internet, we have all become architectural critics – architects, informed citizens, and, often most vociferously, not so informed citizens. In this world of critical noise, Ivy proposes that the architect must step up to take on the role of architecture critic… and advocate.
Read Ivy’s stirring article in full, after the break…
Ada Louise Huxtable (1921-2013), known as “the dean of American architectural criticism”, has passed away at the age of 91 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Winner of the first Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, Huxtable began her legendary career when she was appointed as The New York Times’ first architecture critic in 1963. Her sharp mind and straightforward critiques paved the way for contemporary architectural journalism and called for public attention to the significance of architecture.
As Paul Goldberger describes in his 1996 Tribute to Ada Louise Huxtable, “Ada Louise Huxtable has been 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.”