Ada Louise Huxtable–who was so good at what she did that the New York Times created a writing position for her in 1963–has died of complications from cancer. She was 91 years old.
A lover of cities and the vast array of architecture to be found there from a very young age, Huxtable began writing about it in the ’50s. At that time, the keyword was “progress”; everyone wanted to look toward the future, to have the newest, shiniest, biggest buildings which would evoke a feeling of strength and power. Over the years, as Americans were faced with the exciting reality of exploring space, corporations wanted a space-age look, including designs that had never been seen before.
Huxtable, however, wasn’t content with that. She wanted each space to evoke a particular feeling, believing the power of a building or room lies in how it makes the people inside it feel. She was a big proponent of keeping the space’s history intact, as well, and was outspoken on the subject of retaining some things rather than making everything look the same. In fact, she is largely credited with the start of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Her vision won her the first Pulitzer Prize for architecture criticism.
“What preservation is really all about,” she wrote, “is the retention and active relationship of the buildings of the past to the community’s functioning present.”
Huxtable left the Times with an indelible mark when she took her leave in the ’80s. An editorial announcing her departure lamented the loss of such a treasure.
“Mrs. Huxtable invented a new profession and, quite simply, changed the way most of us see and think about man-made environments,” the editorial read.
Image: Librado Romero/The New York Times