Ada Louise Huxtable Presents a Real New York Story

Event: On Architecture: A Conversation
Location: Scandinavia House, 01.21.09
Speakers: Ada Louise Huxtable, Hon. AIA — Architectural Critic; Kent Barwick — President Emeritus, Municipal Art Society
Organizer: The Architectural League of New York; co-sponsored by the Municipal Art Society


Trained as an art historian, Ada Louise Huxtable, Hon. AIA, was the first architectural critic for the New York Times, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism in 1970. Currently the architecture critic for The Wall Street Journal, Huxtable recently sat down with Kent Barwick, president emeritus of the Municipal Art Society, to discuss the history and future of architecture and urban planning in NYC as well as her latest book, On Architecture. Her high regard for structure, aesthetics, and function has remained potent throughout her career. “You cannot separate what makes a building stand up and what it looks like,” she said. But it was her marriage to an industrial designer that “made all the difference.”

Huxtable’s affection for NYC is similarly nostalgic as she recalled touring Lower Manhattan on foot with her husband, noting the richness of authenticity residing in every corner. Certain buildings in the city, of course, stand out to her. She praised Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building for its success of proportion, sensitivity to detail, and pertinence to its time. She appreciates SANAA’s New Museum because of its coherence of space and collection — a quality she compares to Gehry Partners’ Guggenheim Bilbao. Museums to Huxtable are secular monuments in which to find repose, and she attributes her critical eye to the time she served as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Modern Art before she began her writing career.

On Architecture is a collection of Huxtable’s writings from the 1960s onward including an extensive chapter on NYC and The World Trade Center, which the author terms “a real New York story.” This is not a complete anthology, however, and in anticipation of future architectural developments she stated, “I want to stick around awhile.”