Article by Meredith L. Clausen
Ada Louise Huxtable was one of the most powerful voices in architecture in the 20th century. Architecture critic of the New York Times in the 1960s and ‘70s, she carried enormous weight, securing or sinking architectural reputations, challenging or thwarting projects, shaping the taste and values of the public throughout the country.
Her thunderous prose resonated loudly through the canyons of the city—crisp, hard-hitting, but elegant writing that aroused admiration, contempt, or just plain awareness of buildings she deemed significant. Architects, developers, and city officials quaked in fear of her verdicts. A 1968 cartoon in the New Yorker early on in her journalistic career depicted two construction workers pouring over blueprints, one of them exclaiming, “Huxtable Already Doesn’t Like It.” Already, her name was a household term. At her memorial on June 4, 2013, Frank Gehry echoed this sentiment, recalling, “I wanted her attention, but I was scared of it…. She was tough, but her words were beautiful.”
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Meredith Clausen has been a member of SAH since 1972. These comments are drawn from her essay on Huxtable written for the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, and from remarks as chair of the Ada Louise Huxtable session at the annual Society of Architectural Historians meeting in Austin, Texas, in April 2014.