SAH Newsletter

Obituary: Hilary Ballon (1956-2017), Founding Editor of JSAH Online

by Pauline Saliga | Jun 19, 2017

SAH mourns the loss of Life member Hilary Ballon. Active with SAH since 1980, a Board member 2000-2003, and JSAH Editor from 2006-2008, Hilary literally changed the culture of SAH when she secured funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2006 to develop the multimedia edition of JSAH. It was the first of many grants that Mellon would make to SAH. Developed in collaboration with University of California Press and with input from scholars across the globe, Hilary envisioned a new publishing platform that would illustrate scholarly journal articles with film, video, panoramic photographs, zoomable images, 3D models, and 3D models superimposed over Google Earth maps. The first issue of JSAH online was released in March 2010 under the direction of then JSAH Editor David Brownlee, and it was an immediate sensation, hailed by Inside Higher Ed as the “online journal 2.0.” Within one year’s time, the ground-breaking  publishing platform was moved to JSTOR where it was scaled it up for use by scholarly publishers worldwide. In this and all of Hillary’s work, it was her critical, disruptive thinking that challenged accepted norms and allowed innovation to thrive. The Architect's Newspaper obituary outlines Hilary’s many publications and accomplishments, and we at SAH acknowledge how fortunate we were to have attracted the talent of this innovative disruptor, the Founding Editor of JSAH Online. Named a Fellow of SAH in 2011, Hilary’s legacy will be the subject of a longer historiographic essay on her contributions to the field of architectural history in a future issue of JSAH.

Pauline Saliga, Executive Director SAH

The Architect's Newspaper | Selina Cheah

Professor of Urban Studies and Architecture Hilary Ballon passed away on June 16, 2017, at age 61. Ballon, who taught at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, was also the deputy vice chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi. She was a part of the leadership team that oversaw development of the new campus while teaching classes on urbanism and architecture.

Her academic research focused on cities and the intersection of architecture, politics, and social life, especially New York City. She was a curator of several exhibitions at the Skyscraper Museum and the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), with subjects including Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Moses, New York’s Penn Station, and the city’s grid system.

“Hilary’s exhibition and accompanying book on Robert Moses helped re-frame our understanding of modern urban planning,” Stephen Petrus, a colleague of Ballon at MCNY, wrote in The New York Times. “Hilary was the rare scholar able to earn the respect of academic colleagues and appeal to the public at large.”

An author of several acclaimed architecture and urbanism books,Ballonpublished New York’s Pennsylvania Stations, Louis Le Vau: Mazarin’s College, Colbert’s Revenge (winner of the Prix d’Academie from the Academie Francaise), and The Paris of Henri IV: Architecture and Urbanism, which won the Alice Davis Hitchcock Prize for the Most Distinguished Work in Architectural History and is widely cited as a model for its consideration of urban planning in relation to social, political, and economic forces. As Editor of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH), she developed a multimedia platform—including GIS and 3D models—with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Ballon served on the Board of Directors of the Museum of the City of New York, the Regional Plan Association, and the Skyscraper Museum, and was a member of the Advisory Council of the Princeton School of Architecture. She was a professor at Columbia University for 22 years, where she received various teaching awards, before joining NYU in 2007. According to the New York Times, Ballon is survived by her husband Orin Kramer, her children, Sophie and Charles, her brother Howard, and her sister Carla Gorrell. Funeral services were held at Central Synagogue, 55th Street and Lexington Ave., on Monday, June 19th at 1 pm.

Read the New York Times obituary here.



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