Architecture Writer Ada Louise Huxtable, Awarded First Pulitzer for Criticism, Dead at 91

Ada Louise Huxtable was architecture critic for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and was awarded a MacArthur grant

Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic who was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize for criticism, has died. She was 91.

Huxtable, who was the architecture critic for the New York Times from 1963 to 1982 and, later, the Wall Street Journal, died Monday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the Journal reported.

Huxtable was a firm believer in the power of tall buildings to enhance a city and decried the cookie-cutter suburban developments springing up around New York in the 1960s.

“The promise of… a new, improved suburbia in the greater metropolitan area, the dreams of beauty and better living are mire in mud,” Huxtable wrote in Newsweek magazine. She added that these suburban landscapes — including those in Staten Island “could not be better calculated to destroy the countryside if….planned by enemy action.”

In her final piece for the Journal — a look at the renovation plans for the landmark New York Public Library, dated Dec. 3, 2012 — Huxtable wrote: “Buildings change; they adapt to needs, times and tastes. Old buildings are restored, upgraded and converted to new uses. For architecturally or historically significant buildings with landmark protection, the process is more complex; subtle, subjective and difficult decisions are often required. Nothing, not even buildings, stands still.”

A native New Yorker, Ada Louise Landsman was born March 14, 1921, the daughter of a doctor. She graduated from Hunter College in 1941. A year later, she married L. Garth Huxtable, an industrial designer, and together the produced tableware for the Four Seasons Hotel.

Throughout the 1940s, she continued graduate school at New York University but was more interested in her work as a curatorial assistant for architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art.

From 1950 to 1963, she contributed articles to “Progressive Architecture” and “Art in America.” She became the first architecture critic of the Times in 1963. She wrote more than 10 books. Her early essays were collected in the book “Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard?”

She was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1970. In 1981 she was awarded a MacArthur genius grant. 

She also served for a time a juror for the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honor.