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Seven Great Lines From Archicritic Ada Louise Huxtable

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The wonderful Ada Louise Huxtable, grand dame of architecture criticism, died yesterday at age 91. The Times has a thorough rundown of her career, which included years as the architecture critic at the Times?where she was the first full-time archicritic at a U.S. newspaper?a 1970 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism (also a first); and a more recent run as a critic at the Wall Street Journal. We've long been fans?given that one of Huxtable's books was called Kicked a Building Lately?, how could we not be??and we went back through the Huxtable archives in search of some of her best criticism. Here, seven great lines from a woman who will be missed. Got a favorite we've missed? Add it in comments or send it to the tipline.

7) On 510 Fifth Avenue: "The whole, viewed from the outside, is no longer architecture in the traditional sense; it is a design, not a substance, of color, light and motion."

6) "The visitor to New York, arriving with a preconceived picture of the best-publicized metropolis in the world, will find a city that is at once totally familiar and totally strange. Photographs will have led him to expect the towering skyscrapers, the canyonlike streets, the cliffs of concrete and steel; widely published postwar building have added to this the image of shimmering towers of metal and glass. No picture, however, has prepared him adequately for the city's unparalleled concentration of building. The sheer massing of monumental construction, consisting of the largest possible building on the individual site, has made New York a city in which architecture is an insistent and overwhelming factor."

5) On Thom Mayne's building at Cooper Union: "The stair commands one's immediate and total attention. Twenty feet wide, it is the building's organizing element and circulation spine, connecting the first four floors and continuing upward with bridges across the space and a narrower stair above as it ascends to the structure's full nine-story height. Like some wildly updated, indoor version of Rome's Spanish steps or a more rational and cheerful Piranesian invention, it is a knockout, an überstair for the 21st century."

4) On the 1963 decision to tear down Penn Station: "It is a poor society indeed that can't pay for these amenities; that has no money for anything except expressways to rush people out of our dull and deteriorating cities."

3) On the Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle (now the different-looking Museum of Arts and Design): "The new museum resembles a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops."

2) On the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center: "I, for one, am not in thrall to size; build very big and you can build very bad—and the very bad will be inescapable."

1) On the proposed renovation of the New York Public Library: "This is a plan devised out of a profound ignorance of or willful disregard for not only the library's original concept and design, but also the folly of altering its meaning and mission and compromising its historical and architectural integrity. You don't 'update' a masterpiece. 'Modernization' may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language."

· Ada Louise Huxtable, Architecture Critic, Dies at 91 [NYT]
· Ada Louise Huxtable coverage [Curbed]