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The Boston Globe

Editorial

editorial | ADA LOUISE HUXTABLE, 1921-2013

Ada Louise Huxtable was the architecture critic who loved City Hall

Ada Louise Huxtable, the longtime New York Times architecture critic who died last week at 91, was a pioneering woman in journalism, a widely respected champion of historical preservation, and — notably — a staunch defender of Boston City Hall.

Her praise has been a lonely distinction for a building that is mocked, maligned, and periodically suggested for bulldozing. But Huxtable had nothing bad to say about Boston’s Brutalist icon, designed by the firm Kallmann, McKinnell & Knowles for a national competition. In her original review, published in 1969, she acknowledged that the building was controversial even then: perplexing to passers-by, accepted with ambivalence by then-mayor Kevin White. But Huxtable loved the integrity of its vision: an interior designed, hierarchically, around particular functions; a modern structure “without a single one of those pompous pratfalls to the classical past that building committees clutch like Linus’s blanket.” She called it “a tough and complex building for a tough and complex age, a structure of dignity, humanism, and power.”

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