Ada Louise Huxtable Quotes

Because it is a national landmark, there is only one way to judge the Kennedy Center – against the established standard of progressive and innovative excellence in architectural design that this country is known and admired for internationally. Unfortunately, the Kennedy Center not only does not achieve this standard of innovative excellence; it also did not seek it. The architect opted for something ambiguously called ‘timelessness’ and produced meaninglessness. It is to the Washington manner born. Too bad, since there is so much of it.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

It is the rare architect who does not hope in his heart to design a great building and for whom the quest is not a quiet, consuming passion.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

The skyscraper and the twentieth century are synonymous; the tall building is the landmark of our age. … Shaper of cities and fortunes, it is the dream, past and present, acknowledged or unacknowledged, of almost every architect.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

No matter what an architect may be at home, he becomes a monumentalist when he comes to Washington.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

One of the most basic human instincts is the need to decorate. Nothing is exempt – the body, the objects one uses, from intimate to monumental, and all personal and ceremonial space. It is an instinct that responds … to some deep inner urge that has been variously described as the horror of a vacuum and the need to put one’s imprint on at least one small segment of the world.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

California … is the place that sets the trends and establishes the values for the rest of the country; like a slow ooze, California culture spreads eastward across the land.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Clutter in its highest and most organized form is called collecting.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

The age of Lincoln and Jefferson memorials is over. It will be presidential libraries from now on.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Postmodernism is a freewheeling, unfettered, and unapologetic pursuit of style.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Tossed into the Secaucus graveyard are about 25 centuries of classical culture and the standards of style, elegance and grandeur that it gave to the dreams and constructions of Western man. That turns the Jersey wasteland into a pretty classy dump.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Every generation tailors history to its taste.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

If the British are a nation of shopkeepers, Americans are a nation of shoppers.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Some people wait constructively; they read or knit. I have watched some truly appalling pieces of needlework take form. Others – I am one of them – abandon all thought and purpose to an uneasy vegetative states.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Real serious waiting is done in waiting rooms, and what they all have in common is their purpose, or purposelessness, if you will; they are places for doing nothing and they have no life of their own. … their one constant is what might be called a decorative rigor mortis …
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Embellishment is an irresistible and consuming impulse, going back to the beginnings of human history. … Probably the strongest motivating force is the simplest: the inability of almost everyone to ever leave well enough alone.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

The art of decoration requires the most sophisticated and self-indulgent skills. Its aim has always been to sate the senses as gloriously as possible. … ornament is not only a source of sensuous pleasure; it supplies a necessary kind of magic to people and places that lack it. More than just a dread of empty spaces has led to the urge to decorate; it is the fear of empty selves.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

The New York Hilton is laid out with a competence that would make a computer blush.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

 

An excellent job with a dubious undertaking, which is like saying it would be great if it wasn’t awful.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

A disaster where marble has been substituted for imagination.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Really living without clutter takes an iron will … This involves eternal watchfulness and that oldest and most relentless of the housewife’s occupations, picking up. I have a feeling that picking up will go on long after ways have been found to circumvent death and taxes.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

the search for the ultimate skyscraper goes on. … At worst, overbuilding will make urban life unbearable. At best, we will go out in a blaze of style.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Nothing was more up-to-date when it was built, or is more obsolete today, than the railroad station.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Waiting is a large part of living. Great, passive, negative chunks of our time are consumed by waiting, from birth to death. Waiting is a special kind of activity – if activity is the right word for it – because we are held in enforced suspension between people and places, removed from the normal rhythms of our days and lives.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

 

Beauty or beast, the modern skyscraper is a major force with a strong magnetic field. It draws into its physical being all of the factors that propel and characterize modern civilization. The skyscraper is the point where art and the city meet.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Every age cuts and pastes history to suit its own purposes; art always has an ax to grind.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Only a Californian would have observed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the real fake from the fake fake.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

There are two kinds of people in the world – those who have a horror of a vacuum and those with a horror of the things that fill it. Translated into domestic interiors, this means people who live with, and without, clutter.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

All autonomous agencies and authorities, sooner or later, turn into self-perpetuating strongholds of conventional thought and practice.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Washington is an endless series of mock palaces clearly built for clerks,
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Surrogate experience and surrogate environments have become the American way of life. Distinctions are no longer made, or deemed necessary, between the real and the false; the edge usually goes to the latter, as an improved version with defects corrected – accessible and user-friendly …
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

New York, thy name is irreverence and hyperbole. And grandeur.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Good architecture is still the difficult, conscientious, creative, expressive planning for that elusive synthesis that is a near-contradiction in terms: efficiency and beauty.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

The perennial architectural debate has always been, and will continue to be, about art versus use, visions versus pragmatism, aesthetics versus social responsibility. In the end, these unavoidable conflicts provide architecture’s essential and productive tensions; the tragedy is that so little of it rises above the level imposed by compromise, and that this is the only work most of us see and know.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

 

Every creative act draws on the past whether it pretends to or not. It draws on what it knows. There’s no such thing, really, as a creative act in a vacuum.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

In New York, the impact of these concentrated superskyscrapers on street scale and sunlight, on the city’s aniquated support systems, circulation, and infrastructure, on its already tenuous livability, overrides any aesthetic. … Art becomes worthless in a city brutalized by overdevelopment.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

The building is a national tragedy – a cross between a concrete candy box and a marble sarcophagus in which the art of architecture lies buried.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Real estate is the closest thing to the proverbial pot of gold.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

In Paris style is everything. That is traditionally understood. Every street, every structure, every shopgirl has style. The style of Parisian architecture has been proved and refined by at least three centuries of academic dictates and highly developed taste. There are few violations of this taste, and there is exemplary architectural consistency. Paris has defined the aesthetics of a sophisticated urban culture.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Who’s afraid of the big, bad buildings? Everyone, because there are so many things about gigantism that we just don’t know. The gamble of triumph or tragedy at this scale — and ultimately it is a gamble — demands an extraordinary payoff. The trade center towers could be the start of a new skyscraper age or the biggest tombstones in the world.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

 

Symbol and metaphor are as much a part of the architectural vocabulary as stone and steel.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

What counts more than style is whether architecture improves our experience of the built world; whether it makes us wonder why we never noticed places in quite this way before.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Until the first blow fell, no one was convinced that Penn Station really would be demolished, or that New York would permit this monumental act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance. Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

 

 

Today, when so much seems to conspire to reduce life and feeling to the most deprived and demeaning bottom line, it is more important than ever that we receive that extra dimension of dignity or delight and the elevated sense of self that the art of building can provide through the nature of the places where we live and work. What counts more than style is whether architecture improves our experience of the built world; whether it makes us wonder why we never noticed places in quite this way before.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.
-Ada Louise Huxtable

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