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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Clear Window on the Built World
Architecture is notoriously difficult to write about. Buildings demand to be seen, and, more importantly, experienced. Descriptions of them often swerve into jargon or lurch into hyperbole. Neither of these problems afflicts the writing of Ada Louise Huxtable. In this collection of her essays and newspaper columns she comes across as clear-eyed, tough-minded and...
Published on December 2, 2008 by G. Bestick

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Nice toothpaste but I didn't see any whiteness difference
Published 2 months ago by JessicaDL


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Clear Window on the Built World, December 2, 2008
By 
G. Bestick (Dobbs Ferry, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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Architecture is notoriously difficult to write about. Buildings demand to be seen, and, more importantly, experienced. Descriptions of them often swerve into jargon or lurch into hyperbole. Neither of these problems afflicts the writing of Ada Louise Huxtable. In this collection of her essays and newspaper columns she comes across as clear-eyed, tough-minded and thoroughly grounded in the history of twentieth century architecture.

The book organizes the critical opinions of five decades into seven sections. If there is an overarching theme, it's the emergence of modernism as the dominant architectural style of the twentieth century and the inevitable Thermidorian reaction against the modernist revolution. While Huxtable appreciates the way modernist masters such as Gropius, van der Rohe, Aalto and Le Corbusier gave form to the twentieth century, she also understands why their rigid insistence on functionality over beauty, disregard for history, and indifference to the environments surrounding their buildings led to a revolt against their tenets. Still, you only have to look around any American city to see how much we owe Mies and other modernist masters of the skyscraper.

She gives the architects who came after modernism their due. She's a big fan of Frank Gehry, for instance. But she also takes the Phillip Johnsons and Robert Venturis to task when their built work falls short of their theories or witty critiques. Huxtable also casts a backward glance at modernism's antecedents, including a fond reminiscence of the Beaux Arts New York (Grand Central, the 42nd Street Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art) she grew up in.

In her introduction, Huxtable tells us that she is generally satisfied with her first impressions and stands by her published opinions. This is even true of the piece praising Boston City Hall. Given the chance to recant her admiration for this brutalist concrete monstrosity, she declines. In general, though, she has a keen eye for what is valuable and enduring, and the wit and tart tongue to take to task what is silly or meretricious. This is particularly evident in her columns on New York City, where she came of age working for Phillip Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art, fought preservationist battles, and continues to cast a loving but skeptical eye on new development schemes.

Since the articles are arranged by topic rather than chronology, this is a book to be sipped rather than gulped. I wish the publisher had included more pictures. One solution is to read next to your computer and google the building under discussion. Part of the fun of this book is watching a world class critical sensibility forming, re-forming, and refining itself in reaction to the built world and to the theoretical foundations, be they shaky, solid or transient, upon which those buildings were erected.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading, December 29, 2008
By 
Plancentric (Novato, California) - See all my reviews
On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change, by Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic of The Wall Street Journal (and formerly of The New York Times) is an essential addition to any library. It brings together her columns from both papers along with essays from other sources. She writes with immense knowledge, perception, wit, and verve about the key structures and design debates of the last forty years. Her essays are timeless -- though all about moments in time. Included are personal reminiscenses of growing up in Manhattan, her first job working for Philip Johnson when he was the design curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and spending the night at Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Fallingwater. No-one can turn an architectural phrase better than she, as in her description of the Kennedy Center in Washington. D. C.: "It is a cross between a concrete candy box and a sarcophagus in which the art of architecture lies buried." I found it hard to put down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best writing of the most important architectural critic in the world, December 26, 2012
By 
Stuart Denenberg (West Hollywood, CA) - See all my reviews
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Every page is replete with bon mots, apercus of the highest distinction, and understanding of architecture from the several perspectives of engineering, sociology, economics and aesthetics. Sheer brilliance that somehow manages to be fun reading. No wonder that Ms. Huxtable went from the pages of the New York Times to its editorial board--the first woman to do so--then on to the Wall Street Journal. A living national treasure at 91!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Architecture, May 25, 2009
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Mary G. Lundy (Sherwood, Oregon) - See all my reviews
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My husband, the architect, and I have both found this book to be highly informative and, often, quite amusing. Ms Huxtable is so knowledgeable and wise, and explains things so that the average lay person GETS her criticisms. She does not cower before giants.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Architecture, May 3, 2009
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Excellent summary of 20th century architecture and architects by an intelligent, insightful, and knowledgeable author-student, commentator of architecture. Fascinating!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection., February 11, 2013
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This review is from: On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change (Paperback)
I have always been a fan of ALH and its great to get these reviews all in one place and as an added bonus they provide an ad-hoc guide to great architecture in New York and the other cities.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My architect husband loves the book, July 20, 2010
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Mary (Bethesda, MD, United States) - See all my reviews
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My husband is an architect and loves reading about it. He has always loves Ada Louise Huxtable's reviews.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Architecure:Dollected Reflections o Century of Change by Ada Louise Huxtable, June 13, 2009
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I ordered this book after hearing the author discussing it on NPR. I gave it to my friend who is interested in architecture. We looked at it together, and she seemed very pleased. I was disapointed that there were not more pictures of the buildings discussed. I think there is another book that costs a lot more and perhaps has the pictures. This was expensive enough, so I didn't order the other one.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Gift, March 3, 2013
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I haven't a clue, but I want this request to review the product to go away so again I'm writing. Like I said on other things this was on someone's list and I bought it as a gift. It arrived in good condition if that helps.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, July 2, 2014
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Nice toothpaste but I didn't see any whiteness difference
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On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change
On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change by Ada Louise Huxtable (Paperback - October 26, 2010)
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