The architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable died on January 7 at age 91. Huxtable invented her chosen pursuit, writing about design and cities for the New York Times from 1963 to 1982. In 1970, she won the very first Pulitzer Prize for criticism and, whether you agree with her opinions or not, her writing makes you think about the built world around you.
From Chapter One of her book The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion:
What the perfect fake or impeccable restoration lacks are the hallmarks of time and place. They deny imperfections, alterations, and acccommodations; they wipe out all the incidents of life and change. The worn stone, the chafed corner, the threshold low and uneven from many feet, the marks on walls and windows that carry the presence and message of remembered hands and eyes—all of those accumulated, accidental, suggestive, and genuine imprints that imbue the artifact with its history and continuity, that have stayed with it in its conditioning passage through time—are absent or erased. There is nothing left of the journey from there to here, nothing that palpably joins the past to the present, that makes direct physical and emotional contact with the viewer, the bittersweet link with those who have been there before.
Image of the I.M. Pei’s East Building of the National Gallery by RBCullen