Hilary Ballon (1956-2017). Courtesy of NYU Abu Dhabi.
Hilary Ballon (1956-2017). Courtesy of NYU Abu Dhabi.

In Memoriam: Hilary Ballon (1956-2017)

In Memoriam by • 06/28

AIA New York and the Center for Architecture mourn the loss of Hilary Ballon, Professor of Urban Studies and Architecture at NYU and Deputy Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi on 06.16.17. A celebrated architectural historian, Ballon’s work focused on cities and the intersection of architecture, politics, and social life. Her work on New York City included research on Manhattan’s 1811 street grid, the transformative projects of Robert Moses, and New York’s Pennsylvania Station. Below are words of remembrance from just a few of those who were touched by Hilary’s intellect and compassion. Please share your own reflections in our comment section below.

“Hilary Ballon was a great architecture historian, a great New Yorker, and a great teacher. It is hard to know which of these three things to mention first, because they were all so essential to Hilary’s identity; it was the combination of great scholarship and great teaching energized by her lifelong investigation of the great subject of the city that defined her. While her interests were wide-ranging and her professional life took her around the world, including to Abu Dhabi on behalf of NYU, in my mind she will always be closely connected to New York, in part because of the extraordinary contributions she made in helping all of us to see the history and the physical form of the city in new ways. Her work on Robert Moses and her work on the Manhattan grid were the very best kind of architecture history because they were not just about form but about culture, and about the way these things affect each other. Like the very greatest scholars, she pushed her field forward with new knowledge and at the same time worked hard to make ideas accessible to all. Very few people combine grace, intellect and panache as Hilary Ballon did: her impact was tremendous, and we are all diminished by her loss.”
 Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA, Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair

“It was a privilege to know and work with Hilary. Her unique intelligence and generosity of spirit were truly inspirational. A unique soul – she will be sorely missed. “
 Carol Loewenson, FAIA, Partner, Mitchell | Giurgola Architects; 2016 President, AIA New York

“Simply put, Hilary helped to set the standard. She was both a brilliant scholar and a ‘real pro’ who could always be counted on to deliver just what was needed. She knew her subject matter cold, but also knew – and this is rare – how to speak to a broad range of audiences.”
Thomas Mellins, Curator

“I met Hilary after serving on the board of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. Exceptionally brilliant, perpetually thought-provoking, and equally warm, I was privileged to have her as my independent study professor while pursuing my MA in historic preservation. My course focused on research development for my book, Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954-1959, and her advice and perspectives were invaluable. I will never forget one “class” session we had at the New York Public Library while she was working on her Robert Moses exhibit and book. What a stellar hour of lively exchange that was, in such a seminal venue. She will be greatly missed by all in the “Wright community” and by countless other students, fellow academicians, museum cohorts, and the many others whose lives she touched. We will remember her always.”
 Debra Pickrel, Assoc. AIA, Principal, Pickrel Communications

“Hillary’s cumulative work on NYC provides fascinating and invaluable insight into our city’s complex past, while asking essential questions that help us imagine its future. Hilary was not only a neighbor at NYU, but a tremendous friend to AIA New York and the Center for Architecture. Over the years, she participated in many of our events and exhibitions. As recently as December 2016, she moderated a lively discussion on the New Penn-Farley Complex, giving a brilliant introduction and diplomatically, yet rigorously, raising challenging questions about this much-debated project. Her intelligence, generosity, and wonderful smile will be missed by our community.”
 Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director, AIANY | Center for Architecture

2 Responses to In Memoriam: Hilary Ballon (1956-2017)

  1. Peter Budeiri says:

    Hilary was a great scholar and a great person.

  2. PRAVEENKUMAR says:

    I had the fortune of working closely with Hilary for 6 years in developing and delivering the most significant educational undertaking in the form of NYUAD’s Abu Dhabi campus. She was a stellar academician, a visionary and an exceptional leader. But, what made her most unique was her personal qualities – unbelievably authentic, supremely positive attitude, steely-courage, and an extra-ordinary sense of empathy.
    Her pivotal role in shaping the vision of NYUAD both in academia and in delivering the asset will be benefitted by generations of students and faculty. A true legacy!!
    She will remain an inspiration and a perfect example to me and my daughters!

    Praveen
    Ex Project Director, NYUAD Saadiyat Campus, Abu Dhabi

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