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Inga Wins!
Philly's architecture critic wins journalism's highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize.
Inga Saffron.
Gene Smirnov

Inga Saffron, the architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Known for her deep reporting and woman-on-the-street perspective, the Pulitzer jury commended Saffron’s work, which “blends expertise, civic passion, and sheer readability into arguments that consistently stimulate and surprise.”


Saffron covers everything from marquee projects by well-known architects to preservation fights and bus route improvements, making her weekly column a varied and highly engaging review of Philadelphia’s built environment. Perhaps more importantly, her writing influences development in that city. “We read her work and we like it when she says nice things about our projects, but more importantly clients, owners, and builders pay attention to what she says,” said David McHenry, principal of Erdy McHenry Architects. “That’s good for Philadelphia.”

In the approximately 15 years her column has run in the Inquirer, Saffron has seen a shift in attitudes about cities. “I grew up at a time when cities were falling apart. Now certain cities, fortunate cities, are experiencing a profound change of reinvestment and repopulation,” she told AN. “People used to ask if Philadelphia would survive, or if it would become Detroit. No one says that anymore.” Still, given the difficulties facing the newspaper industry, she is quick to acknowledge the rarity of her position. “My editors have stood firm and let me do what I do. They’ve never tried to influence me, even under pressure from developers and politicians.”

The Pulitzer has recognized architecture criticism since it began awarding a prize for criticism. Ada Louise Huxtable won the first such award, but it has been a long stretch since Blair Kamin, of the Chicago Tribune, won the prize in 1999. Saffron thinks her prize is a sign of the times: “I think the winners do reflect an interest, a feeling of civic responsibility to the public realm.”

Alan G. Brake