'Architecture critic" doesn't fully describe the occupation of Inga Saffron, who on Monday was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, the 20th of journalism's most prestigious honors presented to The Inquirer.
Perhaps "protector of the public's right to live, work, and recreate in buildings and surroundings that are functional, visually appealing, and safe" would be a better description. That might be a bit long for a byline, but it's accurate.
Saffron has noted precisely when the public should be alarmed and why. After a botched demolition left six people dead inside a Salvation Army thrift shop, she observed that "Richard Basciano and the late Samuel A. Rappaport were friends, business partners, and slumlords. ... Now they have something else in common. Both owned buildings that killed."
Speaking truth to power has been a central component of Saffron's vocation. When the Christie administration attempted to close an urban children's garden to make way for unspecified development, she rightly called it a government-sanctioned land grab. "There isn't much of Camden on the Camden waterfront," said Saffron, "but what little there is can reliably be found at the Camden Children's Garden."
The Pulitzer board found that Saffron "blends expertise, civic passion, and sheer readability into arguments that consistently stimulate and surprise." For example, she noted that for all of South Broad Street's success as the "Avenue of the Arts," with its multiple entertainment venues, it is missing out by not providing more Center City housing.
Such insights go beyond criticism. Saffron is performing a public service that deserves this recognition.