Yesterday, the editor, writer, and photographer Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, died at the age of 69 of cancer. She was the editor-in-chief and co-founder, along with her husband George Yates, of ArchNewsNow.com (ANN)—one of the architecture profession’s first webzines and e-newsletters covering architectural, planning, and design news, which launched in 2002. She was also the editor-in-chief of Oculus, the quarterly journal of The American Institute of Architects New York from 2003 through 2016. Prior to founding ANN, she spent two years as editor-in-chief for DesignArchitecture.com, one of the earliest online publications for the AEC industry. Richards was also a successful freelance journalist and photographer for national and international design and business publications.
“In the small group of dedicated architectural journalists, Kristen Richards held a special place,” says AIA executive vice president and chief executive officer Robert Ivy, FAIA . “Always present, empathetic, as the editor of Oculus and founder of ArchNewsNow, she lived a front-row-center life, documenting the unfolding richness of architecture in New York and around the world.”
A constant presence in New York's architecture and design scene, Richards celebrated architects and buildings, helping to promote other architecture media through ANN, which at its peak had about 16,000 subscribers around the world.
“Kristen was a legend and a force in our field. As a one-woman enterprise, she produced the invaluable [ANN], which became essential daily reading for many of us as we tried to keep abreast of local and global design news,” says Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, executive director of AIANY and the Center for Architecture. “Under her leadership, Oculus was transformed from a newsletter to a more robust design publication, serving as a critical megaphone for our community. She was a devotee of the Center for Architecture, and cherished our programs, exhibits, and the social gatherings. She will be missed profoundly by the NYC architecture community and beyond.”
With word of her passing, her friends and colleagues have shared tributes.
This is awful news. Kristen Richards created ArchitectureNewsNow, which was a lifeline for the entire architecture community. And she did it with zest and zeal and knowledge. She was a wonderful human being. I’m heartbroken to learn that she is gone. https://t.co/wTT9TdWgt8— Paul Goldberger (@paulgoldberger) July 2, 2021
Paying tribute to the fantastic Kristen Richards - a champion for architecture and design, and an advocate for architects and designers everywhere (including this one). Godspeed @ArchNewsNow https://t.co/815N6uDefr— Peter Exley (@funarchitect) July 2, 2021
RIP Kristen Richards, who wove the disparate threads of the architecture world together with ArchNewsNow. https://t.co/SSwwjspKgl— Blair Kamin (@BlairKamin) July 2, 2021
This is sad, sad news. Kristen Richards was the greatest champion an architecture writer could have, a connector before that term was fashionable. I will miss her dearly. https://t.co/YipDZMRuVd— Inga Saffron (@IngaSaffron) July 2, 2021
“Kristen was someone who was interested in everything and everybody but I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. That is very rare,” says Jayne Merkel, an architectural historian, critic, and a former Oculus editor. “We will all miss her daily reports on writing about architecture. I hope very much that someone at least tries to fill that roll.”
“Kristen was a powerhouse in the world of architecture, for the first time gathering all global critical press in one place. An invaluable resource,” says Alexander Gorlin, FAIA, founder of the New York-based firm Alexander Gorlin Architects. “She was as well a warm, kind presence with a quick wit always open to talk and encouraging young talent in an otherwise ferociously competitive environment.”
Richards had a successful and colorful career in the creative community for decades. After majoring in theater at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, she was the assistant to the actor and director Gene Frankel, one of the great Broadway and off-Broadway impressarios, and managed the Gene Frankel Theatre Workshop. In 1973, she co-founded the Impossible Ragtime Theater, an acclaimed off-Broadway venue where she acted in and worked on both Broadway and off-Broadway plays. After eight years, she took a summer break in Greece, where she became the Greek Breck Shampoo girl and appeared in some movies. A side trip to Rome turned into a three-year stay, mostly teaching English.
After returning to the United States, she founded the Kristen Richards Gallery in New York in 1980 and launched the National Art Source and Services, a complete art resource for architecture and design professionals. Through 14 showrooms in design centers around the country, her company supplied everything from inexpensive framed hotel prints to 16th-century tapestries for corporate collections.
In 1989, Richards joined Interiors magazine as the special project coordinator for an Interiors-sponsored project: the restoration of the Villa Aurelia for the American Academy in Rome. In 1999, she authored her first book, Retail and Restaurant Space (Rockport Pub, 1999). She served as the editorial consultant for Cocktails and Conversations: Dialogues on Architectural Design, by Abby Suckle and William Singer (AIA New York, 2018), and Iconic Buildings: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Most Remarkable Architecture, by Studio Esinam (Universe, 2017). She also contributed to Jared Green's Designed for the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for a Sustainable World, (Princeton Architectural Press, 2015); Michael J. Crosbie's New York Dozen: Gen X Architects (Images Publishing Dist Ac, 2011); and Architecture: Celebrating the Past, Designing the Future (Visual Reference Publications, 2008), written by Nancy Solomon, AIA, to commerate AIA’s 150th anniversary in 2007.
In addition to becoming an honorary member of AIA and the American Society of Landscape Architects, Richards was the recipient of the AIANY Service to the Institute Award, the AIANY President’s Commendation, and the Society of Marketing Professional Services—New York/SMPS Media Honor Award. She served on numerous international design juries and conference panels, championing young talent throughout her career.
“Kristen Richards was a tour-de-force in the world of design—a bell weather for the industry, a longtime champion for sustainability, and a cheerleader for established architects and young practitioners alike,” says Tami Hausmann, president of the New York communications firm Hausman. “She connected ideas and people. Beneath her ever-present sense of humor, she was an astute and exacting editor who focused equally on the big picture and the small details. She championed people behind the architectural scenes as well, always making sure that the credits equally extended to all people and firms. Most of all, she was filled with delight at the world. Kristen saw good design as the catalyst for opening her audiences’ eyes to big possibilities, the optimism of a better future, and the serenity of discovering joy.”
Very saddened to learn that Kristen Richards has left us. I didn’t know her personally, and so I’m learning about her life through her death. She was one-of-a-kind more than I knew. RIP https://t.co/4qXyP6NEc2 pic.twitter.com/P2MuxjP0mB— Timothy A. Schuler (@timothy_schuler) July 2, 2021
Today we are all deeply mourning the loss of Kristen Richards, former editor in chief of AIANY's Oculus magazine (2003-2016) & editor of @ArchNewsNow. @ArchRecord is the first to publish what will surely be the first of many tributes to our beloved legend: https://t.co/IBEHCwS5D6 pic.twitter.com/4LluiHkUlw— AIA New York (AIANY) (@AIA_NewYork) July 2, 2021
AIANY is collecting and posting written tributes about Kristen Richards from AIA members. Members can email their tributes to [email protected].