Hilary Ballon (In Memoriam)

University Professor, Professor of Urban Studies and Architecture

Hilary Ballon

Formally the Deputy Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, Hilary Ballon was part of the leadership team that developed NYU's new, comprehensive campus, which opened in September 2010, and established NYU as a global university. A founding member of the team that began planning NYUAD in September 2007, she was involved in all aspects of the new university, with particular responsibility for the design of a new, globally oriented curriculum and the three-million square foot campus on Saadiyat Island that opened in 2014. Ballon oversaw the New York office of NYUAD and represented it at Washington Square. Her other responsibilities included institutional research and program assessment; curricular planning, recruitment of NYU faculty to teach at NYUAD; and public programs and other activities at 19 Washington Square, the academic home of NYUAD in New York. In addition to her administrative duties, Ballon taught courses on urbanism and architecture at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where she was a University Professor.

Her recent book project, A Global University: Designing NYU Abu Dhabi, chronicled the creation of the university, its design and relation to the urban development of Abu Dhabi. She also co-curated New York at Its Core, a new, permanent exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, that will provide an interpretive overview of the city’s past, present and future.

Ballon's scholarship focused on cities and the intersection of architecture, politics, and social life, with a recent focus on New York City. In 2012 she received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture for her publications and curatorial work. She curated The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan (Museum of the City of New York, 2011-12) and edited the related book (Columbia University Press, 2011). She also curated Robert Moses and the Modern City (2007), which evaluated his physical transformation of New York in the mid-20th century. The Moses exhibition was organized in three concurrent parts: Remaking the Metropolis at the Museum of the City of New York; The Road to Recreation at the Queens Museum of Art; and Slum Clearance and the Superblock Solution at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery of Columbia University. Ballon was a principal author and co-editor of the accompanying book, Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York (with Kenneth T. Jackson, W.W. Norton, 2007).

Ballon's previous books include New York's Pennsylvania Stations (W.W. Norton, 2002); Louis Le Vau: Mazarin's College, Colbert's Revenge (Princeton University Press, 1999), which won the Prix d'Académie from the Académie Francaise; and The Paris of Henri IV: Architecture and Urbanism (Architectural History Foundation/MIT Press, 1991), which won the Alice Davis Hitchcock Prize for the Most Distinguished Work in Architectural History and is widely cited as a model for its consideration of urban planning in relation to social, political, and economic forces. She has curated Gateway to Metropolis: New York's Pennsylvania Stations at the Wallach Art Gallery and Frank Lloyd Wright: The Vertical Dimension at the Skyscraper Museum.

Ballon had been active in the area of electronic publishing, where she developed a multimedia platform to capture the potential of digital technology and dynamic images for scholarly publication. As Editor of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH), she secured funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop a prototype with multimedia features, including zoomable illustrations, video, GIS, and 3D models; establish a business plan to assure a sustainable transition for the publisher, a not-for-profit scholarly society; and find a development partner. The first edition of JSAH Online appeared in March 2010, published by University of California Press. Ballon is the Founding Editor of JSAH Online. With JSAH as the pilot, the ultimate goal of the Mellon-funded project was to create a multimedia platform that would broadly serve scholarly journals. That goal was realized in 2011, when JSTOR adopted the JSAH/ University of California Press platform for its Current Scholarship Program. In contrast to the static, black-and-white format (PDF) of earlier digital journals, with norms rooted in print publication, the JSAH-pioneered, multimedia platform that JSTOR has adopted marks a new stage in digital publication.

This work in electronic publication began in July 2006, when Ballon and Mariët Westermann completed a study of scholarly publishing in art and architectural history funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In order to exemplify their argument for electronic publication, the authors published Art History and Its Publications in the Electronic Age electronically (Rice University Press and the Council on Library and Information Resources, 2006).

Before joining NYU in September 2007, Ballon had been at Columbia University since 1985. An innovative and dedicated teacher, Ballon received Columbia University's highest teaching awards: the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, the Great Teacher Award, and the Philip and Ruth Hettleman Teaching Award. Her seminar on the urban development of New York City was a laboratory for collaborative student work and digital projects. She was chair of the Department of Art History and Archaeology from 2002-04, and as director of Art Humanities, she oversaw a cornerstone of Columbia's undergraduate core curriculum. An active participant in university affairs, she chaired the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, played a leadership role in curricular development, co- chaired the Arts & Sciences Faculty Fundraising Committee for the Capital Campaign, and served on the Presidential Search Committee, among many university appointments.

Ballon was a senior advisor to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and served on the Board of Directors of the Museum of the City of New York, the Regional Plan Association, the Skyscraper Museum, and the visiting committees of the MIT Department of Architecture and Princeton University School of Architecture. She was chairman of the Planning Board of Englewood, New Jersey from 2000-05 where she dealt with contested development issues and rewrote the town's master plan.

Ballon received a B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from M.I.T. Her academic awards include fellowships from the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Andrew H. Mellon Foundation.

Public spaces play an essential role in the life of cities and their residents. Public squares and parks, streets and esplanades—these are often the signature spaces that constitute a city’s distinctive identity. They are the settings of everyday life: mixing bowls, thoroughfares, and transfer stations where a city’s diverse communities interact, as well as forums for individual and collective action and expression. And they are spaces of protest and domains for the practice of citizenship.

This course explores a variety of issues regarding public space, including political theories of the public space, democracy and free speech in public space, heterogeneity and cultural expression in public space, regulation of conduct in public space, surveillance, informal public spaces, privatization of public space, public space in non-democratic societies, and the urban design of public space.  We will explore three overarching questions. What do we mean by “public” and “public space”? What are common characteristics of public spaces and how do people use them? And why are public spaces important to city life?

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This course examines key ideas in the history and theory of planning. We start with some challenges of 21st-century urbanism to activate our conversations about the history and theory of planning. Does the historical and theoretical apparatus of planning equip us to deal with 21st-century urban formations and problems? Are the forms of contemporary urbanism categorically different from those of the past? Are the techniques and methods of planning bound to the American context, or are they also suitable for other social and political contexts?

The syllabus is organized in part as a great books course. We will read a series of classic books in the history and theory of planning by major thinkers whose ideas have had a significant impact on urban form, theory, and planning. They include: Daniel Burnham on the metropolitan idea; Le Corbusier on the modernist city; Jane Jacobs on pedestrian-centered urbanism; and Ian McHarg on environmental planning, among others.

Another set of readings and class sessions will focus on the techniques of planning on which planners have grounded their claims of professional expertise. Our goal is to understand the history, use and abuse of the planner’s toolkit. Our topics include: data surveys and the framing of planning as a social science; advocacy planning; building codes; and zoning.

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Laying out Manhattan's street grid and providing a rationale for the growth of New York was the city's first great civic enterprise, not to mention a brazenly ambitious project and major milestone in the history of city planning. The grid created the physical conditions for business and society to flourish and embodied the drive and discipline for which the city would come to be known. Published to coincide with an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York celebrating the bicentennial of the Commissioners' 1811 Plan of Manhattan, this volume does more than memorialize such a visionary effort, it serves as an enduring reference full of rare images and information.

The Greatest Grid shares the history of the Commissioners' plan, incorporating archival photos and illustrations, primary documents and testimony, and magnificent maps with essential analysis. The text, written by leading historians of New York City, follows the grid's initial design, implementation, and evolution, and then speaks to its enduring influence. A foldout map, accompanied by explanatory notes, reproduces the Commissioners' original plan, and additional maps and prints chart the city's pre-1811 irregular growth patterns and local precedent for the grid's design. Constituting the first sustained examination of this subject, this text describes the social, political, and intellectual figures who were instrumental in remaking early New York, not in the image of old Europe but as a reflection of other American cities and a distinct New World sensibility. The grid reaffirmed old hierarchies while creating new opportunities for power and advancement, giving rise to the multicultural, highly networked landscape New Yorkers thrive in today.



Ballon, H.. Urban Design in Action. America's Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York, ed. Sam Roberts


Ballon, H. & Friedman, D.. Portraying the City in Early Modern Europe: Measurement, Representation and Planning. The History of Cartography, vol. 3, Cartography in the European Renaissance, Part 1, ed. David Woodward. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 680-705

"We are rebuilding New York, not dispersing and abandoning it": Robert Moses saw himself on a rescue mission to save the city from obsolescence, decentralization, and decline. His vast building program aimed to modernize urban infrastructure, expand the public realm with extensive recreational facilities, remove blight, and make the city more livable for the middle class. This book offers a fresh look at the physical transformation of New York during Moses’s nearly forty-year reign over city building from 1934 to 1968. It is hard to imagine that anyone will ever have the same impact on New York as did Robert Moses. In his various roles in city and state government, he reshaped the fabric of the city, and his legacy continues to touch the lives of all New Yorkers. Revered for most of his life, he is now one of the most controversial figures in the city’s history. Robert Moses and the Modern City is the first major publication devoted to him since Robert Caro’s damning 1974 biography, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. In these pages eight short essays by leading scholars of urban history provide a revised perspective; stunning new photographs offer the first visual record of Moses’s far-reaching building program as it stands today; and a comprehensive catalog of his works is illustrated with a wealth of archival records: photographs of buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes, of parks, pools, and playgrounds, of demolished neighborhoods and replacement housing and urban renewal projects, of bridges and highways; renderings of rejected designs and controversial projects that were defeated; and views of spectacular models that have not been seen since Moses made them for promotional purposes. Robert Moses and the Modern City captures research undertaken in the last three decades and will stimulate a new round of debate.



Over the past two decades, the expansion of art history graduate programs and the emergence of new fields of inquiry into the visual world have resulted in steady growth in the population of scholars of art and architecture. In the same period, economic pressures on academic publishers have caused thematic shifts and numerical reductions in the publication of the types of monographs that have traditionally nurtured the discipline. Since the 1960s, such monographs, often based on dissertations, have served as the primary criterion for academic tenure and promotion in North America. These field conditions have led to considerable concern in the art historical community about the professional advancement of younger scholars and the long-term vitality of the discipline.


It should be noted, however, that several still-recent developments have given art history new alternatives for rigorous and creative publication and dialogue. The rapidly improving quality of digital images and modes of electronic publication offer expanded publishing opportunities to scholars and potential economic benefits to academic publishers, in print as well as electronic media. The remarkable and continuing growth of museum exhibitions with large audiences and handsomely produced catalogues presents a singular resource for art historians and their publishers. Thus far, these assets have not been exploited to their full potential—not because of an a priori resistance on the part of scholars, but because electronic and museum publication poses several challenges, particularly in the domains of high-quality image (re)production, copyright claims, and academic credentialing.


This report maps these circumstances of scholarly publication in the history of art and architecture and is supported by quantitative analysis of publishing and educational trends. The report makes recommendations of actions that address obstacles to vigorous scholarly communication and mobilize more optimally the special resources and instruments of the discipline, while also benefiting the wide range of fields that involve illustrated publication


Ballon, H.. New York's Pennsylvania Stations. N.Y.: W.W. Norton