G.E. Kidder Smith, an architectural historian and photographer, died on Oct. 8 at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.
The cause was bronchectasis, said his wife, Dorothea.
Mr. Smith, who trained as an architect, is best known for books that chronicled the modern architectural movement. ”Brazil Builds,” published in 1943 to accompany an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, was followed in 1955 by ”Italy Builds” and other volumes on modern building in Sweden and Switzerland. ”Looking at Architecture,” a book on architectural photography, was published in 1990.
Outside architectural circles, many New Yorkers knew Mr. Smith as a civic watchdog, a function he exercised for more than five decades with more than 70 sharply opinionated letters published in The New York Times, on subjects ranging from tulip plantings on Park Avenue to public housing on Roosevelt Island.
George Everard Kidder Smith was born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1913. After receiving his Master of Fine Arts degree from Princeton University in 1938, he served as architectural consultant on an archaeological expedition in Antioch, Turkey, sponsored by Princeton and the Louvre. In the 1940’s, he organized and designed exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, including ”Power in the Pacific,” a 1945 show of photographs by Edward Steichen.
Mr. Smith was instrumental in saving two landmarks of modern architecture from destruction. In 1957, he encouraged William Zeckendorf to donate funds to preserve the Robie House, an early Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece in Oak Park, Ill. In 1962, Mr. Smith organized a telegram campaign that persuaded Andre Malraux, the French Culture Minister, to preserve the Villa Savoie, designed by Le Corbusier in 1930.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Smith is survived by two sons, G. E. Kidder Smith Jr. of Brunswick, Me., and Hopkinson Smith of Basel, Switzerland.