Léon Krier

Léon Krier

Best known as the architect of the Prince of Wales’s model town of Poundbury in Dorset, England and as the intellectual godfather of the New Urbanism movement in the U.S., Mr. Krier believes architecture should not be left to architects alone. He says the world is paying a high price for abandoning architecture to the whims of experts, forsaking a healthy urban effect through the creation of viable communities in favor of fleeting fashion. His views have inspired many notable people—architecture professionals and amateurs alike—to pursue a better built environment.

Noted architect and town planner Andres Duany experienced the transforming power of Mr. Krier’s ideas at a lecture that changed the course of his career. “Krier gave a powerful talk about traditional urbanism, and after a couple of weeks of real agony and crisis I realized I couldn’t go on designing these fashionable tall buildings, which were fascinating visually, but didn’t produce any healthy urban effect. They wouldn’t affect society in a positive way,” Mr. Duany says. “The prospect of instead creating traditional communities where our plans could actually make someone’s daily life better really excited me. Krier introduced me to the idea of looking at people first, and to the power of physical design to change the social life of a community.”

Mr. Krier has taught architecture and town planning at the Royal College of Arts, London; Princeton University; the University of Virginia and Yale University. He is a founding trustee of the New School for Traditional Architecture & Urbanism in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Krier’s honors include the Jefferson Memorial Gold Medal; the Berlin Prize for Architecture; the Chicago American Institute of Architects Award; the European Culture Prize and now the inaugural Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture.

The author of several books, Mr. Krier’s Architecture: Choice or Fate was awarded the Silver Medal of the Académie Française. A native Luxembourger who lived in London for 20 years, he currently makes his home in southern France.


 

Introduction by Michael Lykoudis 

The inaugural award ceremony for The Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical architecture was held on March 22 in Louis Sullivan’s Stock Exchange Trading Room now installed at the Art Institute of Chicago. Over 400 supporters of architecture and the built environment, distinguished scholars, practitioners and lay persons joined the faculty and students of the School of Architecture and the officers of the University of Notre Dame. This group braved world events to come from all four corners of the nation as well as from overseas to participate and share in the giving of the award to Léon Krier. Richard H. Driehaus and Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, presented Léon Krier with the $100,000 prize and the model of the Choregic Monument of Lysikrates that accompanied it. Demetri Porphyrios spoke movingly of his friend’s accomplishments while Vincent Scully, Andres Duany, David Watkin and others who were unable to make the trip sent messages of congratulations and support that contributed to the festive atmosphere. This was an important event for architecture. It was a day that we celebrated excellence in contemporary architecture and the return of traditional ideas to the mainstream culture of society and the arts.

Convening two months before, at the headquarters of Driehaus Capital Management in Chicago were Thomas Fisher, Dean at the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota and former editor of Progressive Architecture; Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Miami; Jaquelin Robertson, principal of Cooper Robertson in New York; Richard H. Driehaus and myself. The jury began its deliberations by outlining the criteria for placing names on the list of possible candidates. Among these were significant contributions to three areas of work: 

1) Theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of contemporary classicism in the form of written work. 
2) Teaching in academic or professional settings. 
3) Built work that reflected the ideas of the candidates and were emblematic of 
contemporary classicism. 

Léon Krier stood out as one of the earliest advocates for classicism and its relationship to the urban environment. He has taught a significant number of contemporary classicism’s leaders not only directly in the classroom but also through his writings and by example of his built work. Léon Krier’s work transcends cultures. The principles he espouses produce buildings and cities that are about locality with respect to a region’s available materials, patterns of circulation, culture and symbolic meanings. The principles that he has espoused has produced beautiful buildings in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Léon Krier’s built work is also completely at home in the 21st century being derived as a true ecological project that challenges contemporary attitudes in disciplines that affect the built environment and go beyond architecture.

His work has served not only as a critique of form but of the very nature of how we build and live together. He has challenged us to examine the kind of disposable society we are promoting and to find sustainable methods of organizing our cities and building our buildings. His executed and theoretical work in urban design gives us concrete examples of the kind of pedestrian proximities and densities that make sustainable cities. Walking 10 minutes, he reminds us, makes a great deal more sense than driving a 3,000-pound car 20 miles per day to run our errands. His promotion of the traditional city with its formal hierarchies has given us a renewed aspect of accessibility, that of aesthetic accessibility, that speaks of a public architecture and urban space that is the product of common sense principles of construction and urban design. He has advocated the use of pitch roofs that do not leak, of durable traditional materials that have low-embodied energy and long life, and of beautiful interior and exterior spaces that elevate our soul. He has done these things without allowing his personal expression to overwhelm the character of his buildings so that they cannot commune with their surrounding structures or natural environment. While Léon Krier’s architecture and urban designs do have their own distinctive character, this is not to the exclusion of their surroundings or their singular purpose.

The jury made note of all of these contributions. In the end it was the transcendence of his work on so many different aspects of society, culture and architecture that made everyone agree Léon Krier was the right choice.