Architect and town planner Léon Krier is a staunch defender of the Classical models of architecture, eschewing the glass skyscrapers of Mies van der Rohe’s Modernism, and teaching the theories that shaped the New Urbanism movement. Krier’s publications shift the discourse on what is important to community, what makes a city successful, and why traditional buildings will stand the test of time.
“I am an architect, because I don’t build.” — Léon Krier
Spotlight on Léon Krier
Léon Krier was born in Luxembourg on April 7, 1946. Krier has an older brother called Rob Krier, who is also an architect.
Krier was interested in the visions of Modernist architects like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, and entered the University of Stuttgart, Germany, to study architecture. However, through study, Krier began to notice holes in Modernist theory and instead looked towards the Classical genre of buildings. After only one year, he abandoned his studies and moved to London in 1968 to work for James Stirling. Moving on, Krier became a prominent critic of architectural Modernism.
Starting in the 1970s, Krier became an influential architect and planner, as well as a prominent critic of modern architecture. He worked lecturing and teaching architecture at the Architectural Association and the Royal College of Arts in London, and at Princeton, Virginia and Yale in the USA.
Krier talks powerfully about traditional urbanism, eschewing the fashion for tall buildings and instead creating town plans that follow traditional models of social community. He looks to the reconstruction of the “European” cities to create better cities in the future. Krier believes a city should not be split into zoning, but by mixing housing alongside shopping, industry and leisure. In placing these buildings side by side you reduce car and commuter dependency.
Krier has published several books on his architecture theories, usually accompanied by his satirical drawings on the subject. Of his most known, Drawing for Architecture, The Architecture of Community and Houses, Palaces, Cities showcase Krier’s theories and outlines methods of practice.
After a meeting with Charles, Prince of Wales, Krier created the masterplan and worked as a consultant from 1988 to develop the new town of Poundbury, in Dorset, England. The town sits on land controlled by the Prince, who was excited by the idea of New Urbanism, and wanted to see it in practice. The town receives praise and criticism from architects, and is still growing.
I do not build
Often quoted as having said “I do not build because I am an architect,” Krier implies that building is the destruction of the traditional European city. Traditional architecture “comprises two complementary disciplines, vernacular building on the one hand, classical or monumental architecture on the other.”
Léon Krier continues teaching, writing, drawing and designing. One of his battles is to shift the focus of the word Modern, to remind people that Modernist is a movement while freeing up the space for modern (and contemporary) architecture to make room for traditional forms. He is working on a book Le Corbusier After Le Corbusier and overseeing the development of two new urban areas of Guatemala City, as well as Herencia de Allende, in Central Mexico in addition to work at Poundbury. Krier’s theories, meanwhile, continue to be discussed and dissected! Only time will tell how the battle for Modernist vs Traditionalist architecture fares in the coming decades.
What do you think of Léon Krier’s work?
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