Léon Krier made a name for himself in the 1980s and 1990s by lampooning Modernist architectural theories with a series of cartoon-like drawings published in in the influential academic journal Architectural Design. Like many 20th century Paper Architects, Mr. Krier, a native of Luxembourg, financed his broadsides as a peripatetic professor of architecture. He later picked up the endorsement of the Prince of Wales, not a bad Patron for Krier who, until he became the new Court Architect, had never built a thing.
Although historians would lump him together with the Post-Modern Movement, Krier held most of those practitioners in contempt, styling himself a Classicist. I’ve never been sure what a Classicist is, since the term encompasses 19th Century Neo-Classicism, Historicist Post Modernism, the belief that all good architecture ended with the Baroque … and many other points of view. Although Krier’s stylistic themes are rooted in ancient Greek and Roman architecture, he is fundamentally a Humanist theorist. That is to say, he is in opposition to that which is of an inhuman scale, as is so often found in his favorite punching bag, Modernist architecture. His non-polemic designs are made with beautiful proportions, he chooses materials at the human scale, and most of all his designs are actually meant to be lived in.
A benefit to designing purely theoretical architectural is that it never has to deal with the messiness of the real world. It is easy to decree that there will be no automobiles in one’s own world. Also that there will be no need for garbage disposal, power generation, factories,and the like.
Until very recently, Krier has successfully avoided all contact with reality in his theoretical work. As Court Architect and Town Planner for Prince Charles, it is interesting to see how he confronts the reality of motorized transportation.
Here he deals with cars in the standard manner of hiding them from all public view when parked, and banning them from streets when not parked. Personally I was hoping for something a little more creative.
I don’t disagree with much of what Krier and his more talented real-architect brother Rob Krier have to say about the breakdown of the built environment. But for utopian urbanism my feelings lie more in alignment with those of Berkeley urbanist Christopher Alexander and the late Egyptian vernacular urbanist Dr. Hassan Fathy. Both dealt with the messiness of everyday life inseparable from the rigors of good design at the building and city levels. And both took care not to be too obnoxious in their theoretical presentations – after all you only get so far by insulting your probable future clients.