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Prize winner speaks on classical architecture

Dustin VonHandorf | Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Leon Krier, renowned architect and first recipient of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture’s Richard Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture spoke Monday at Washington Hall on the subject of classical architecture and the modernist movement.

The lecture began with a brief introduction by architecture professor Richard Economakis.

“[Krier] challenged us to examine the disposable society we promote,” Economakis said.

The “disposable society” is one riddled with the confusion of modernism, he said. Krier advocates a return to the classical and traditional elements of architecture.

The dominant factor in architecture, Krier said, is a structure’s surrounding geography. “[Architecture is] the response of the human psyche and human needs to the geography,” he said.

As proof of this point, he included references to the similitude of all buildings in mountain ranges and those in river valleys.

During the course of the lecture, he spoke of what he called the tragic demise of classical architecture, saying that he believes that modernism is too contradictory and confusing. Modernism, he said, dictates that buildings should be built in “the spirit of the time.” However, Krier said that the spirit of the time is only known in the long run.

He said that he witnessed the destructive effect of the modernist movement first-hand while living in Luxembourg.

Krier’s most prominent work is the town of Poundbury in Dorset, England. He has also written many books, including Architecture: Choice or Fate.

Known as the godfather of the New Urbanist style of architecture, he was presented with the Driehaus Prize for his works, both written and architectural, as well as the teaching positions he has held throughout his career.

The Driehaus Prize is presented to the person who makes a significant contribution to the field of classical architecture. Krier is the first person to receive the award, which was bestowed on March 22, 2003.