Drawing for Architecture
Architect Léon Krier’s doodles, drawings, and ideograms make arguments in images, without the circumlocutions of prose. Drawn with wit and grace, these clever sketches do not try to please or flatter the architectural establishment. Rather, they make an impassioned argument against what Krier sees as the unquestioned doctrines and unacknowledged absurdities of contemporary architecture. Thus he shows us a building bearing a suspicious resemblance to Norman Foster’s famous London “gherkin” as an example of “priapus hubris” (threatened by detumescence and “priapus nemesis”); he charts “Random Uniformity” (“fake simplicity”) and “Uniform Randomness” (“fake complexity”); he draws bloated “bulimic” and disproportionately scrawny “anorexic” columns flanking a graceful “classical” one; and he compares “private virtue” (modernist architects’ homes and offices) to “public vice” (modernist architects’ “creations”). Krier wants these witty images to be tools for re-founding traditional urbanism and architecture. He argues for mixed-use cities, of “architectural speech” rather than “architectural stutter,” and pointedly plots the man-vehicle-landneed ratio of “sub-urban man” versus that of a city dweller. In an age of energy crisis, he writes (and his drawings show), we “build in the wrong places, in the wrong patterns, materials, densities, and heights, and for the wrong number of dwellers”; a return to traditional architectures and building and settlement techniques can be the means of ecological reconstruction. Each of Krier’s provocative and entertaining images is worth more than a thousand words of theoretical abstraction.
About the Author
Architect and urbanist Léon Krier has taught at the Architectural Association, the Royal College of Arts, the University of Virginia, and Princeton and Yale Universities and has been an architectural consultant to the Prince of Wales since 1988. He is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture and Jefferson Memorial Gold Medal. He is the author of the award-winning Architecture: Choice or Fate and other books.
“Léon Krier makes an argument in favor of traditional urbanism which is all the more persuasive in that it is made without words. These amusing and insightful drawings help us understand the torments to which our visual, aesthetic, moral, and civic senses have been subjected by the apostles of Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe, and to recognize that it is not we but they who are to blame for the fact that we find it hard to live with modernist buildings. Krier's is a humane and gentle vision of what a city might be, and it deserves to be the more widely studied for its refusal to announce itself—as modernism announced itself—as the voice of the Zeitgeist. Krier's urbanism is timeless common sense, transcribed into drawings that leave no room for dissent.”
—Roger Scruton, writer and philosopher
“Léon Krier is our present-day Pugina master thinker and propagandist whose drawings, along with his passionate speech and writing, have changed the way we think about buildings and cities. In the tradition of Pugin, Ebenezer Howard, and Camillo Sitte, Krier issues a ‘call to order’ prompting reflection and action in defense of the city as an appropriate setting for the conduct of civilized human life. Krier’s ‘doodles’ collected here, with all their imagination, humor, and righteous indignation, offer us the most hopeful visions of architecture and urbanism visible today.”
—Steven W. Semes, Academic Director, Rome Studies Program, School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame
“Léon Krier has already influenced a generation of urban designers by finding the roots of the sustainable city in traditional architecture and urbanism. With his new book Drawing for Architecture, Krier takes the argument to the next level, exposing the emptiness of modern architectural and urban theory and practice through an inspired combination of reasoning and illustration. The book should be a required reading for architects and urbanists, as it not only teaches the power of drawing as polemic, but also provides a master class in the relationship of architecture to the city.”
—Hank Dittmar, Chief Executive, The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment