With the kind permission of Strelka Press, we publish an essay on Leon Kriya from the book by pubicist and director of the London Design Museum Dejan Sudzic "B as Bauhaus: The ABC of the Modern World", published by Strelka Press.
Léon Crieux has devoted much of his professional life to making architecture deviate from its current path. Some consider his ideas deeply reactionary, others - iconoclastic, but essentially optimistic. One way or another, these ideas equally expose aspects of modernity hated by the Kriya, and offer them an alternative.
Outwardly, Kriee does not really look like an architect. Most of the representatives of this species dress in all black, adhering to, albeit slightly outdated, but still dominant in their environment, the Yoji Yamamoto style. On the other hand, Kriye's wardrobe is rich in linen, he wears thin-rimmed glasses, wide-brimmed hats and neckerchiefs - all this is usually associated with secondary characters in the films of the Merchant Ivory company, shot based on literary classics. His hairstyle is most appropriate to compare with a bird's nest; in general, there is something of a priest in his manner. However, for all the outward softness of Krieux, he is still a real architect: he is merciless in disputes, and his influence is by no means limited to the small, albeit growing number of projects he has implemented. Kriee formulates his theoretical declarations with the intonations of a fundamentalist - in them echoes of his Marxist past are heard and the passion of a neophyte is felt. Its two main enemies are consumerism and modernism, which are embodied in a typical modern city lost in the desert of business parks, and endless suburban areas with works of modern architecture sticking out here and there, aggressively protruding themselves. Kriye extols the modesty of a traditional city - a world of well-planned, beautiful, but not pretentious streets, where from time to time, but always in place, a monument in the classical style appears. He sees no obstacles to creating spaces today that are comparable in quality to the central districts of Oxford, Prague or Ljubljana, although the validity of such optimism raises certain doubts.
The scale of Krie's polemical talents can be judged by the fact that he was able to elevate his personal views to the rank of the official architectural policy of both the future king of England and the mayor of Rome. The foreword to his recently published book was written by Robert Stern, a former board member of the Disney Corporation and now dean of the Yale School of Architecture, and the author of the project for the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Texas. Krie's students are scattered all over the world from Florida to Romania. He is the founding father of what his followers in the United States call "new urbanism": in Britain, this concept was embodied primarily in the urban planning initiative of the Prince of Wales - the town of Poundbury, located in the vicinity of Dorchester. Kriee does not take prisoners in verbal battles and, obviously, does not accept any compromises.
Krieux is definitely not afraid to go against fashion. His most dubious architectural hero is Albert Speer, about whom he wrote a lot and who he proclaimed as the last great hope of classical urbanism. In the eyes of Krie, Speer is the tragic victim of Nuremberg, who ended up in Spandau prison for her love of Doric columns. The far more destructive talent of Werner von Braun, the creator of the V-2 missiles, was deemed useful enough by the Allies to quietly take him to the States, where he led a research project that eventually gave the world the cruise missiles and Predator drones.
“Speer's projects continue to evoke in architects almost the same feigned horror that sex causes in a virgin … The current inability to reasonably perceive this phenomenon in no way characterizes the architecture of National Socialism, but says a lot about the moral decline in the profession, which, on the one hand, by all by hook or by crook tries to prove that modernist architecture is better than it looks, and on the other hand, it claims that Nazi architecture is deeply disgusting, no matter how good it looks."
In his youth, Leon Krieux argued that any architect with principles must melancholyly abandon the very idea of building anything. "In our time, a responsible architect cannot build anything … Building today means only making a feasible contribution to the self-destruction of a civilized society." Working on real projects was for him tantamount to complicity in the crime of the century, namely, the destruction of a traditional European city. “I create Architecture,” he said in the 1970s, “precisely because I’m not building anything. I do not build because I am an Architect."
However, now Kriee decided that it was time to establish contact with the world, and came up with a set of instructions, following which self-destruction can be stopped. “After years of unfulfilled promises and experiments, none of which succeeded, the situation in the suburbs has become critical, and now we just have to look for practical solutions. In fact, these solutions have already been found, but modernist prejudices, leading to the emergence of ideological and psychological barriers, obviously make us ignore and reject these traditional solutions, or even believe that they have discredited ourselves."
Here, of course, we are dealing not only with Krie, who decided to change tactics, but also with Krie, who is trying to moderate his hatred of the world around him. But even when he is in a conciliatory mood, there is an incriminating intensity in his speeches. He declares the activities of his opponents to be "nonsense, which has no justification." Even if they are busy with something as simple as designing street lighting, Krieu declares their standards "insane." “The very idea of replacing all the brilliant diversity of the world of traditional architecture with one single international style is a dangerous madness,” he writes, and it is difficult to disagree with him, but since there is hardly a person who will come up with such a proposal, Krie's remark seems superfluous. At the same time, features of family resemblance are easy to notice in his own works - for example, in an imposing assembly hall in Florida and in projects for the Italian city of Alexandria.
Krieu set out to create a textbook on New Urbanism. "Insufficiently clear word usage, confusion of terms and extensive use of meaningless professional jargon stand in the way of clear architectural and environmental thinking … Now I will define some of the most important concepts and concepts." (Hey, back seat!) “The concepts of 'modern' and 'modernist' are constantly confused. The first indicates a length of time, the second is an ideological definition, "he notes, wanting to demonstrate that the reactionary nature of his views is not hopeless, that he is not at all against high-speed cars and is ready to deftly paint on the silver four-rotor Super Constellation aircraft to the Washington reconstruction plan, sustained a classic style that would have come to power President Lindbergh's liking from Philip Roth's novel Conspiracy Against America. [Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) was a famous American pilot who distinguished himself in the second half of the 1930s for his isolationist and Germanophilic views. In Philip Roth's novel, he is inferred as the victorious leader of the American Nazis.]
Krieu believes in typology. We know what the church should look like, so we don't have to reinvent it every time. We are perfectly able to create new architectural typologies when and if we need it - for example, a railway station or even, with some delay, an airport; Kriet speaks quite favorably of the departure area at the new terminal at Paris-Charles de Gaulle and the work that Cesar Pelli has done in Washington.
Krie's hatred is directed towards innovation for the sake of innovation itself, although the same considerations have always been guided by Mies van der Rohe, who wanted to create good, not interesting, architecture.
“In traditional cultures, invention, innovation and discovery are the means to modernize the proven and practical systems of life, thinking, planning, building and representation … All these means serve to achieve a specific goal - to comprehend, comprehend and preserve a lasting, reliable, practical, beautiful and humane world.."
In modernist cultures, according to Kriya, everything is the other way around: "Here invention, innovation and discovery are the goal in themselves … In traditional cultures, imitation is a way of producing similar but unique things." In Kriye's understanding, "traditional architecture is formed by two complementary disciplines - local building culture and classical or monumental architecture."
Krieux not only offers us definitions, but also shares some insightful observations - for example, he notes that there is much more architecture in low houses with high ceilings than in tall houses with low ceilings. He also provides clear instructions for calculating the correct ratio of public and private spaces in a city: 70 percent of public spaces is too much, 25 percent is too small. What makes all these instructions digestible is that he provides them with striking illustrations of sometimes unforgettable beauty. They often show the extraordinary wit that characterized Contrasts by Augustus Welby Pugin, the celebrated defender of the "true principles of Archery, or Christian, architecture"]. The calligraphic style of the signatures seems to have been borrowed from the baby elephant Babar [Hero of the illustrated children's book "The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant" (1931) by the French writer Jean de Brunoff], and the format itself is largely spied on in Le Corbusier's polemic treatise Towards Architecture. Everything that Creet and Le Corbusier do not like is crossed out with large crosses, and when something IMPORTANT needs to be said, they both switch to capital letters. In general, this constant alignment with Le Corbusier suggests the importance of the psychological factor for understanding the professional path of Léon Crieux.
Criet, born and raised in Luxembourg, describes how one day they went with their whole family to Marseille to see Le Corbusier's Housing Unit. As a teenager, he, in his own words, fell in love with the work of Le Corbusier from photographs. But when he finally had a chance to see the Unit with his own eyes, she terrified him, turning out to be a lunatic asylum made of striped concrete. What promised to be a transcendental experience turned out to be a deception. Krie himself considers this a turning point in his biography. Undoubtedly, his hostility to modernism developed precisely from these disappointed expectations. Dozens of years after the Marseilles journey, he will even make a touching attempt to save his fallen Lucifer. While teaching at Yale University, Creet will invite students to redesign the dazzling white Villa Savoy, retaining the energy of Le Corbusier's plan and composition, but using traditional materials and building methods.
Whatever happened to Kriya in Marseilles, it did not prevent him from going to London in 1968 and working for six years in the workshop of James Stirling. Stirling is often called the greatest British architect of the 20th century, but he was definitely not one of the favorites of the Prince of Wales. On the contrary, Cambridge enthusiasts, who shared His Highness's architectural views, did their best to destroy the history department library built by Stirling. And the office building No. 1 Poultry built by Stirling, which uses many of the compositional principles characteristic of Kriee's work, was nevertheless criticized by the prince in terms almost as harsh as the squat glass of Mies van der Rohe, which was going to be erected on this site earlier.
Stirling's proficiency in pen and ink was exploited throughout the years of their collaboration. In a corner of a promising sketch for the Olivetti training center, Kriee positioned the massive figure of his boss, seated on a chair by Thomas Hope, whose work Stirling had collected. Krieux contributed greatly to the competition design for the new downtown area in Derby. Stirling lost then, but his version involved building a large-scale semicircular gallery and preserving the classic facade of the existing city meeting house, which, however, was planned to be turned into a flat decoration and tilted at an angle of 45 degrees. Finally, Creet compiled Stirling's complete works, for which he took Le Corbusier's Oeuvre complète. Obviously, Krie's mindset did not change immediately. In the 1970s, he still admitted that the Sainsbury center, built by Norman Foster in steel and aluminum and was a cross between an airplane hangar and a Greek temple, made a stronger impression on him than he himself expected.
After leaving Stirling, Creet began teaching at the Architectural Association, a private institution of higher education that was perceived in 1970s London as an informal opposition to the faded mainstream of British architecture. He developed almost the same contempt for his chosen profession as Rem Koolhaas, another architect who was morbidly obsessed with Le Corbusier and, by chance, taught at the Association during those years. But if Kriee came to the conclusion that no self-respecting architect who does not want to tarnish his conscience should build anything, then Koolhaas ridiculed the sentimentality and impotence of architects who were able to oppose the wave of business parks and megamalls that swept the whole world, only reclusive. autistic immersion in issues related to the accuracy of the fit of the doors to the jamb or the width of the gap between the floorboards and the plastered wall hanging over them. In search of a way out, Koolhaas challenged the very possibility of the existence of architecture. The physical, material possibilities of architecture, it seems, did not interest him or Krie. But if Krieux was as horrified by modernity as William Morris, Koolhaas got rid of this feeling by raising on his shield a nightmarish image of what he himself called "trash space" - the soft underbelly of shopping malls, vast warehouses and airport terminals.
While working for the Architectural Association, both of them happened to be the teachers of Zaha Hadid. Instead of building, Kriye fought a guerrilla war against modern urban planning and architecture for twenty years. He wanted to pave the way for cities rooted in the traditions of the past.
Since then, both Koolhaas and Kriye have managed to change their approach. Koolhaas met Miuccia Prada and the director of the Chinese state television company CCTV, and Kriee ended up at the court of the Prince of Wales. And now, Kriee believes, the world is ready to listen to him. He is clearly confident that he was able to turn the tide of history. One more, one last shot, and it will be over. In the discussion of urban planning, he seems to have already won. All that remains is to deal with the glass skyscrapers and exhibitionism of the current generation of architectural stars:
“Modernism denies everything that constitutes the usefulness of architecture - roofs, load-bearing walls, columns, arches, vertical windows, streets, squares, comfort, grandeur, decorativeness, craftsmanship, history and tradition. The next step, of course, must be denying this denial. A few years ago, neo-modernists were forced to admit that when working with urban fabric, nothing can truly replace traditional streets and squares. Nonetheless, they continue to deny traditional architecture, using the same hackneyed arguments used to justify the denial of traditional town planning yesterday."
In the war against the modernists, Krieux spares no one, but if we compare his ideas - everything he says about busy streets and vibrant public spaces - with those of Richard Rogers, who passionately promotes street cafes and covered passages, then, to our surprise, we find that, in fact, there is no contradiction between them.
Creet has worked with clients ranging from the developers of the utopian seaside seaside resort in Florida to the Prince of Wales, for whom he prepared the master plan for the new settlement of Poundbury; he worked for the municipalities of Italian and Romanian cities and for Lord Rothschild, and Sir Stuart Lipton commissioned him to redevelop the Spitalfields market in London. Even I was his customer, to be sure. When I worked as editor for Blueprint magazine, my colleague Dan Crookshank and I asked Krieux to prepare a blueprint for the redevelopment of London's South Bank. [Stretching along the south bank of the Thames, an ensemble of London's most important cultural institutions, including the Tate Modern, the Royal Festival Hall, the British Film Institute and the Globe Theater. The National Theater and Hayward Gallery buildings located there are among the most famous examples of British brutalism.]. He proposed to hide the National Theater behind a jumble of Palladian facades - and was the first modern urban planner to put the word “quarter” back into circulation, which later became very popular with developers.
Kriee's obsession with Speer's works can be partly perceived as a provocation, but to prove that classicism is not necessarily associated with authoritarian regimes is one thing, but to launch a campaign against the "barbaric destruction" of Speer's street lamps (and this is how Krieux perceived an attempt to demolish Speer succeeded in realizing something completely different from his plan to turn Berlin into the "Capital of the World Germany").
Krieux's sympathies for Nazi architecture (which he now barely displays), of course, cannot devalue his views. He himself notes that Mies van der Rohe made every effort to obtain an order from Hitler for the design of the Reichsbank building, and participated in the competition for the construction of the German pavilion for the World Exhibition in Brussels: a minimalist project of glass and steel was sustained in the same manner. like the German pavilion in Barcelona, only now an eagle and a swastika were supposed to appear on the flat roof. But it never occurs to anyone to call Mies a Nazi, and the Seagram Building is an example of Nazi architecture.
But Kriee's enthusiasm for the nefarious Berlin reconstruction plan that Speer devised for Hitler - with wide boulevards for triumphal processions and a monstrous Hall of the People - perhaps testifies to the naivety and inexperience that he could not shake off. In his book Community Architecture, on page 18, you can see three heads drawn by the author, supposedly idealized, harmonious images of representatives of the European, African and Asian races. All three portraits are of equal value and are united by the signature "True pluralism". On the same page, another drawing is presented - a face in which the characteristics of all three races are roughly combined; the caption reads "False Pluralism." Can such an experienced polemicist really fail to understand the possibility of what dubious readings lies in such a composition?
The Prince of Wales loved to surround himself with a swarm of architectural advisors. Most of them were later retired one by one for inappropriate self-promotion. Krie is a serious figure, and no one has dismissed him; on the contrary, if the rumor is to be believed, he had to be persistently persuaded not to leave when he fell into despair that the principles laid down by him were being washed out of the Poundbury project.
Kriye's architecture is powerful and resourceful. He was light-years ahead of the feeble neo-Palladian Quinlan Terry, not to mention the hulking Robert Adam, or John Simpson, or even his own brother Rob Cree, also an architect.
In his projects, Krieu uses traditional elements, but adds new, unusual combinations from them. They do not impress because they impersonate something that they are not. The point is precisely in their inherent strength and energy, in the quality of the spatial experiences they cause, in that deep mind that we distinguish behind the sophisticated manipulations of Krie with architectural details.
The Seaside Resort in Florida was designed by two of Krie's students, Andres Duani and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Being the set of the movie "The Truman Show", Seaside presented a real gift to all those who saw in him only a nostalgic eccentricity that has nothing to do with the real world.
Although you will never learn it from Krie, the way our cities look and function is determined not only by the decisions of architects. The city is a product of the economic and political system, its fate depends on population growth, on the level of prosperity and poverty, on the development of transport and the work of road engineers. But Krie and his patrons hardly think about such things. Such a narrowness of views strengthens our hero in the consciousness of his own significance, which, apparently, forms the basis of the mental structure of all architects, and not only modernists. In the militant humility of Kriya, most likely there is no humility at all.