Krier on the people’s choice

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Bomber Command Memorial, in London. (Sky News)

Leon Krier argues that people should be permitted to prefer architecture they like, and dismisses modernists who browbeat the public for the alleged ignorance it expresses in disliking their work. His latest piece in BD, Britain’s building design journal, is “People have to be brainwashed to appreciate the Soutbank or Robin Hood Gardens.”

How true! Most architects, designers, artists, and critics in those fields, and their assorted camp followers, have had their appreciation of beauty purged by their educations or their careerism. Most people not involved in such fields, who allow their opinions of buildings to be influenced mostly by how they feel those buildings look, actually have a sounder basis for clear and penetrating judgment of architecture.  Krier writes:

Historical places and traditional aesthetics are endearing to people generally, not because of “history” – “culture” ­– “memory” – “power” but simply for their self-evident superior quality and the enduring values they embody. Human intelligence and sensibility is spontaneously seduced and convinced by objects that are meaningful and beautiful, without explanation or justification and independent of time, location and ideology.

To that I would only add that scientific research has found much evidence that traditional taste is reinforced by the deepest human biological  and neurological traits. It turns out that nature does have an opinion. I like Nikos Salingaros’s suggestion that in furiously resisting such evidence, let alone the public’s preference, modern architecture behaves like a cult.

It was difficult to choose which of his article’s nine paragraphs to quote. Beware, however, of the introductory line (not the headline), probably written by the BD editor. It says that “modernists have no right to judge” people’s taste. That is not so. Modernists have a right to oppose and even to ridicule people’s taste, but no right to prevent people from expressing their taste – which they attempt to do all the time.

Hats off to John Massengale for sending Krier’s brief essay from BD to the TradArch list.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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