Krier on designer hypocrisy

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Old town of Luxembourg City, with its modern city center on horizon. (Spectator)

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Above, house where Leon Krier grew up in Luxembourg; below, building that replaced it.

Léon Krier, the architectural theorist and master planner of Prince Charles’s new town of Poundbury and of Guatemala’s new town of Cayala, commented on my recent blog post “Före och efter lådmodernism” (“Before and after box modernism”). Krier refers to Arkitekturupproret, a website involved in Sweden’s resistance to modern architecture. (The site’s title translates into “Architecture Uprising”; hit the site’s “translate” button if you read English.

Then, after discussing the primary differences among hypocrisy types, Krier laments the destruction of his home city of Luxembourg, and the appalling aesthetic blindness of its mayor. Referring to the twin before and after photos of Stockholm in my post, which originated at the Swedish website and displayed the brutality of the difference between traditional and modernist urbanism, Krier writes:

This kind of lament has been published for most cities and towns in the world. Arkitekturupproret demonstrates the growing upheaval of the in-born aesthetic sense and judgment of humans against its desensitisation through modernist brainwashing, spread via education.

Hypocrisy in matters of ethics is fundamental in maintaining good manners and peace in the routine relations and economy between individuals, families, nations, and societies in general. Hypocrisy in matters of aesthetics, however, has led to the worldwide destruction of aesthetic culture in architecture, urbanism and the fine arts since World War II.

This novel form of hypocrisy does not, in fact, alter personal judgment but the individual’s expression of it. That is why you hear educated people say, ”I don’t like that prize-winning building” or “that contemporary art object, but then I am no expert.” As if you had to be an expert to know what woman to love or what landscape to like!

The peak of perversion in the field was reached when Lydie Polver, the mayor of Luxembourg, introduced the four-volume lamento on the destruction of my once beautiful hometown, stating that the before/after illustrations demonstrated that Luxembourg had gained in beauty by its modern(ist) redevelopments.

Following his reply to my post, Krier sent a couple of photographs of recent developments in Cayala, the new traditional town outside of Guatemala City that has turned out to be very popular. But its popularity has generated further development, not always entirely positive. He writes:

In Cayala, construction has started for another 30 palacitos in the Lirios quarter. The very success of the project unfortunately drives the numbers of square footage and floors beyond my vernacular comfort limit. Only great classical design can now manage to save the overloaded ship. The 3 to 5 story walkable height limit is for me fundamental for building “The Good City.” It is a constitutional matter. Once that limit is violated, greed and hubris take over and become the master of a fatal (“urbicidal”) game.
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Here is a website with more articles by and about Leon Krier.
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Below are shots of Cayala sent by Krier. In the first shot, Krier and Hector Leal, head of the town’s lead developer, Grupo Cayala, look toward Cayala. Below is a closer view of the center of Cayala. Architects Pedro Godoy and Maria Sanchez (who took the first shot), who are natives of Guatemala and whose firm, Estudio Urbano, has led its design, are graduates of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame. The final shot of the Paseo Cayala, with Guatemala City beyond, is from the UK Guardian.
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About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. 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. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and 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 invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, 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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3 Responses to Krier on designer hypocrisy

  1. johnnorquist says:

    Cayala is beautiful. Leon and his brother add tremendous value wherever their designs are built.

    Like

  2. Anonymous says:

    Where did you find the “translate” button??

    Like

    • It was not there? I will look again. So sorry! … Turns out one must click the translate button on the Google citation, not the site itself, which lacks such a button. Warning: it takes a while, five minutes at least, either that or it was not working. I did that earlier and the translation was dodgy but comprehensible.

      Like

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