The architect and urban theorist Rob Krier is this year’s Driehaus Prize laureate. The first Driehaus Prize winner, two decades ago, was his brother, architect and urban theorist Leon Krier, who was also born in Luxembourg and is about eight years younger than his sibling.
Also a winner, a very big winner and for some a surprise winner, is the Driehaus Prize itself, which appears to have survived, institutionally at Notre Dame University, the sad passing just last year of namesake Richard H. Driehaus.
Along with the 2022 Driehaus, the Henry Hope Reed Award goes to Wendell Berry, the celebrated novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural theorist and farmer who came out against war in 1973.
The Reed award was named for the arch-classicist Henry Hope Reed Jr., the first hero of the classical revival, who founded and presided for many years over the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, and whose pathbreaking 1959 book on modern architecture taught many that classical architecture was not dead. The Reed prize brings its recipient a generous $50,000; but the Driehaus prize brings its recipient $200,000. That’s twice what goes to a Pritzker Prize winner. Every Driehaus winner brings more than twice the happiness and beauty to the world than any Pritzker winner, however you stack them up against each other, even though – as an illustration of the mysterious ways of the lord – the Pritzker is far more celebrated in our culture, a telling sign of its decline. The real difference between the two award programs is probably incalculable.
With that in mind, this year’s Driehaus honors a laureate whose work equals the sum total, at least, of the work of all past Pritzker winners, 43 laureates thus far. Architect and urban theorist Andrés Duany, who with his wife Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk won the sixth Driehaus in 2008, reports that modernist architects are learning more from traditional architects than traditional architects are learning from modernist architects. Good! So maybe the gap (if his reporting is accurate) will diminish in future decades. Or centuries.
Stefanos Polyzoides, dean of Notre Dame’s famous classicist architecture school and chairman of this year’s prize jury, had this to say:
Rob Krier’s built work demonstrates a mastery of fine art, design and construction. He was one of the first of his generation to dedicate his architecture to the end of generating a harmonious urban fabric and a well-formed public realm in tandem. He paved the way for a return to the humanist ideal of seeking a civilized life in cities.
And the jury citation itself reads:
Through his engagement with a variety of urban settings, clients and types of projects, Krier has generated a diverse oeuvre that is steeped in the particulars of specific places: always responsive to local cultures, built heritage and environmental issues.
In both cases, isn’t this what architects are supposed to do?
It is a measure of how far architecture as a discipline has fallen in the past century that Driehaus laureates tend to get awards for doing what every architect ought to do, ought to be expected to do, and ought to be taught to do. And yet Notre Dame is the only university in the world with thoroughly and unabashed curricula that teach what architecture ought to obviously be about. Its graduates are much more likely to get employment as architeccts than modernists, even in a field where traditional architects still have a hard time finding clients other than rich people who want attractive homes. (Are there rich people who want ugly houses? Apparently so!)
This is sad. But it is changing for the better. Eventually, the field will wrap its head around the fact that two-thirds to three-quarters of the general public prefers traditional to modernist architecture. Good! But this is crazy. Who are the one-quarter to one-third of the public who prefer modern to traditional architecture? Who are these people? I have written a brief essay considering this question for another publication. Even if they do accept it, I will write an expanded treatment of the matter for this blog.
For now, I congratulate the brothers Krier for bookending the Driehaus prize’s first vicennial.