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Bridge pavilion, Pforzheim, Germany, by Robert and Léon Krier

Léon Krier (born 7 April 1946 in Luxembourg City) is an architect, architectural theorist and urban planner. From the late 1970s onwards (but especially during the 1980s) Krier has been one of the most influential neo-traditional architects and planners. He is best known for his development of Poundbury 'village' in Dorchester, UK for the Prince of Wales. In campaigning for the reconstruction of the traditional "European" city model, he has had a great influence on the New Urbanism movement, especially in the USA.

To date, apart from a temporary façade at the 1980 Venice Biennale, some minor alterations to private homes, and a bridge pavilion (picture) the only buildings designed by Krier to actually be built is a house in the resort village of Seaside, Florida, USA (where he also advised on the masterplan) and the Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center on the campus of the University of Miami in Miami, Florida. Indeed, in keeping with his uncompromising anti-modernist attitude, Krier has stated: “I am an architect, because I don’t build.”[1]

Léon Krier was married to artist Rita Wolff (who sometimes made paintings based on her husband's urban visions), and now lives in Provence.

Léon Krier is the younger brother of architect Rob Krier.



Krier began to study architecture at the University of Stuttgart, Germany, in the mid-1960s, but then gave it up in 1969 to go and work in the office of architect James Stirling in London, UK. Krier then spent 20 years in England, working for Stirling for three years, and later teaching at the Architectural Association and Royal College of Art. In 1987-90 Krier was the first director of the SOMAI, the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Architectural Institute, in Chicago.

Though Krier is well-known for his defence of classical architecture and the reconstruction of traditional “European city” models, close scrutiny of his work in fact shows a shift from an early Modernist rationalist approach (project for University of Bielefeld, 1968) to an increasingly more Postmodernist and ultimately more classical approach. The project that marked a major turning point in his campaigning attitude towards the reconstruction of the traditional European city was his scheme (unrealised) for the 'reconstruction' of his home city of Luxembourg (1978), in response to continued modernization of the city.

On architecture and the city

The principle behind Krier’s writings has been to explain the rational foundations of architecture and the city, stating that “In the language of symbols, there can exist no misunderstanding”. That is to say, for Krier, buildings have a rational order and typology: a house, a palace, a temple, a campanile, a church; but also a roof, a column, a window, etc., what he terms “nameable objects”. As projects get bigger, he goes on to argue, the buildings should not get bigger, but divide up; thus, for instance, in his unrealised scheme for a school in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (1978), France, the school became a “city in miniature”. In searching for such a typological architecture, Krier’s work has been termed “an architecture without a style”. However, it has also been pointed out that the appearance of his architecture is very much like Roman architecture, which he then places in all his projects, be it central London, Stockholm, Tenerife or Florida.”[2]

On the development of the city

Krier has written a number of short texts − many first published in the journal Architectural Design during the 1980s, often in his own hand-writing in the form of series of didactic annotated diagrams − against modernist town planning and its concern for dividing up the city into a system of zones (housing, shopping, industry, leisure, etc.), as well as the resultant suburbia, commuting, etc. Indeed, Krier sees the modern planner as a tyrannical figure.[3]


A selection of manifesto texts by Léon Krier

  • The idea of reconstruction
  • Critique of zoning
  • Town and country
  • Critique of the megastructural city
  • Critique of industrialisation
  • Urban components
  • The city within the city – Les Quartiers
  • The size of a city
  • Critique of Modernisms
  • Organic versus mechanical composition
  • Names and nicknames
  • Building and architecture
  • The reconstruction of the European city
  • What is an urban quartier? Form and legislation

The size of the city

Krier agreed with the viewpoint of architect Heinrich Tessenow that there was a strict relationship between the economic and cultural wealth of a city on the one hand and the limitation of its population on the other. But this was not a matter of mere hypothesis, he argued, but historical fact. The measurements and geometric organization of a city and of its quarters are never the result of chance or accident or simply of economic necessity, but rather an order of a city and its quarters constitute the area which is not only aesthetic and technical but also moral and legislative.

Krier claims, for instance, that “the whole of Paris is a pre-industrial city which still works, because it is so adaptable, which the new creations of the 20th century will never be. A city like Milton Keynes cannot survive an economic crisis, or any other kind of crisis, because it is planned as a mathematically determined social and economic project. If that model collapses, the city will collapse with it.” Thus Krier argues not merely against the contemporary modernist city (he in fact argues that places like Los Angeles, U.S., are not cities), but against a tendency in urban growth, evident in the growing scale in urban blocks in European cities throughout the 19th century, which was a result of the concentration of economic, political and cultural power.[4] In response to this, Krier proposed the reconstruction of the European city, based on human scale, with size determined not by zoning and transport routes, but by artisan industries, neighbourhood quartiers, and that one should be able to walk from one end of the quartier to the other within ten minutes.

Krier has applied his theories in several large-scale, detailed plans for cities in the Western world, including: Kingston upon Hull (1977), Rome (1977), Luxembourg (1978), West Berlin (1980-83), Bremen (1980), Stockholm (1981), Poing Nord, Munich (1983), Washington D.C, (1984), Atlantis, Tenerife (1988) and Poundbury (1989).

A selection of publications

  • Léon Krier. Houses, Palaces, Cities. Edited by Demetri Porphyrios, Architectural Design, 54 7/8, 1984.
  • Léon Krier Drawings 1967-1980, Bruxelles, AAM Editions, 1981
  • Léon Krier: Architecture & Urban Design 1967-1992, Chicester, John Wiley & Sons, 1993
  • Architecture: Choice or Fate, London, Andreas Papadakis Publishers, 1998.

External links


  1. ^ Ian Latham, "Léon Krier. A Profile....", Architectural Design, vol. 57, no 1/2, 1987, p.37
  2. ^ Charles Jencks, “Post-Modernism and Eclectic Continuity”, Architectural Design, vol. 57, no 1/2, 1987, 25
  3. ^ Leon Krier; 'Houses, Palaces, Cities', Architectral Design, London, 54, 7/8, 1984.
  4. ^ Leon Krier, “Urban Components”, Architectural Design, vol. 54, no 7/8, 1984, p.43


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