The Polemical Doodles of Léon Krier, the Intellectual Godfather of New Urbanism

Drawn with wit and grace, Krier's clever sketches reveal scandalous elements of architectural practices and ideology.
By: Léon Krier

In addition to my architectural and urban projects, I produce a great number of doodles, ideograms that are the subject of this volume. They are not a natural occupation; they only come to me in discontinuous, short, and generally angry bursts. They often sum up in one or two images what I had been previously trying to articulate in projects, writings, or speech. The first of such outbreaks came in 1980 after a protracted writing sweat, when in a few days I summarized two hundred pages of text in approximately the same number of ideograms. These have mostly a stringent undertone; they are, in fact, counterattacks against endured aggressions, absurdities, and paradoxes, with which life is so richly endowed.

The introduction and selection of drawings featured in this article are culled from Léon Krier’s book “Drawing for Architecture.”

Raw and without circumlocution, these ideograms are means not to console or please but to reveal scandalous elements of architectural practices and ideology; they outline conceptual tools for refounding traditional urbanism and architecture. It is well known that actions cause reactions mostly of an unexpected or unintended kind. What will win as the end of human activities, of fulfilled or frustrated lives? The good or the bad, the right or the wrong, the intelligent or the stupid? Evidently neither human nor artificial intelligence gains notable insight into ultimate issues.

We can, however, no longer ignore that in matters of settlement, building, and energy policies, industrial civilization is engaged in a tragic impasse. We now generally build in the wrong places, in the wrong patterns, materials, types, densities, and heights, and for the wrong number of dwellers.

In my opinion, the traditional architecture and building and settlement techniques of the pre– fossil fuel age represent the operative tools of global ecological reconstruction. It is the condition of nature that will, as in the past, redefine our development possibilities. These doodles may help to point our thinking in that direction.







Léon Krier is an architect and urbanist who has taught at the Architectural Association, the Royal College of Arts, the University of Virginia, and Princeton and Yale Universities and has been an architectural consultant to the Prince of Wales since 1988. He is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture and Jefferson Memorial Gold Medal. This article was adapted from Krier’s book “Drawing for Architecture.”

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