Leon Krier, School at Quentin-en-Yvelines, 1977-79.
Here is another piece of architecture accompanied by another ridiculous blurb from its architect. In this case it is an excerpt from Leon Krier—of Culot and Krier familiarity—about his proposal for a school building in France. Read the previous post about “The Only Path for Architecture” to hear Krier explain his particular brand of anti-capitalist traditionalism (as well as his blurb in the MoMA 1975 exhibit post).
“This school conforms strictly to the requirements laid down by the French Ministry of Education and Culture. It is a simple proposition, neither spectacular in its composition nor extraordinary in its construction or use of materials (stone, wood and bricks).
“After two and a half years of preparation and discussions, it was concluded that this modest school exceeded its budget by 240%. The use of natural materials would have raised the excess to 500%.
“It then became obvious that however unspecific government briefs may be in terms of aesthetics, construction and materials, school classrooms may not be higher than three meters and walls no thicker than twenty centimeters. The use of natural materials would thus be impossible.
‘That which is shabby and false must henceforth be the rule.’ From this state of affairs a thinking architect may draw two conclusions. First: ‘NOWADAYS I CANNOT BUILD BECAUSE I AM AN ARCHITECT.’ Second: ‘NOBODY WHO BUILD NOWADAYS CAN BE CALLED AN ARCHITECT.’ If it is true that the phenomena of the ephemeral, of kitsch and of self-destruction are the major products of our industrial civilization, then to be involved in building must be seen as one of the most corrupt forms of collaboration.”
Obviously Krier is upset because his project was rejected. (Let’s set aside the fact that the French Ministry of Education and Culture’s rejection of this project based on the grounds it was 240% over budget is a totally legitimate reason.) And obviously this rejection only exaggerated Krier’s already apocalyptic sense of martyrdom. Noteworthy points from this entry (and from its general presence in the anthology): Leon Krier was (and continues to be) an iconic character in New Urbanism and Neo-Traditionalism. His anti-capitalist romantic utopianism played itself out in the traditionalist projects of New Urbanism, and in his own highly historicized architectural work. This school, imaged above, looks more like a reconstruction of the 9th century Abbey of St. Gall than a typical secular school from the late 20th century. Nevertheless, his reappearance throughout the anthology so far leads me to conclude that his Neo-Traditionalism was not only a strong presence throughout the seventies, but also regularly pitted itself against the general forward thinking theorists of the postmodern era.