Modern classicist: Architect Leon Krier talks visionary design at DIA

Leon Krier is in Detroit, at the DIA’s Film Theatre tonight, to speak about how Detroit can envision its future city form. Mr. Krier has been a vital part of the dialog on the nature of cities since the 1970s. His work was essential to the foundation of the movement called New Urbanism.
He is currently working on projects in Guatemala, Romania, England, Belgium, Italy, France and the U.S., and is the personal adviser to the Prince of Wales (yes, Prince Charles), for whom he designed the master plan for the development of Poundbury in Dorset County, England, 1985 to present, and Chapeltown development in Newquay Cornwall, 1991 and 2003-2007.

His work has often been called anachronistic and out of touch with contemporary culture by some critics because it relies on preindustrial city models for inspiration. But the clarity of Mr. Krier’s vision and the beauty of the places he has helped create cannot be denied. His vision is an antidote to the rampant and wasteful consumer culture that constantly wants to build more, bigger and stranger places. He advocates for a slower pace, more comfortable, crafted, human-scaled cityscape that connects to the past and incorporates modern technology to support that vision.

Krier designs complete integrated cities where people live near their workplace and where you can walk shop and play without driving miles away -- such a wonderful possibility and goal. This has been achieved at Seaside, Florida, and Poundbury, England, both small scale and affluent areas. In both cases there was a strong a wealthy developer; at Puondbury it was Prince Charles and at Seaside it was Robert Davis. Both of these places are remarkable and beautiful. Is this a possibility for a place like Detroit?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, we are not ruled by a benevolent monarch that can impose a solution on our city. Our decisions are filtered through the democratic process. Here in Detroit, as we go through the most radical change any city has seen in the past 100 years, as we search for a positive way to shape the new Detroit, it makes complete sense that we should hear Mr. Krier’s clear vision, in person, so that these ideas can inform our messy and democratic planning process.

The lecture is organized by the Detroit Chapter of the American Institute of Architects with these generous sponsors, The University of Michigan Taubman School of Architecture, University of Detroit Mercy, School of Architecture, Lawrence Technological University School of Architecture and Design, the Congress for New Urbanism, and the Urban Land Institute. These institutions are clearly dedicated to betterment of the built world. It says good things about them and our community that all have have come together to make this happen.

Join us, for this free lecture at the Detroit Film Theatre (5200 Woodward Ave., Midtown Detroit's Cultural Center), to hear a possible and compelling future for Detroit. It begins at 8 p.m. 

Frank X. Arvan contributes articles and opinions on architecture and design to Model D. He is the principal architect at FX Architecture and is president elect of the Detroit chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Images of cityscape renderings courtesy of Leon Krier.
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