During the 1980s and ’90s, much of what counted as deep thought in architecture amounted to a war for mind- and marketshare between postmodernists like Peter Eisenman and neotraditionalists like Léon Krier. Over the years, the neo-trads won the mass residential market with their comfort-food approach to style and planning, while the pomos captured the bastions of academia and high culture with complex digital forms and post-structuralist theories.
Like Eisenman, Krier is more famous as a provocateur than as a builder; the sketch is his sword, and it seldom fails to prick. Krier’s latest book, the pocket-sized Drawing for Architecture (MIT Press; $24.95), reproduces some of his most famous doodles from past decades: scathingly funny swipes at the architectural avant-garde, passion pleas for human-scale urbanism, and alarming attempts to restore the reputation of Nazi classicist Albert Speer.
Drawing for Architecture would be a mere greatest-hits collection except that Krier includes several new drawings in support of energy conservation and environmental stewardship, along with a foreword by peak oil agitator James Howard Kunstler. Now that the profession has set aside the style wars of past decades and taken up sustainability for the future, Krier obviously is proclaiming, like a latter-day Constantine, his own conversion to the green: In hoc signo vinces. It’s less obvious whether Krier’s new faith is true, or just politically expedient.