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Alexander and Krier Receive Inaugural Athena Medals



Athena

The Athena Medal

CNU began a new awards tradition at CNU XIV. The Athena Medal is named for the goddess, defender of the city, weaver of fabric. It recognizes the legacy of pioneers who laid the groundwork for New Urbanism. The first recipients are Christopher Alexander and Léon Krier, teachers and masters for many of us.

Alexander"In looking deeply at systems in nature and society, and at human aspirations and needs and in challenging us to understand that improved methodologies for urban design are not enough, Christopher Alexander is asking us to keep the eye on the prize: the creation of enduring, organic places that can grow and deepen in complexity and character over time."

-- Hank Dittmar, Chairman of the Board, Congress for the New Urbanism

Christopher Alexander is Professor in the Graduate School and Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

He is the father of the Pattern Language movement in computer science, and A Pattern Language, a seminal work that was perhaps the first complete book ever written in hypertext fashion.

He has designed and built more than two hundred buildings on five continents: many of these buildings lay the ground work of a new form of architecture, which looks far into the future, yet has roots in ancient traditions. Much of his work has been based on inventions in technology, including concrete, shell design, and contracting procedures needed to attain a living architecture.

He was the founder of the Center for Environmental Structure in 1967, and remains President of that Company until today. In 2000, he founded PatternLanguage.com, and is Chairman of the Board. He has been a consultant to city, county, and national governments on every continent, has advised corporations, government agencies, and architects and planners throughout the world.

Alexander was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996, is a fellow of the Swedish Royal Society, has been the recipient of innumerable architectural prizes and honors including the gold medal for research of the American Institute of Architects, awarded in 1970.

He was born in Vienna, Austria in 1936. He was raised in England, and holds a Master's Degree in Mathematics and a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from Cambridge University, and a PhD in Architecture from Harvard University. In 1958 he moved to the United States, and has lived in Berkeley, California from 1963 until the present.

View Alexander Award Presentation in Archives

Krier"What Leo actually did at the crucial point in the '60s and early '70s was that he pulled the trigger and actually drew the city entire. No one for 40 years had drawn the city. The project at Lavallette was the first time that all of the elements of the city - the streets, the roads, the civic buildings, the mixed-use, the places to work - first appeared and fortunately for us in highly diagrammatic form. We had completely lost the ability to understand how a city worked, that if it were not as clear as Lavallette was, it would have flown right past us. We had really lost the language… I sometimes think that I would not have become an urbanist if I had not seen Leo's diagrams because I would never have understood how a city is made, what a city consists of."

-- Andrés Duany, Co-founder, Congress for the New Urbanism

Léon Krier studied at the Technische Hochschule, in Stuttgart (1964–5), but left after six months, dissatisfied with its modernist teaching. By the age of 20 had developed a strong and enduring belief in the classical ideal of architecture.

He worked for James Stirling in London (1968–70, 1973–4) and in between spent a period with Josef Paul Kleihues in Berlin. He taught in London at the Architectural Association School (1973–6) and Royal College of Art (1977), and he practiced in London after 1974. Under the influence of his brother he also became interested in neo-rationalist urban theory and spatial typologies. The socio-economic dimension of his polemic, which deplores the effects of industrialization upon cities, led him to seek inspiration in the urban morphology of early 19th-century neo-classical examples and to advocate a return to the concept of multi-function localities in place of 20th-century zoning, which he considered undemocratic.

His uncompromising attitudes left most of his projects unexecuted, but his polemical writings and numerous superb drawings and photographs of models were published and exhibited. Such projects included a diagonal link design (1974) for the Royal Mint Square Housing Development and a redevelopment plan (1986) with narrow streets, squares and classical buildings for Spitalfields market in London; the Quartiers de la Villette (1976) in Paris; three new civic centers (1977) in Rome; public buildings (1980–83), Tegel, and the Südliche-Friederichstadt redevelopment (iba; 1981; with Maurice Culot) in Berlin; a master-plan for Washington, DC (1984–5); and a new city of Atlantis, ‘a model for the art of living’ (1987) in Tenerife.

Executed works include a belvedere, market Stoa and summer-house for himself (1987) at Seaside, a new town in Florida planned by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk: the house combines timber construction with classical detailing, porticos and loggias, and is topped by a quasi-classical temple. In the early 1990s construction also began on the first phase of his controversial scheme (1987–91) for the town of Poundbury, near Dorchester, commissioned by the Duchy of Cornwall.

View Krier Award Presentation in Archives