Postmodernists Are Now Classicists, Driehaus Confirms

Architecture, Awards, National
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts addition designed by Michael Graves (all photos courtesy Driehaus Prize)

The small world of classicist architecture in America–where many former Postmodernists found refuge after the dial of taste turned away from jokey historical references and pasted-on pediments–is working overtime to rehabilitate the 70s and 80s stylistic counter reformation. First was the recent conference, “Reconsidering Postmodernism,” organized by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which brought out many of the movement’s old stars for presentations, chats, and a lot of hand wringing. Today, the Chicago-based Richard H. Driehaus Foundation announced that Michael Graves was this year’s winner of the $200,000 Driehaus Prize.

The Engineering Research Center at the University of Cincinnati

Graves has enjoyed a remarkable career, designing office towers, cultural buildings, and hotels around the world, along with iconic furniture and housewares for Target. His footprint has been vast, and his populist designs appeal to people across global cultures through abstracted historical references that often draw on classical or vernacular forms.

Miramar Resort Hotel in El Gouna, Egypt

Administered by the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture–itself an outpost of classical architectural education–the Driehaus Prize “honors lifetime contributions to traditional, classical, and sustainable architecture and urbanism in the modern world,” according to a statement. Graves is having quite a good couple of weeks. His breakthrough Portland Building was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. “Michael Graves has enhanced not just the architecture profession with his talent and scholarship, but everyday life itself through his inspiring attention to beautiful and accessible design,” said Michael Lykoudis, Driehaus Prize Jury Chair and dean of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, in a statement.

The Foundation also announced that Elizabeth Barlow Rogers will receive the $50,000 Henry Hope Reed Prize, which is given “given to an individual working outside the practice of architecture who has supported the cultivation of the traditional city, its architecture and art through writing, planning or promotion.” Rogers, currently president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies, served as the administrator of Central Park and was the founder of the Central Park Conservancy, which became a national model for public/private partnerships for restoring open spaces. She is also the author of several books on landscape, including the National Book Award nominated book The Forests and Wetlands of New York City. 

The Humana Building in Louisville, Kentucky.

2 Responses to “Postmodernists Are Now Classicists, Driehaus Confirms”

  1. Modernist says:

    Absolutely hilarious. David Brussat over at the Providence Journal must be crying tears of rage into his coffee this morning. Someone go give the poor fellow some soothing words on this most trying day.

  2. iD says:

    It’s unfortunate that this year the exploitation of a big name was more important than the celebration of great traditional/classical architecture and/or urbanism. The awards of 2009 and 2010 were magical because they brought international attention to architects who were not well known but did exceptional work. Perhaps this reflects the current composition of the Jury, which seems to be increasingly stacked with Jurors who have published a great deal, have important academic positions, or are otherwise gratuitously accomplished, but who may or may not know much about classical architecture.

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