The 2013 Richard H. Driehaus Prize laureate is Thomas Beeby, a classicist whose award marked a return to its roots — a classicism that builds on cultural tradition rather than individual novelty. In 2012 the Driehaus was awarded to Michael Graves, a postmodernist – modernism with cartoon classical elements. Many classicists at last year’s celebration in Chicago were dismayed, but the prize seemed to reflect concern over whether classicism should be more broadly defined.
To judge by this year’s Pritzker winner, modernist architecture does not suffer much from doubts over what it is and should be.
I realize that to say so is to float a cloud of stupidity over the dominant wing of the profession of architecture — or at least of hubris, evident in its lack of self-doubt. As individuals, modern architects are as bright and introspective as their classical brethren, but they are in the catbird seat while classicists are on the outside looking in. Classicism seeks a more effective strategy to expand its professional influence; modernism rests on its laurels.