Lionel H. Pries, Architect, Artist, Educator
From Arts and Crafts to Modern Architecture
- PUBLISHED: November 2007
- SUBJECT LISTING: Architecture, Pacific Northwest
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 384 Pages, 9 x 12 in, 325 illus., 175 in color
- ISBN: 9780295986982
On the evening of May 16, 1958, architecture alumni of the University of Washington converged on Seattle from all over the country. The event was a banquet to celebrate the founding of their alma mater's new College of Architecture and Urban Planning. One by one, the dean introduced the college's faculty members. At the name of Lionel “Spike” Pries, one alumnus recalled, “there was a special charge in the air. . . . Everyone rose and cheered and clapped; it appeared to go on forever.” But within six months, Lionel Pries was abruptly and mysteriously gone from the university. After thirty years of service, he lost his job, his major source of income, and, just four years short of retirement, his pension. The official explanation was illness; friends “sensed a large injustice,” in what they believed was a dismissal based on Pries's sexual orientation.
With Lionel H. Pries, Architect, Artist, Educator: From Arts and Crafts to Modern Architecture, Jeffrey Karl Ochsner redresses that injustice. Pries (1897-1968) was one of the most influential teachers of architecture and design at the University of Washington. Minoru Yamasaki, A. Q. Jones, Fred Bassetti, Wendell Lovett, Victor Steinbrueck, and many other prominent twentieth-century architects were trained by Pries, whose highly artistic style of design helped shape the development of American Modernism in architecture.
Ochsner offers an erudite celebration of Pries's professional legacy, tracing his evolution as a designer, architect, teacher, and artist. He shows how Pries absorbed and synthesized disparate influences and movements in design--the California Arts and Crafts and Mission Revival movements, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts tradition, Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Mexican and Japanese motifs, and the International Style and other permutations of the Modern movement.
Ochsner paints a vivid portrait of Pries as a teacher and mentor: an unapologetic elitist, one who challenged weak students by openly fostering stronger ones; a classroom autocrat who would fling one student's radio out a second-story window but offer rent-free lodging to another in need. This is a nuanced character study that offers a clear but sympathetic view of a major talent who sometimes clashed with his colleagues and was often in conflict with himself. For some readers, it will be an introduction to Lionel Pries. For others, it will be an occasion to remember him with warmth and gratitude.
This comprehensive, lavishly illustrated work will appeal not only to architects and architectural historians, but also to those interested in American studies, the decorative arts, and Northwest history and culture. Its depth of research broadens our understanding of twentieth-century Modernism and of the history of architectural education.
Authors & Contributors
Jeffrey Karl Ochsner is professor of architecture at the University of Washington. He is the coauthor of the critically acclaimed Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H. H. Richardson and the editor of Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to Architects.
1 Introduction: "Do You Want to Be an Architect?"
2 Origins: An Education in Architecture, 1897-1923
3 Finding His Way: San Francisco and Santa Barbara, 1923-1928
4 To the Northwest: Bain and Pries, 1928-1931
5 Seeking a New Synthesis: Pries in Mexico, 1928-1942
6 In Practice: Design Evolution, 1932-1942
7 Educator of Architects: The University of Washington, 1928-1945
8 Master of the Arts: The Art Institute and the Community of Artists
9 In Practice: Romantic Modernism, 1945-1958
10 Colleagues in Conflict: The University of Washington, 1945-1958
11 Tragedy: The Last Years, 1958-1968
12 Legacies: Architecture and Character
Buildings and Projects
Major Archival Sources
General Background Reading
Anyone familiar with the University of Washington, Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and the history of architecture will find this book to be an information explication of a significant teacher and subject . . . . this is a beautifully produced book that makes excellent use of the attractive visual source material at hand . . . . Drawing on interviews and reminiscences of former students, clients, and friends of Pries, Ochsner enriches his well-researched text to offer an engaging portrait of Pries and creates a welcome contribution to the history of architecture and architectural education in the United States.- Pacific Northwest Quarterly
The scholarship, critical judgment, and production values behind this book are exceptionally high.- Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
Lavish is an overused word, but I cannot think of a better description for this volume. There are gorgeous color reproductions of watercolors, paintings and architecture on nearly every page, printed at a large enough size to feel their emotive strength, while excellent photographs and crisp re-drawn floor plans allow a good understanding of the architectural work. . . . For anyone with an interest in the truly influential people of the Northwest, so often caught between the cultural noise of number one and the obscurity of zero, this book is essential. Ochsner has done a great service in bringing Lionel Pries to life again.- Arcade
[This] big volume is beautifully written and reads almost like a mystery novel as Ochsner delves into Pries' past with respect, compassion, and drive to tell the truth. . . . A must-read.- Tacoma Weekly
A meticulously researched and captivating portrait of Pries' own life and work. . . . It is challenging to juggle all the components of such a book, which examines Pries as educator, architect, artist, and collector. It places him and his work in a broader context of the arts community in Seattle and the changing approaches to teaching architecture at the UW. . . . Jeffrey Ochsner is up to the task.- Pacific Northwest Magazine
A lucid, scholarly and lovingly illustrated study of [Pries]. . . .Ochsner proves adept at capturing the import of the artist and the spirit of the man. . . .making this overdue tribute as much a pleasure to browse as it is to read.- Publishers Weekly
The book is surprisingly juicy. Lionel Pries is packaged as a coffee-table book—- with loads of illustrations showing Pries' houses and artwork—- but at times it reads more like a thriller. You immediately care about Pries and his work, and want to know what happened to him. . . . Architect James Chiarelli reportedly . . . said: 'The minute you stepped into the courtyard of the house he designed, you could feel his genius at work.' Now, with the publication of Ochsner's book, the rest of us can get a sense of it, too.- Seattle Times
In the late 1920s, an unusual sort of contemporary design, inspired but not stifled by tradition, was being created by a young and talented architect from California, Lionel H. Pries. He soon joined the faculty at the University of Washington, where he remained the most influential and inspirational member of the architecture department for more than thirty years. His concept of architectural design has a special romantic quality which combined a love of the best of the past with the ability to culturally and technically relate to the present. . . . He is easily the most talented architect in this region I have known, and I hope that a worthy architectural historian will someday record his contribution to architecture both in this region and nationally.- Victor Steinbrueck, in Space, Style, and Structure, 1974
This account of a fascinating and tragic figure in architecture provides significant context for the long transition from an American architectural modernism emerging in the 1920s to its repudiation and transformation by the early 1950s. The author has achieved a fine work of scholarship and turned scholarship into a highly readable and informative book.- Anthony Alofsin, author of The Struggle for Modernism: Architecture, Landscape Architecture and City Planning at Harvard and many other books on modern architecture