Lucien Kroll, paragon of progressive architecture, passes away aged 95 | News


Lucien Kroll (1927–2022). Image: screenshot from the 2015 lecture 'Tout est paysage,' via Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine/YouTube

Lucien Kroll (1927–2022). Image: screenshot from the 2015 lecture “Tout est paysage,” via Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine/YouTube

An influential figure in the realm of ecological design is being mourned after Le Monde reported the death of Belgian architect Lucien Kroll in Brussels on August 2nd at the age of 95.

The Atelier Kroll co-founder will be remembered for his foundational work in the arenas of green building and participatory architecture. Kroll is best known for his highly-collaborative 1976 La Mémé design on the campus of Belgium’s Catholic University of Louvain in addition to over 100 other projects he and his wife Simone Pelosse completed through the studio after its inception in 1958. 

A 1966 residential project in Embourg, Belgium. Image: GAR-Archives d’architecture

A 1951 graduate of La Cambre (where he preceded Maurice Culot by a decade), Kroll’s early commitment to designing spaces “with” rather than “for” their users continued throughout his long career, eventually leading to them being named the Brussels Architecture Prize Lifetime Achievement Award winners just last year. His early-career designs garnered admiration, albeit at a tremendous cost. As the University of Reading’s Paul Davies wrote in a 2018 Architectural-Review essay, “Kroll probably got as close to the work of social theorists Henri Lefebvre and Guy Debord as it might be possible for an architect to get, and in the aftermath, suffered virtual professional exile as a consequence.”

La Mémé in Brussels, Belgium. Image courtesy of Atelier Kroll

Later commissions provided Kroll with the chance to re-establish himself and the primacy of his community-centered architecture. Designs for the renovated Alençon housing project (1978) in France and Gesamtkunstwerk Alma metro station (1982) in Brussels are among his most notable following the completion of La Mémé, and helped advance his cause célèbre into the mainstream at a pivotal moment in architectural history when the formalist dogmas of high modernism were being attacked from all sides. 

Kroll practiced this approach until his retirement in 2008. Outside of his completed building projects, he was a noted essayist who contributed significantly to the development of architectural theory and urbanism, in addition to espousing what he called “homeopathic town planning.” He looked towards a day when profit motives would be supplanted by people-oriented design. In this progressive spirit, we can thank him for inspiring the work of future generations of empathetic architects like Marina Tabassum, Michael Graves, and Pritzker Prize winner Francis Kéré

“Ours is primarily a political project and not an aesthetic one,” he said. “It is more or less un-geometrical, anti-authoritarian, anarchical, that is to say, ‘human.’”

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