University gives $100K for architecture prize

Author: Joanna Mikulski '03

When city planner Léon Krier was awarded the first Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture last March, he received what is believed to be the largest cash prize ever given by Notre Dame to honor the achievement of a single individual: $100,000.

Although the University dispenses monetary awards in the forms of scholarships and endowed professorships, a University spokesman had no recollection of Notre Dame ever having given away a cash prize close to that amount. The annual Laetare Medal, honoring an American Catholic, has no cash award attached. The Notre Dame Award for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America, nearest equivalent to the Driehaus Prize, carries a cash award of $10,000 with an equal sum going to a Latin American charitable organization chosen by the recipient.

The Driehaus Prize is sponsored by the School of Architecture and Chicago businessman and preservationist Richard H. Driehaus, and it’s a logical pairing. For several years the advisory council for the school—known internationally as a leader in classical design—had wanted to establish a prize to honor a classical architect. Driehaus has a history of supporting classical architecture and preservation projects, including restoration of the Ransom Cable House in Chicago. The conduit was Matthew Walsh ’68, chairman of the Chicago construction and development firm The Walsh Group and a member of the advisory council.

The Driehaus Prize appears to some to fill a void left by another $100,000 architecture award, the Pritzker Prize, considered architecture’s highest honor. That’s because the Pritzker Prize has been awarded almost exclusively to modernists for 20 years.

Michael Lykoudis, chair of the School of Architecture and a member of the Driehaus selection jury, acknowledges the parallel between the two awards but denies any rivalry exists and says the identical dollar amount is mostly a coincidence.

The Driehaus Prize is described as a lifetime achievement award for traditionalists. Krier has spent most of his working life as a theorist and master planner and, in fact, has designed only one house (in Seaside, Florida) and a handful of other buildings that have actually been built. According to plans, in future years the Driehaus Prize may not necessarily go to an architect, but to a scholar, preservationist or individual in any field who has demonstrated a strong commitment to the ideals of classical architecture. In fact, if he were not sponsoring the award, Driehaus himself might be a candidate.