Lionel Pries Biography

Lionel Pries





Lionel H. Pries ("Spike") was born in San Francisco, California on June 2, 1897. Pries studied architecture with John Galen Howard at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with a B.A. in 1920. He went on to get his M.A. after studying with Paul Cret at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn he won the LeBrun Traveling Scholarship, which allowed him to spend thirteen months in Europe in 1922 and 1923. After travel in Europe, where he studied at the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris, he returned to San Francisco in 1924 where he practiced architecture before moving to Santa Barbara, California after the 1925 earthquake where he went on to design projects for the Bothin Helping Fund (a foundation that had invested extensively in Santa Barbara real estate. Over the next year he was responsible for about ten buildings in Santa Barbara.

In 1928, Pries moved to Seattle, Washington to join Penn classmate William J. Bain in the firm Bain & Pries. Initially successful, the firm could not survive the Depression and dissolved in late 1931. Thereafter Pries focused on his career as an educator, although he occasionally took on architectural projects under his own name.

Pries joined the faculty of the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington in fall 1928 and soon became the center of the school. From 1928 to 1958, he was the inspirational teacher of a generation of architecture students at Washington. From 1931 to 1932, Pries served as Director of the Art Institute of Seattle, now the Seattle Art Museum. For a time he was part of the circle of Northwest artists that included Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson. Pries exhibited as an artist with his paintings and prints in the late 1920s to the mid 1940s.

Beginning in the late 1920s and continuing to 1942, Pries travelled to Mexico every summer and regularly interacted with leaders in the Mexican art world through his friend William Spratling. Pries's architectural works from the late 1930s to the 1960s showed a mix of Modernism and regionalism, reflecting the profound influence of what he encountered in Mexico. He developed an interest in printmaking, especially drypoint and was also a noted art collector.

Pries was gay, but deeply closeted in the University of Washington community. He anticipated teaching at least until he reached retirement age, but was forced to resign his university position in 1958 after he was picked up in a vice sting in Los Angeles. The reason for Pries's abrupt departure from the university was concealed at the time. He then worked in Seattle as a draftsman until until his retirement in 1963. He never set foot on the campus again, though, after his death his friends and students established and donated to the University Library's special Collections Division's Lionel Pries Collection.

Lionel H. Pries died of a heart attack on April 7, 1968 in Seattle, Washington. "Lionel H. Pries, Architect, Artist, Educator: From Arts and Crafts to Modern Architecture" by Jeffrey Ochsner was published by the University of Washington Press in 2008.