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Pries, Lionel H. (1897-1968)  
 
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Lionel H. "Spike" Pries was a noted architect and artist, who is now primarily remembered for his legendary teaching career at the University of Washington. Arrested in California in a vice sting in the late 1950s, Pries lost his job, a victim of that era's hysteria over homosexuality. Thereafter, his contributions to Pacific Northwest architecture were largely forgotten, except by his former students.

Pries was born in San Francisco on June 1, 1897. He was raised in Oakland. His father worked at Gump's, the well-known San Francisco importer of European and Asian arts and crafts, so he was exposed from childhood to a wide range of fine art objects.

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Pries graduated with a B.A. in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1920. He then studied at the University of Pennsylvania, under the legendary teacher Paul Cret. He received his M.A. in 1921.

At Penn, Pries won the LeBrun Traveling Scholarship, which allowed him to spend thirteen months in Europe in 1922 and 1923.

Pries began his own practice in San Francisco in 1924. In 1925, following the Santa Barbara earthquake, Pries relocated to that city 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 1926 he returned to San Francisco and for the next two years carried out projects in the Bay Area.

In early 1928, Pries moved to Seattle to join Penn classmate William J. Bain in the firm Bain & Pries. Over the next four years, this firm designed roughly 60 projects of which 30 were built.

Most of these were single-family residences, although the firm also did apartment buildings, fraternity and sorority houses, and small commercial buildings. As the firm's lead designer, Pries was primarily responsible for the character of this work. However, by the end of 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression, with no work in hand, Bain & Pries dissolved.

From that time Pries was primarily an educator who occasionally took on architectural commissions.

He had begun teaching architecture at the University of Washington in fall 1928, and soon emerged as the inspirational leader of the program.

He was known as a demanding teacher, but with his extraordinary skills in drawing and rendering he was able to demonstrate to students how they could develop their projects. His virtuoso critiques, in which he would sketch or paint, often directly on the students' work, would still be recalled by his students decades later.

Pries was an elitist, and he pushed all his students, especially those with talent, extraordinarily hard. He also welcomed students into his home near campus--his evening soirees introduced the students to fine art, music, culture, and design. As Pries was single, he also offered lodging to a few architecture students each year.

Within the university community, Pries was deeply closeted, as were most professionals during the decades before and after World War II.

Among his noted students were architects Minoru Yamasaki, A. Quincy Jones, Perry Johanson, Victor Steinbrueck, Paul Kirk, Roland Terry, Fred Bassetti, Wendell Lovett, and Disney art director Ken Anderson, among many others.

In the late 1920s, Pries began visiting Mexico for several months each summer. Through his friendship with William Spratling, a gay American architect who moved permanently to Mexico and is best known for his revival of the silver crafts of Taxco, Pries was introduced to the circle of Mexican artists and intellectuals who were interested in developing a new art and architecture that was at once modern and also Mexican.

This idea of an approach to modernism that wedded it to a particular place strongly influenced Pries's subsequent designs. By the late 1930s, he was beginning to develop an approach that was modern but specifically appropriate to the Pacific Northwest.

Pries often shared his designs with his students, many of whom would become leaders in the development of Northwest regional modernism in the years after 1945.

From the late 1920s to the 1940s, Pries was an exhibiting artist, showing his oils and watercolors in the annual exhibitions of Northwest artists and at Seattle galleries. From 1931 to 1932, he served as Director of the Art Institute of Seattle (predecessor to today's Seattle Art Museum).

For a time he was close to Seattle gay artists Morris Graves and Guy Anderson, who lived together in the 1930s.

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