2000s

2002 - Archigram

Archigram office, 53 Endell Street, Covent Garden

Designer: Herron, Ron (1930-1994)
Copyright: Kathy de Witt/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1972)

'But they never built anything', was one response to the announcement that Archigram, a small group of architects, Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron and Mike Webb, whose theoretical work began in the sixties as a cry against 'the crap going up in London' had been awarded the Royal Gold Medal - but then nor did Colin Rowe (RGM 1995) or Nikolaus Pevsner (RGM 1967) - yet their influence on the culture of architecture in the latter half of the 20th century and beyond has been enormous. If the Pompidou Centre was the only building they had inspired, they would have been worthy winners.

 

At the heart of their work, which spans four decades, lies a questioning of urbanism, specifically the form and function of cities, houses and other archetypal forms of architecture. World-shaping events such as the advent of space-travel, the arrival of the Beatles and new developments in science influenced their thoughts. Through the pages of their 'telegram'-like publication, Archigram, they proposed radical and shocking alternatives using colourful pop imagery, the most seminal being the 'Walking City', the 'Plug-in City', the 'Living Pod' and the 'Instant City'.

 

Archigram office, 53 Endell Street, Covent Garden

Designer: Cook, Hazel; Herron, Ron (1930-1994)
Copyright: Kathy de Witt/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1972)

David Rock, who nominated Archigram, wrote in his citation: 'The unique strength of the working group that became the fulcrum of Archigram was that it was six people with a range of greatly differing perspectives, tastes, skills, age, politics and backgrounds.

 

'What Peter Cook has called 'The Archigram Effect' is that of 'dare' and of watching how other architects are sometimes encouraged to find it possible to innovate, to turn a programme on its side, to fly in the face of local traditions or inhibitions. The effect has been to instil a mood of optimism, so that, however it turns out, a piece of work will not actually worry too much about justification.'

 

'Even today, the work of Archigram reflects a freshness, a courage and a creativity that is simply mind-blowing. Their love and passion for architecture and their insatiable desire to posit alternative futures for our society still dazzle and delight. Although Archigram have never actually built a building together, their influence over a generation of architects continues to be felt.'