Design for Solar City (1980).
Architect: Peter Cook
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collection
RIBApix no. 12754
This drawing, by Peter Cook, is for a design proposal he called Solar City. An axonometric drawing, it is a way of representing space in two dimensions which modern architects formalised around the beginning of the twentieth century. An axonometric is a great way to keep the plan of a building undistorted whilst representing it as a three dimensional space. This example shows how this was developed further in the later twentieth century.
At first glance, the drawing may look like a wallpaper pattern, with its bright colours and repetitive geometry. However, Solar City actually marked a move away from paper-architecture for Peter Cook. In contrast to his earlier work, Solar City was a project designed for a specific German architectural competition. A development featuring solar-powered houses, it met the strict regulations of German building codes. The drawing itself reflects this. Though it may look like a print, Cook drew and rendered it completely by hand - unlike the cut and paste montages for which he had become well-known previously.
In the mid 1960s, Peter Cook was one of six young architects who formed the radical architecture group Archigram. At the time, there was an increasing appreciation of popular culture as opposed to established modes of high culture. ‘Pop Art’ became quite widespread, and artists such as Andy Warhol became internationally famous individuals. However, the appreciation of pop culture in architecture at this moment was a much smaller phenomenon. Subsequently, Archigram have been regarded as being something special. By the late 1970s, however, Archigram were running out of steam. The cultural context of the late 1950s and early 1960s out of which they had grown as students had changed greatly by this time, and the voice of popular culture had become less coherent. In this context, members of the group began to work individually. This scheme, conceived with Christine Hawley, was claimed to be ‘eminently buildable’, and marked a new direction – and ultimately success - for Cook.