Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Post: Archigram

“Walking City” from Archigram"


Archigram was an avant-garde architectural group formed in the 1960s - based at the  Architectural Association, London - that was futurist, anti-heroic and pro-consumerist, drawing inspiration from technology in order to create a new reality that was solely expressed through hypothetical projects. The main members of the group were Peter Cook, Warren Chalk, Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb and David Greene. Designer Theo Crosby was the "hidden hand" behind the groupHe gave them coverage in Architectural Design magazine (where he was an editor from 1953–62), brought them to the attention of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, where, in 1963, they mounted an exhibition called Living Cities, and in 1964 brought them into the Taylor Woodrow Design Group, which he headed, to take on experimental projects.


The pamphlet Archigram I was printed in 1961 to proclaim their ideas. Committed to a 'high tech', light weight, infra-structural approach that was focused towards survival technology, the group experimented with modular technology, mobility through the environment, space capsules and mass-consumer imagery. Their works offered a seductive vision of a glamorous future machine age; however, social and environmental issues were left unaddressed. They have also an interesting project of conceptual drawings on “Walking City”.

Visit their “Walking City” Project at:  http://www.archigram.net/projects_pages/walking_city.html
Archigram agitated to prevent modernism from becoming a sterile and safe orthodoxy by its adherents. Unlike ephemeralisation from Buckminster Fuller which assumes more must be done with less material (because material is finite), Archigram relies on a future of interminable resources. The works of Archigram had a Futurist slant being influenced by Antonio Sant'Elia's works. Buckminster Fuller and Yona Friedman were also important sources of inspiration. The works of Archigram served as a source of inspiration for later works such as the High Tech' Pompidou centre' 1971 by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, early Norman Foster works, Gianfranco Franchini and Future Systems. By the early 1970s the strategy of the group had changed. In 1973 Theo Crosby wrote that its members had "found their original impulses towards megastructures blunted by the changing intellectual climate in England, where the brash dreams of modern architects are received with ever-increasing horror. 

They are now more concerned with the infiltration of technology into the environment at a much less obvious level".
If we consider for a moment Christo's seminal work – the 'warped cliff' – we might see it in one of two ways: as a wrapped cliff or; preferably, as the point at which all other cliffs are unwrapped. An Archigram project attempts to achieve this same altered reading of the familiar (in the tradition of Buckminster Fuller's question, 'How much does your building weigh?'). It provides a new agenda where nomadism is the dominant social force; where time, exchange and metamorphosis replace stasis; where consumption, lifestyle and transience become the programme; and where the public realm is an electronic surface enclosing the globe —David Greene.

The group were financially supported by mainstream architects, such as David Rock of BDP. Rock later nominated Archigram for the RIBA Royal Gold Medal which they received in 2002. The ARCHIGRAM GROUP were awarded the 2002 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture and Archigramers Peter Cook and David Greene were the joint winners of the RIBA's Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Education.


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