After recently publishing his book, A Place for All People: Life, Architecture and the Fair Society, Lord Richard Rogers sat down with The Architect's Newspaper Managing Editor Olivia Martin to discuss modernity, cities, buildings, Manhattan, and his infamous sense of color. What does modernism mean to you? It could be contemporary. People get mixed up. I always say everything is contemporary in its age—good buildings and good books, those are contemporary in their time and they tend to reflect the period… if you are lucky they get ahead of it, they push it a little bit. Good buildings are a reflection of their place, culture, politics. Modernism is more than a movement. Did you always know you wanted to be an architect? Did you ever have any sort of ideological struggle with modernism? Well, I come from architecture. My cousin is a well-known architect. My mother was a potter and my father was a doctor and you put the two together and you get an architect. When I was young, I was less sure. But I went to Yale to do my graduate work and I had, without a doubt, the greatest architecture scholar ever: Vincent Scully. Nobody changed my life as much as he. And I was just stunned coming here [to New York City]. I was a Fulbright Scholar and we came over on the Queen Elizabeth. So I left Southampton, a sleepy town, where nothing is more than four stories high and people had their caps and bicycles. It was all very nice and English. Then I woke up early the next morning and looked out at the porthole and WOW. That’s the vision, out of all the visions I’ve ever had in my life, that has really stayed with me. It lifts me whenever I think about it. Wall Street didn’t exist at that point, so Midtown was the high point. It was fantastic, it blew my mind away. In terms of modernity, I’ve never had any problems with it. Modernity was born in that postwar period in the states. Chicago was fantastic and beautiful, but everything was happening here [in New York]. I have to say it’s not the same now; it has changed. Certainly we have gotten more used to it. Partly though, I think it’s because the most typical building in Manhattan is an office building and architects have done them so often they can do it with their eyes closed… Not all, you can’t say that, there are some amazing American architects. But there are quite a few. New York is on a grid and so you’ve got the grid, core in the middle, sometimes glass, sometimes stone, but all the same in variation. It is still a stunning city but it has lost that amazing shock that it once had for me. You have some very iconic building typologies, notably your penchant for an exoskeleton of sorts, could you discuss that? For Lloyd’s Insurance of London, we won the competition even though we had not built any office buildings before, which is amazingly daring. We said that if you put the core in the middle, you are putting it in the center where you want activity. We push it to the outside, which lets you play with form and light and shadow—which is what architecture is about. Otherwise, buildings are all flat. They are. There is no greater flat building in the world than the Seagram, so I am not saying that Mies isn’t great, I learned so much from Mies. But by articulating corners, doors… I like trying to put much of the workings on the outside because otherwise they get in the way. Any typologies you haven’t been able to realize? Oh many, many, many. I would say that now New York, which does have such stunning towers, is no longer cutting-edge... probably at cutting it in pure straight functions in dollars per square foot. That they are very good at. And obviously the people who run these jobs—we are just finishing now at Ground Zero—are immensely professional, but it makes life difficult for the architect when the client says, “I know EXACTLY what I want, more or less.” It often pushes the architect into a narrower response. If New York isn’t the most cutting edge, where is? Yesterday I was a judge of the Pritzker Prize and we made the choice—can’t talk about it. But, it was extremely interesting, the number of Indian architects and Southern American architects, there are architects dealing with problems like housing for the poor and working with immensely exciting new materials and places and responding to this. In that sense, it is better it is broader. I can phone and e-mail as easily as I can go next door. The digital is global. So on the one hand the world is getting smaller… Politically, well, let’s not discus it. So developing countries have better architecture? They have a better chance. Looking at your dress, it’s not about the most expensive, it’s about looking good, feeling good, and feeling it fits you. [Editor’s Note: My dress is from Zara.] I think there is more change now. My book is partly about inequality. In fact I suppose it’s a key piece of it and we are going through an amazingly unequal time. There is a greater gap in the GDP than ever before. The world is changing and becoming a micro-system and this has created tremendous political unrest. Another issue I talk about is sustainability. In architecture, it’s about loose fit, long life. Lloyd’s is an example of loose fit. They wanted a good building that would last them into the future. Since we built that, 50 percent of the city has been demolished and rebuilt because needs change. Energy systems change. Renzo Piano and I built the Pompidou Center forty years ago and the air conditioning system has changed, so we are in the process of updating it. So, there are still problems, but we don’t have to empty the building or start over, so they are better problems. I know you don’t love Los Angeles or Houston, or really any car-centric cities. But with autonomous cars on the rise, do you think those types of cities can evolve? Well, a sprawling city will consume three times more energy than a compact one. And if climate change is the most likely thing to really blow us up, that is something we should pay attention to. Of course if you want to live in the countryside you should live there, but in energy terms, it is more efficient to live in the city. People also like to see other people. I know lots of people in Los Angeles who like it, so this is not the law, just my opinion. I love bumping into people and the piazza and I think that is such an important thing. I have a piazza in my house. It’s a really good square where you can be on your own with your thoughts or with other people. Plus, not everyone has access to a car, even in Los Angeles. Many cities now, including London, are making the streets smaller, more friendly to the non-car. We still need better transport, it’s not as good as it should be. What are some of your favorite buildings (not built by you?) I can’t do that. I can talk about types of buildings. Yesterday I was outside the Seagram Building, it is still a fantastic building. I learned two things during that period in the States. I learned a lot from your industrial plants. I loved to see how very flexible and dynamic they were, not just a square box with windows in it. Why do we encase structure? If you want to change it, then you have to rip it up. Air conditioning, for example, is changing at a fast rate. Buildings have to be able to respond, so I look for responsive buildings and industrial buildings. I also studied the Case Study houses in Los Angeles. They taught me a lot about housing fast, cheaply, and flexibly. You are known for your colorful outfits. How do you decide what to wear? I was brought up with a mother who would wear brightly colored socks when she came to pick me up from school and everybody would laugh. Growing up that way, I didn’t suffer from shock of the new. And then England was very gray and we had to ration. And visually, the British don’t have a very good color sense to begin with, great ear, good at writing, we all have different strengths…. But I come from a country with a lot of color all around me. I’ve always enjoyed color–like public space–although public space is probably better.
Posts tagged with "Richard Rogers":
On October 5, the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation hosted its annual Lunch at a Landmark at a historic building in midtown Manhattan. As always, the event was well attended by prominent architects, preservationists, and designers, as well as experts, supporters, and enthusiasts of those fields. New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik introduced Lord Richard Rogers warmly—so much so that when Rogers took the microphone, he joked that “we should all just go home now.” Gopnik focused on Rogers’s approach to human-centric design, saying, “The core idea of liberal humanism is not that man is the measure of all things, but that all things can be measured by man and by woman.” This focus was in conjunction with Rogers’ new book A Place for all People, which further explains the architect’s approach to modernism, civic value, and urban design. Modernism is a funny word, artistically and architecturally speaking. Once the modernists dubbed themselves as such, either in a stroke of hubris or marketing genius, the rest of us were stuck with postmodernism, and even post-postmodernism. In his talk at “Lunch at a Landmark,” Rogers reframed the word, explaining: “Modernism is good architecture of its time, advanced by technology, by changes in economics, and by changes in sociology. What is happening at that time? What is the zeitgeist?” He proceeded to walk through a brief timeline of architectural works, from the primitive hut and Brunelleschi’s dome, to Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, and Piazza San Marco in Venice, citing the different styles and renovations along the way. Through these examples he identified two types of architecture: “Architecture that is challenging, that is different, and architecture that just disappears within its current state,” Rogers said. “I’m not saying one is better than the other, but it is important to concede the two differences.” In particular, he focused on the five main iconic buildings in the Piazza San Marco, highlighting how the Renaissance elements set off Medievalism and how each building relates to the others, despite the many elements at play. In his own work, he initially found some difficultly relating architecture to its surroundings. When designing the Lloyd’s building and thinking about how it would fit in with its neighbors, Rogers was concerned. “Fifty percent of the City of London has been rebuilt in the last forty years, so what am I meant to be relating to? How do you relate to the existing conditions when you are aware that they might not be there in a few years’ time? And you mourn the fact that the buildings do not fit their purpose for any length of time—it’s about sustainability, it’s about energy, and it’s about waste of energy. One of our goals was to make the Lloyd’s building last into the next century (which we accomplished). We wanted a building that could change, that could adapt—a big flexible space. When we started designing Lloyds the height of technology was the Xerox machine. We have to interpret, or try to interpret the conflict of continuous change.” He faced a similar quandary with the Centre Georges Pompidou he did with Renzo Piano, which partially informed the building’s open layout, external structure, and the revered piazza that Rogers described as “a cross between Times Square in the 1970s and the British Museum…. A place for people, a place for all people.” Now, it is undergoing renovations to update the HVAC systems and such, but still remains a relevant structure. Rogers touched on other projects as well, from Las Arenas in Barcelona to Three World Trade Center in New York. He concluded by good-naturedly hoping that at the very least, it won’t earn a moniker of 'cheese grater,' like the Leadenhall. “Londoners are very creative with their nicknames,” he quipped. He doesn’t take it too personally though, as this is just one of many jabs at modernism endured by all top architects. “Prince Charles once said the Luftwaffe did less damage than I did…. He might be right.” We have a hunch that Rogers won’t let the royal architecture criticism affect him, or his modern buildings, too much.
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) has unveiled the winners of its inaugural Richard Rogers Fellowship. Namik Mackic, Maik Novotny, Jose Castillo, Saidee Springall, Shantel Blakely, and Dirk van den Heuvel will spend three months undertaking urban and architectural research at Richard Rogers's seminal south London dwelling. The class of fellows will be awarded free travel to London as well as $10,000 to aid their research. The residency program was made possible after Richard and his wife Ruth donated the house to the school in 2016. Situated in Wimbledon, the Grade II listed building was built in 1969 and commissioned by Rogers’s parents, Dada and William Nino Rogers. The colorful residence, regarded by many as a British modern masterpiece, emulates the U.S. West Coast vernacular of the time and features a prefabricated yellow steel structure which is made visible by a glazed facade. "The spirit of the Fellowship is intended to carry forward and expand on Lord Rogers’s deep commitment to cities not as ends in themselves, but as a fundamental means of bettering human life," said Mohsen Mostafavi, dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at Harvard GSD, in a press release. "At the GSD, our work is organized around the urgent issues cities are facing globally, a pedagogical approach requiring exploration and collaboration across disciplinary lines. We are very fortunate and excited about this opportunity to support, learn from, and promote such cross-disciplinary research internationally, in the context of London’s thriving architecture, design, and art communities and vast institutional resources." Rogers's Wimbledon dwelling will now be used for research into areas that have been pivotal in the architect's life and career. In doing so, questions pertaining to urbanism, sustainability, and how people use cities will be addressed. Projects from this year's fellows will look at public and affordable housing; how food and cooking transform cities; and citizen-driven urban regeneration initiatives.
Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers’ culture factory for the people: a building that at 40 years old, still looks to the future.
"Life begins at forty!" say most with a glint in their eye and a glass of bubbly in raised hand. That phrase though, belongs to those who know they will not live much past twice that age—if they're lucky. Inaugurated to the public in Paris on January 31, 1977, and celebrating its 40th birthday today is The Pompidou Center. Its architects, however, imagine a far greater lifespan for their building: Renzo Piano hopes it will last for two millennia. "We believe that the life of this building will be 2,000 years so we don’t care so much about 40 years," said Piano speaking to Rowan Moore in The Observer. "The Colosseum is still there so I don’t see why it won’t be still there." Both Italian-born architects, Piano and Richard Rogers (the latter settling in England during WWII) led the design team behind the now iconic building. The pair worked alongside architects Gianfranco Franchini and John Young, also from Italy and Britain respectively, as well as Arup engineers. Though much-loved and well-visited today, the Pompidou Center suffered a rocky start when completed forty years ago. "Not many outside the charmed circle of modern architecture have even heard of Archigram and of its apocalyptic struggles in an unresponsive society," said Reyner Banham in the year of the Pompidou's opening. "...You don’t go to Paris to look at post-Corbusian modern architecture. Why then was the [Pomoidou Center] built to this sort of design?" he questioned. Back then, as it still does so today, the Pompidou rises up above the enclaves of its Haussmannian surroundings of Paris' 4th arrondissement. Tall buildings in the French capital are seldom met with open arms and the 149-foot-tall structural behemoth was no exception. Despite its sheer mass detracting from this notion (it's 544 feet long and 197 feet wide), even President Pompidou who commissioned the building was struck. Rogers recalled his reaction: "all he said was “Ça va faire crier” [This is going to make a noise]." The flower-power foursome, however, weren't deterred. Building on the radical architecture conceptualized by Archigram (Plug-in City) and Cedric Price (Fun Palace), and even built by Eb Zeidler (Ontario Place), Rogers and Piano sought to propose an essentially living building. Within their monumental megastructure, floors would move up and down, escalators would propel visitors up the side of the facade and screens would display messages to the masses. The Pompidou Center was to be a factory of culture. (Interestingly, Piano used this metaphor to describe his science center for Columbia University completed last year.) Sadly, only the escalators prevailed, but the structure remained an icon of "inside-out" and "high-tech" architecture. It's active facade, visibly alive with visitors milling around, also showcases an array of structural detailings. With this external framework set for an amalgamation of complexities, Piano and Rogers originally planned for the structure to be able to have parts easily added to and taken away. The factory would change with technology. This too, however, was never realized. Their approach also perhaps reflects part of Piano's childhood past. Growing up, his four other brothers were all builders. In an interview with The New Yorker, Piano recalled how his father questioned his teenage desire to be an architect and not a builder. "Keeping the action together with the conception is maybe a way to feel less guilty," he contemplated in 1994. The ideas found in the Pompidou can still be seen in Piano's work today. Extensive fenestration, openness, and proud and explicit tectonics are all prevalent themes throughout his projects. Perhaps this is because he sees the Pompidou Center more than most architects. The office of his namesake's firm (Renzo Piano Building Workshop) and even his apartment are located in the Marais District, a few blocks from the former Center Beaubourg site. While massive in scale though, the Pompidou Center doesn't fill all the space it was allocated. A sloping plaza which backs onto a series of unmissable air vents (which, in turn, outline the perimeter footprint of the center) allows the public to watch the goings on inside. In fact, 118,400 square feet of glass was used to compose the plaza-facing facade. On the roof, visitors can still enjoy vistas over Paris in all directions, taking in rare views over rooftops and onto the Eiffel Tower. Such egalitarian ideas had roots in Rogers' architectural education. Under the leftist stewardship of Paul Rudolph and Buckminster Fuller, Rogers studied at Yale where he befriended fellow compatriot Norman Foster. Foster later went on to design high-tech architecture evocative of the Pompidou Center himself (see the Renault Distribution Center, 1982), reaching similar architectural heights in the process. The left-leaning ideas Rogers ingested, meanwhile, manifested in his and Piano's only collaboratively designed work. This was no chance occurrence. The pair felt they could win the favor of Jean Prouvé, a member of the awarding jury who preferred social housing to extravagant culture palaces. “We saw that it might also be about ethics, people, society," said Piano. "We were young but we were not stupid. We saw some sign of a possible miracle.” (Side note: Philip Johnson was also a jury member) Rogers' and Piano's meeting, however, was arguably more fortuitous. In 1969, when at the Architectural Association in London presenting his exhibit on light-weight structures, Piano bumped into a doctor for whom Rogers had designed a dwelling. The doctor, while worried one of his sons had given Rogers chicken pox, took Piano to meet Rogers. Rogers would later describe Piano and himself as "probably as close together in outlook as any two architects around." They both went on to win the Pritzker Prize. 1969 was a momentous year for many reasons. Warren Chalk of Archigram wrote an article titled: “Owing to lack of interest, tomorrow has been cancelled.” A riff on Irene Kampen's title, Chalk inferred the diminishing possibilities of a technological, utopian architecture. In France, Georges Pompidou was announced as President. As Banham suggested, Pompidou probably hadn't read Chalk's brooding, and so threw caution to the wind. With the dust still settling from the 1968 May riots which had brought social upheaval, a snap election and a veer to the left, Pompidou furthered former President's Charles de Gaulle's idea for a free library on the Plateau Beaubourg in Paris. Pompidou also demanded that the building also became a center for the contemporary arts as the French capital feared its waning prowess in the art world. A competition was launched and 681 entrants from 49 countries saw their chance. Piano, Rogers, Young and Franchini—all in their early thirties—emerged as the unlikely victors. The group's submission, like Piano and Rogers' meeting, also rode its luck as it erred on the verge of not happening at all. Rogers opposed the idea of submitting, being more interested in a competition for a smaller museum in Glasgow. In what Piano described as a "beautiful little memo," Rogers outlined his case. "Being an old lefty, I didn't believe in a centralized, government-run art center, and certainly not one built in the heart of Paris," he said in 1994. Thankfully Piano, structural engineer Ted Happold, and Rogers' former wife Su were able to twist his arm. While its initial ill-favor is well documented, one wonders if the reaction would have been different had the Pompidou Center been completed earlier. With the spirit of '68 still fresh in everyone's minds, its values would have been both more apparent and relevant. Georges Pompidou did not live to see the building's completion and was not there to vouch for it. A decade after the center was built, however, another president, Francois Mitterrand, also shared Piano and Rogers' skyward vision. In 1987, Mitterand inaugurated a clock that counted down to the end of the century. "A nation must orient its gaze toward the future," he said. While that milestone has passed, no one has yet put a clock to countdown to the Pompidou Center's 2,000th birthday. A two-year renovation in 2000 saw enlargements made to the center's performance spaces, museum, and restaurant. Though this also resulted in visitors having to pay to use the exterior escalators, the center hasn't lost its appeal. At forty, the culture factory is still functioning. Still the biggest museum for modern art in Europe—boasting more than 50,000 works from 5,000 artists—the Pompidou Center continues to attract tourists in their droves—averaging around 3.8 million a year—from France and across the world.
The Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) has launched the Richard Rogers Fellowship. The program will use esteemed British architect Lord Richard Rogers's seminal south London dwelling to host a residency program in aid of architectural and urban research. Situated in Wimbledon, the Grade II listed building was built in 1969 and commissioned by Rogers's parents, Dada and William Nino Rogers. The colorful residence, regarded by many as a British modern masterpiece, emulates the aesthetic that was popular on the U.S. West Coast at the time and features a prefabricated yellow steel structure which is made visible by a glazed facade. Rogers donated the home to Harvard GSD earlier this year, despite the building briefly going on the market for nearly $4.8 million in 2013. The new Harvard GSD fellowship is open "accomplished professionals and scholars working in any field related to the built environment.... And is dedicated to advancing research on a wide range of issues—social, economic, technological, political, environmental—that are critical to shaping the contemporary city," said the school in a press release. "The Fellowship is inspired by Lord Rogers’s commitment to cross-disciplinary investigation and engagement, evident across his prolific output as an architect, urbanist, author, and activist." By occupying the building, the school said they aim to ensure that the property continues to be used as a residence. Six fellows will be granted three-month terms at the house each year along with travel expenses to London, and $10,000 cash prize. "The goal of the residency program is to support research that addresses alternative and sustainable urban futures," the school said. The Harvard GSD is now accepting applications to the fellowship. Candidates are required to have completed a Bachelor’s degree, though the school stated their preference for "advanced degrees." A CV, portfolio of design work and/or research work, and research proposal must be submitted by November 28 of this year. More information can be found here. Winners will be announced in early December 2016.
British architect Richard Rogers and his London-based firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RHSP) saw construction break ground on the not-so-well hidden International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. Situated on L’Enfant Plaza, the 140,000-square-foot museum is part of wider effort to reinvigorate the area. It will replace the current 19th Century building located in Penn Quarter. According to a press release from RHSP, the new museum will offer a "glass veil" that will be draped in front of a "enclosed black box exhibition space." This will let the buildings circulation be viewed from both interior and exterior perspectives, something that the architects say will contribute "new energy along 10th Street." The "sense of veil" and "black box" will also be visual cues evoking the secrecy and mystery associated with espionage. "Behind this veil, the prominent facade of the box angles out over the street and public space to one side, breaking the building line to create a disruptive landmark at the crest of 10th Street, visible from the National Mall at one end and Banneker Park at the other," the firm said. In addition to this, the new building will also expand exhibit and educational spaces, including a theater and "unique" event spaces. The aforementioned event spaces and a roof terrace will be located above a double-height lobby. Working with the Malrite Company from Cleveland, who founded the museum, the District was able to make sure that the museum stayed in D.C. “As a Navy veteran, I, along with my family, take pride in setting the stage for the International Spy Museum to grow," said Milton Maltz, the founder of The Malrite Company. “We consider it essential to ensuring the contributions of the dedicated men and women who serve in our intelligence agencies. They are recognized for the invaluable roles they’ve played in winning wars and protecting Americans at home and around the globe.” "The international spy museum has long been a destination for residents and visitors, finding innovative ways to keep us connected with our past," said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. "The new museum will be a welcome addition to southwest as we continue to attract businesses and expand economic opportunity." The museum is due to open at some point in 2018, however, the museum's lease at its current location at 800 F Street NW is set to end in 2017.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced a new prize at a ceremony in London today. The RIBA International Prize will go to the "world's best new building." The selection criteria are broad: the building can be "of any type or budget and in any country, which exemplifies design excellence, architectural ambition and which delivers meaningful social impact." This is the first RIBA award open to non-RIBA members. 1985 RIBA Gold Medal winner Richard Rogers will lead the judges' panel. “I’m delighted to lead the jury for the inaugural RIBA International Prize," Rogers declared in a statement. "[I] look forward to discovering how architecture is reacting to and resolving issues posed by the changing demands of a global community. We look forward to establishing the RIBA International Prize as a new standard by which to assess and promote design excellence on a global scale.” He will be joined by Kunlé Adeyemi, director of Amsterdam- and Lagos-based NLÉ Projects, as well as Philip Gumuchdjian, director of London-based Gumuchdjian Architects. Other members of the jury will be announced "in due course." The call for entries is now open, and any architect may apply. To be considered, buildings must have been built in the last three years (between January 1, 2013 and February 1, 2016). After the inaugural year, the prize will be given to buildings completed within the past two years. To winnow down finalists, shortlisted buildings (themselves winners of the RIBA Awards for International Excellence) will be visited twice by two panels of jurors. The "grand jury" will select six final buildings for a third round visit to pick the winner.
Richard Rogers beats Norman Foster and UNStudio for Taoyuan International Airport terminal commission
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners have fought off fellow British architecture practice Foster + Partners and Amsterdam-based UNStudio to design the Terminal 3 building at Taoyuan International, Taiwan's largest airport. The firm won by a unanimous decision, AN has learned. In 2014, the airport was the world's 11th busiest passenger airport. The 158-acre airport terminus will see 45 million passengers pass through every year and will be situated adjacent to the China Airlines Headquarters and share some services with neighboring Terminal 2. The building is due to be complete by 2020. Rogers' firm worked with local practice Fei & Cheng Associates and Arup engineers. UNStudio, run by Ben van Berkel, also took the approach of appointing a local firm for the project in working with Bio-Architecture Formosana and April Yang Design Studio. Foster, on the other hand, chose to work individually. Taoyuan International Airport is based 24 miles outside Taipei, the capital of Taiwan and was once known as Chiang Kai-shek International. The winner was selected from a jury comprised Michael Speaks, dean of Syracuse University's school of architecture; Marcos Cruz, director of the Bartlett School of Architecture; and Kwang-Yu King, curator of the 2012 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Biennale.
Richard Rogers to lead parliamentary inquiry into how design of the built environment affects behavior
Riding on a wave of psychographic research indicating positive correlations between productivity and the work environment, architect Richard Rogers has launched an ambitious parliamentary inquiry into how design overall affects behavior. The founder of Rogers Stirk Harbor + Partners kicked off the eight-month Design Commission inquiry this June before the Houses of Parliament in London. The cross-party investigation led by Rogers will explore how design in planning of the built environment creates a tendency towards positive behaviors within local communities. The inquiry was lodged the same week as newly-released research which supports the long-held view that cities which promote physical activity benefit from economic productivity gains. “The commission believes that in designing and constructing environments in which people live and work, architects and planners are necessarily involved in influencing human behavior,” Rogers said in a statement. The All Party Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group calls for examples of how infrastructure can incorporate “design for good behaviors.” The APDIG is also seeking case studies where design-led planning has positively affected communities. The deadline to submit evidence to the inquiry is July 3. The final report will produce a series of recommendations designed to stimulate new thinking in planning policy across local and central government. “While we welcome recent government use of nudge theory principles in policy-making decisions, the commission identifies a need to further develop and reinvigorate thinking in the field,” said Rogers, who, in a recent editorial for The Standard, called London's below-capacity housing market "dysfunctional" as the result of poor planning. In pondering how the built environment affects our attitudes, outlook and behaviors, the inquiry attempts to address the three following questions:
- Does the built environment affect the behavior of individuals or communities? Is there evidence to suggest that it does or does not?
- Are there examples of changes in behavior on the part of people in the UK in relation to any aspect of the built environment?
- Are there any examples where people have changed their behavior as a result of some aspect of the built environment?
The clock is ticking yet again for East London’s Robin Hood Gardens, the 1972 Brutalist public housing complex designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. In a call to arms, Lord Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson, the son of the architects, have written a letter to over 300 members of the architecture and construction industries in support of the 20th Century Society’s campaign to protect the iconic “streets in the sky” buildings from being demolished. The future of the seminal social housing estate has been in limbo since former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham granted it a listing certificate of immunity six years ago, essentially foiling any landmark designations that would ensure the buildings’ survival and preservation. Now that the certificate has expired, 20th Century Society, a conservation organization for modern architecture, is urging the new Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage to add the buildings to the statutory list of buildings of special architectural and historical interest. “The Smithsons were clearly great architects: the Economist Building, completed in 1964 and Grade I-listed in 1988, is without a doubt the best modern building in the historic centre of London. Robin Hood Gardens, which pioneered ‘streets in the air’ to preserve the public life of the East End terraces that it replaced, was the next large-scale job that the Smithsons embarked upon. It was architecturally and intellectually innovative. In my opinion, it is the most important social housing development from the post-war era in Britain,” wrote Lord Richard Rogers in the letter. Composed of two long concrete blocks, the 7-story buildings in Poplar, London feature balconies that face a rolling, man-made green. Curbed reported that the goal was to “create a modern, bustling city in the sky,” but it has fallen into disrepair, beset with problems including crime and graffiti. Architects, including Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Richard Meier, and Rogers, stand behind the controversial postwar complex, lauding its architectural significance as an exemplar of the Smithsons’ New Brutalism—characterized by exposed materials, contextual design, and the marriage of regional styles and modernism. Below is the full letter from Lord Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson: Dear Friends, I am writing to ask you to support listing Robin Hood Gardens as a building of special architectural interest, in order to protect one of Britain’s most important post-war housing projects, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, from demolition. Previous efforts in 2009 to have the building listed failed, but the case has now been re-opened and we understand that the new Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage will be reviewing the arguments at the end of this week. The buildings, which offer generously-sized flats that could be refurbished, are of outstanding architectural quality and significant historic interest, and public appreciation and understanding of the value of modernist architecture has grown over the past five years, making the case for listing stronger than ever. The UK's 20th Century Society has submitted a paper setting out why they believe Robin Hood Gardens should be listed (i.e. added it to the statutory list of buildings of special architectural and historical interest). Two further assessments are set out below: “Alison and Peter Smithson were the inventors of the New Brutalism in the 1950s and as such they were the ‘bellwethers of the young' as Reyner Banham called them. In many ways [Robin Hood Gardens] epitomizes the Smithsons’ ideas of housing and city building. Two sculptural slabs of affordable housing create the calm and stress free place amidst the ongoing modernization of the London cityscape. The façades of precast concrete elements act as screens that negotiate between the private sphere of the individual flats and the collective space of the inner garden and beyond. The rhythmic composition of vertical fins and horizontal ’streets-in-the-air' articulates the Smithsons’ unique proposition of an architectural language that combines social values with modern technology and material expression. Despite the current state of neglect and abuse Robin Hood Gardens comprises a rare, majestic gesture, both radical and generous in its aspiration for an architecture of human association. As such it still sets an example for architects around the world.” Dr Dirk van den Heuvel, Delft University, Holland. “The Smithsons were clearly great architects: the Economist Building, completed in 1964 and Grade I-listed in 1988, is without a doubt the best modern building in the historic centre of London. Robin Hood Gardens, which pioneered ‘streets in the air’ to preserve the public life of the East End terraces that it replaced, was the next large-scale job that the Smithsons embarked upon. It was architecturally and intellectually innovative. In my opinion, it is the most important social housing development from the post-war era in Britain.” Lord Richard Rogers Last time listing was considered the views of the architectural community were ignored but we believe there is now a real chance of saving the building for posterity but only if the Minister hears, first hand, the views of the profession on the architectural merits of these exceptional buildings. Can we ask you to support the efforts of the 20th Century Society by writing right now to the Minster to support listing and saying why you believe Robin Hood Gardens should be saved? Click here to open an e-mail to the relevant Minister at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, Tracey Crouch MP: Ministeremail@example.com. For more information on the building click here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hood_Gardens, and for details of the 20th Century Society case, please click here, http://www.c20society.org.uk/casework/robin-hood-gardens/ For Tweets: #SaveRobinHoodGardens Also, can we ask you to forward this e-mail to anyone else you know who might be willing to help save these important buildings? Yours sincerely, Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson
In 2010, director Wim Wenders created a 3D video installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale about the Bolex Learning Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, called If These Walls Could Talk. The ability to visually explore the building and simulate being inside the space that the medium affords inspired him to team up with Robert Redford to create a 3D series called Cathedrals of Culture, which will be shown at the IFC Center in New York beginning on May 1. And talk they do. There are six half-hour films, all by different directors, shown in two programs, and five of them are narrated by the buildings themselves. Each is given a voice, which describes the feelings and observations of the structures. So we hear in the first person from the Berlin Philharmonic (Hans Scharoun), the Oslo Opera House (Snohetta), Halden Prison (EMA), The National Library of Russia (Yegor Sokolov), and the Centre Pompidou (Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers). Only the Salk Institute (Louis Kahn) doesn’t employ this technique and is the most successful program. At Salk, it's the perfect melding of brief and building, science and art, the two sparking each other off to make magic. It is now complemented by a like-minded film. Directed by Robert Redford and with stunning cinematography by Ed Lachmann and music by Moby, the film captures the essence of the building and molds the spaces. Kahn’s structure clearly affects the work of the scientists, who speak about "genius loci," the spirit of place. There’s a wonderful image of the staff assembled in a circle and then fanning out across the plaza, like a living organism. We see and hear both Jonas Salk and Louis Kahn, and learn that they raised each other’s game and made a better building; Salk insisted Kahn throw out the first design, and Kahn rebuts that the client isn’t an architect. Then Salk says "eventually Lou Kahn became quite a biologist, and I came to appreciate the importance of aesthetics…to bring out the spirit and soul of man." The campus is filled with light, which hits home when Edward R. Murrow asks Salk who owns the patent for the polio vaccine?: "The people," he replies. "Would you patent the sun?" In the same program is the Centre Pompidou by Karim Ainouz, a Brazilian filmmaker who studied architecture. He spends most of the episode inside the building, maximizing 3D by floating through tunnels, galleries, elevators, back-of-house spaces and the main hall which is treated like an airport arrival and departure lounge. The shot of a window washer gliding up the clear glass-walled escalator holding a sponge in one hand followed by a squeegee in another and letting the upward glide of the moving staircase do the work is pure ballet. The voice of the building is Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum in London and former editor of Blueprint magazine, who intones "In a digital century, a world of flickering pixels… a machine for culture that I am, which once seemed so violent, so threatening, has the nostalgic charm now of a steam engine." IFC Center. http://www.ifccenter.com Part 1: The Berlin Philharmonic. Director, Wim Wenders The National Library of Russia. Director, Michael Glawogger Halden Prison. Director, Michael Madsen Part 2: The Salk Institute. Director, Robert Redford The Oslo Opera House. Director, Margreth Olin Centre Pompidou. Director, Karim Ainouz
What do the English have against works produced by members of the Independent Group? The loose post–World War II group of artists, architects, writers, and critics produced public art, gallery installations, and even architecture. On this side of the Atlantic we always think the Brits save their landmarks—unlike the American tendency to tear them down before they can be landmarked. But early this year Transport for London destroyed Eduardo Paolozzi’s playful and colorful mosaics that stood over the entrance to the Tottenham Court Road tube station. Now it seems that local authorities will destroy one of the countries best-known housing developments-Alison and Peter Smithson’s 1972 Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets near the Docklands development in London’s East End. Housing authorities in the English capital have been trying to demolish the 213 unit affordable housing project for many years and despite lack of maintenance in the project since 2000 and several high profile attempts to save and preserve the project it still seems doomed. But now another last minute push is being made to save Robin Hood by the lobbying group the Twentieth Century Society. They have challenged the listing—or landmarking—process as “flawed” and thus the building should be saved. According to British magazine The Architect’s Journal, Richard Rogers has thrown his support behind the effort to save the complex saying, “Robin Hood Gardens is one of a handful of great low-cost housing estates. It was a world-shaking building but it’s been looked after appallingly. Whatever anyone says, I don’t know of better modern architects than the Smithson’s: they were certainly outstanding.” Lets hope this significant housing project can be saved.