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Last edited 11 Dec 2017
Archigram was a UK-based art and architecture collective that came to prominence in the 1960s. As part of the burgeoning avant garde of the time, they aimed to explore extreme alternatives to urban design as a response to what they perceived to be the dullness and intellectual conservatism of modern architecture.
Archigram was formed in London in 1961 by young architects Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron and Michael Webb. Virtually all of their plans and ideas remained unrealised, freeing them to explore unorthodox and outlandish ideas which they often published in their Archigram magazine.
They were defined less by a specific set of principles, than by an optimistic spirit that corresponded to the prevailing mood of the 1960s, looking to shake off out-dated ideas and conventions. They were inspired by the technocratic ideas of Buckminster Fuller as well as the American Beat movement and Pop art.
One of Archigram’s most famous ideas was the Plug-In City which Peter Cook designed in 1964. This eschewed the orthodox assumption that buildings should be fixed in place, instead proposing a permanent infrastructural scaffold capable of supporting crane-mounted modular living units that could be moved around or ‘plugged in’ as desired by the occupants.
Ron Herron’s concept of the Walking City was even more outlandish. He rejected the notion that a city is a fixed location and instead re-imagined it as a super-organism, capable of moving on giant legs until finding a suitable place to settle.
The Instant City was a concept in which an airship would fly from place to place providing entertainment and educational resources for a metropolis. This would temporarily land in small communities, enabling them to experience a different kind of urban life.
The practice eventually dissolved in 1974 as its members left to pursue new interests. Actual, realised projects consisted of a playground in Milton Keynes, an exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute in London, and a swimming pool for Rod Stewart. Despite this lack of buildings, Archigram’s influence was considerable, inspiring major works such as Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano’s Centre Pompidou, the Lloyd’s of London Building, and the work of Rem Koolhaas.
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