Richard Rogers - A Place for all People
Richard Rogers - 'A Place for all People'
Published by Canongate (2017)
Born in 1933, Richard Rogers is one of Britain’s most renowned and celebrated architects, whose modernist and functionalist designs have shaped and influenced architectural styles throughout the world.
'A Place for all People' is part memoir, part manifesto, as Rogers charts his long career at the forefront of the architectural profession and examines how the built environment influences both social justice and community values. Indeed, his credo-of-sorts is introduced early on - 'good architecture civilises, bad architecture brutalises', and the book races along imbued with a sense of passion and enthusiasm that characterises Rogers' outlook on both work and life.
It is unsurprising perhaps that the project that elevated Rogers to the forefront of contemporary architecture - the Centre Pompidou - is given a full chapter. The sense of elation at winning the design competition against tremendous odds, and the radical streak that drove him and life-long friend Renzo Piano to put forward such an unconventional proposal, makes for engaging reading. So too do the subsequent frustrations and challenges they had to face, both in terms of compromising on the original design and dealing with an onslaught of hostility from the media.
The rest of the book has a tendency to pass over the major projects with which Rogers is associated fairly quickly, without focusing on the 'eureka' moments out of which his iconic projects developed. Perhaps this is because Rogers is content to be the public 'starchitect' face of a highly-talented team of creative collaborators, for whom he is full of praise.
He is not shy of engaging in the wider political landscape, and a large chunk of the book is dedicated to his time spent chairing the Blair-era Urban Task Force. His old feud with Prince Charles is also revisited. Far from pulling his punches, Rogers writes:
'I don't believe that the Prince of Wales understands architecture...He occupies a privileged position, and he should not use that to damage the livelihoods of people he disagrees with.'
Admirers of Rogers' work or of contemporary architecture in general, will be delighted at the compilation of images, renderings, sketches and plans that are presented so well throughout the book. There are also plenty of interesting details to pick out, such as the pioneering communal spirit of his architectural practice, and the changes in attitudes to dyslexia since he was at school, that endear him to the reader and, as a book, make it well worth engaging with.
You can buy a copy of the book here.
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