Archigram was an avant-garde architectural group formed in the 1960s that was neofuturistic, anti-heroic and pro-consumerist, drawing inspiration from technology in order to create a new reality that was solely expressed through hypothetical projects.
Based at the Architectural Association in London, 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 group. He 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 City, 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.
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 neofuturistic 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 'wrapped 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
Plug-in-City, Peter Cook, 1966
Plug-in-City is a mega-structure with no buildings, just a massive framework into which dwellings in the form of cells or standardised components could be slotted. The machine had taken over and people were the raw material being processed, the difference being that people are meant to enjoy the experience.
The Walking City, Ron Herron, 1964
The Walking City is constituted by intelligent buildings or robots that are in the form of giant, self-contained living pods that could roam the cities. The form derived from a combination of insect and machine and was a literal interpretation of Le Corbusier's aphorism of a house as a machine for living in. The pods were independent, yet parasitic as they could 'plug into' way stations to exchange occupants or replenish resources. The citizen is therefore a serviced nomad not totally dissimilar from today's executive cars. The context was perceived as a future ruined world in the aftermath of a nuclear war.
Instant City, Peter Cook
Instant City is a mobile technological event that drifts into underdeveloped, drab towns via air (balloons) with provisional structures (performance spaces) in tow. The effect is a deliberate overstimulation to produce mass culture, with an embrace of advertising aesthetics. The whole endeavor is intended to eventually move on leaving behind advanced technology hook-ups.
Tuned City, in which Archigram's infrastructural and spatial additions attach themselves to an existing town at a percentage that leaves evidence of the previous development, rather than subsuming the whole.
Sixpack France dedicated their Summer Spring 2009 Collection to this movement.
- Simon Sadler, Archigram: architecture without architecture, MIT Press, 2005, p.161
- Crosby raised the money for this from the Gulbenkian Foundation, and subsequently edited its publication in the ICA's Living Arts magazine: Sadler, op cit, p.207
- Peter Cook, Archigram, Princeton Architectural Press, 1999, p.44
- in How to play the environment game, Penguin, p.49
- Crompton, Dennis (ed.) (1999). Concerning Archigram... London: Archigram Archives; prologue
- ARCHIGRAM - RIBA Royal Gold Medalists 2002 Archived 26 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine Citation by David Rock retrieved 11 April 2007.
- "M+ museum acquires Archigram archive for £1.8 million". Dezeen. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- Simon Sadler (2005) Archigram: Architecture without Architecture Archived 24 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, MIT Press
- Hadas A. Steiner (2009) Beyond Archigram: The Structure of Circulation, Routledge, NY, 252 pages.
- Peter Cook and Michael Webb (1999), Archigram, Princeton Architectural Press