Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Although I never met the man or was even in his presence, throughout my architectural career from student in Dundee to fledgling project architect to running my own practice his presence was always felt.
He was a hugely talented architect and master planner, extremely successful, prolific and as a Peer was able to influence government policy. There is no doubt that his designs will continue to influence: the Centre Pompidou, and Llyod’s of London are both stunning achievements. However, even as a student I was aware that his architecture resulted from creating problems that didn’t need to be solved.
Much of his architecture, until his practice became Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners was heavily influenced by preconceived notions of what the solution should be and with today’s current dialogue surrounding the climate emergency, this approach almost seems perverse:
1. Interiors should be as airy as possible: so make walls entirely of glass,
2. Ensure that the floor plates can be flexibly used; so make them deep plan and push the consequently oversized structure to the outside,
3. So that nothing impedes the floor plate; locate vertical circulation; lifts, stairs, escalator to the outside,
4. To resolve the problem of overheating and glare resulting from glass walls; add solar shading and air conditioning,
5. To cope with the deep plans generated; add more air-conditioning and more lighting,
6. Move the air conditioning and associated plant to the outside,
7. Clad all the myriad of eternal elements in stainless steel.
Design...Done!: The Centre Pompidou and Lloyds magically emerge.
I’m being rather simplistic but his earlier projects as part of Team 4 ( Rogers, Brumwell, Foster and Cheesman) were client specific, contextually aware and unselfconscious designs that demonstrated a complex and intellectual approach to architecture,where oportunties were embraced rather than the Rogers ‘brand’ of overblown, bombastic, self- centred ( arrogant?) and reductive architecture that followed the early critical success of the Centre Pompidou. So it’s particularly encouraging that towards the end of his practicing career the architecture that emanates from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners while retaining the signature self-confidence and rigour has ditched the bombast for more a sustainable, contextually aware and opportunistic approach.
It’s never too late to learn and I feel that seeing an Architect, particularly with all his accolades, deciding to embrace change will probably be more influential than his early projects. RIP.
RSH+P : Macallan distillery