Extent Of Influence Of Archigrams Cultural Studies Essay

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This essay will explain the extent of influence of Archigram on the emergence of High-Tech architecture in the 1970s by investigating and examining the different ways and types of influence that High-Tech architecture has adopted.

Archigram was a group formed by six architects in the 1960s, they were greatly influence by popular taste and the potential of new technology during their zeitgeist. Archigram has been a phenomenon twice, as their fantasy and obsession in bringing the architectural form of mechanisms, capsule dwellings and plug-in units represents their triumph in the early phase. [1] Archigram second phase was architecture art, their conceptual architectural drawings were very well received. Many of their works were published and sold as they became incredibly influential. The group celebrated the birth of their style, an architectural style.

Similarly, High-Tech architecture does not refer to a particular group but an approach or a style adopted in the 1970s. Although the leading four High-Tech architects usually work and exchange ideas with each other, there had never been any official conference or announcement of forming a group. [2] Much like Archigram, Brutalism and Metabolism were some of the Modernists architecture groups that were pursuing on a similar modern movement with possibilities of an endless technological development.

There are three definitions of influence that have been chosen for this discuss because they represent a good comparison of their key characteristics in architecture style.

Specifically, this report will examine the extent of influence of Archigram on the emergence of High-Tech architecture by discussing the three types of influence defined as: their influence source, their visions, and lastly their building expressions and functions.

Exploring Archigram

The early Archigram was formed through the collaboration of six young architects who came together in 1960. They were all working for Taylor Woodrow Construction Co. on the redevelopment of Euston Station, London, under the direction of Theo Crosby: Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron and Michael Webb. The full group later include Colin Fournier, Ken Allison and Tony Rickaby. [3] The word Archigram in short for "Architectural Telegram" was first use for their publication and was later used to refer their group. They were so influential at their time that it could be said that what they did for architecture was something akin to what the Beatles did for music in the 1970s. [4] 

Emergence of High-Tech Architecture in the 1970s

During the mid-1960s, the confluence of economic interest and corporate capitalism spread rapidly from United States to other parts of the globe. The dream of standardization where the task of repeating steel frames and window opening and shapes had made most of the building appeared to look alike. This slowly led to a modern movement and the backlash for standardization began to form. Demand for more creativity and better ways to improve living standard using of technological development.

The interests for High Tech fashion were also possibly shown in the early 1960s, when the study of optical illusions and the fascination for metallic and science fiction fantasy for man-machine environments. This fantasy was rekindled in the 1970s but was expressed in an open and exposed technology. [5] 

The fascination with advanced technology as a redemptive or perhaps even liberating seems to be a solution to the vagaries of contemporary life and has exerted considerable influence on Modern architecture. The four leading architects during this period were Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Nicholas Grimshaw and Michael Hopkins. They believe that a building should exhibit the methods and materials of its construction and express a high tech machine aesthetic. However, unlike Brutalism, the High Tech architects prefer the use of lightweight materials and flexibility.

The source of influence for Archigram

The group is greatly influence by images of zeppelins, spacecraft, molecular structures, Marvel Comics, The Eagle, Sci-fi films and fashion girls, pop music and pop arts. [6] Their ideas were initially directed against formal and traditional conventions and also towards all kinds of loose and free associations. This led towards expendables, pop culture and new technology with the idea that the, most advance technological hardware should be available to everyone's life like a system to generate more freedom of choice and to break away from the forms of a traditional city.

The source of influence for High-Tech Architecture

High Tech architecture was very influence by sophisticated technological types of construction and engineering. The fantasy of science fiction for man-machine environment and the need to confront a complex technology mechanism made possible and visible.

The High Tech architects believe in the "spirit of the age", and architecture has a duty to express that spirit. The agreed that the spirit of the age resides in advance technology. [7] To make use of the technology of industry to create lighter materials that can be mass products for construction. Advance technology that allows building materials to fabricate and bolted together on site and at the same time able to dismantled or moved to another site if required. Much similar to Archigram's plug-in system and Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion bathroom, 1936 (Figure.1) [8] pioneering the idea of plug-in principle.

Figure , Buckminster Fuller, (Dymaxion Bathroom), 1936.

Extent of Influence from Archigram's sources on High-Tech architecture sources

It is easy to assume that both Archigram and High Tech architecture share some similarities such as the high technology style and the fantasy of man-machine environment. However, a closer look will highlight that there was a different in High Tech in architecture and High Tech in industry. Colin Davies has mentioned that a High Tech in industry simply means electronics stuffs such as, computers, chips or robots. And in architecture, it means a particular function and an approach in terms of style. [9] 

Archigram' Visions

Archigram were able to project their ideas and visions so well graphically and also presenting their great knowledge in technical gadgetry. Archigram's graphical style designs emphasized the use of anything but 90 degree angles and the use of bright colours, a non-standard format and an explicitly cut and paste style of assembly. They projected their works in a comic book like publication entitled "The Amazing Archigram" deliver visions and concepts of technologically advance cities that walked on four legs (Figure 2) [10] , Plug-in Cities (Figure 3) [11] that could be stacked and changed like cords in an outlet, and Instant Cities (Figure 4) [12] that could be flown in and made to sprout like spring flowers. Archigram continuously explore of change and the freedom of choices using the opportunities presented by new, spacey technologies. Their preference of expressing their ideas by methods in form of pictures, beautifully drawn projections and skilfully assembled collages that will instantly evoked a future of change and adaptability, flow and movement. Not to forget their fantasy means of mechanical, "Blow-up", recycle, dissolve, zoom, prefab, clip-on, robotize." The effects were evocative, outrageous, hilarious, daring and intense and, always, poetic. [13] 

Figure , Ron Herron, (Walking City), 1964

Figure , Peter Cook, (Plug-In City), 1964

Figure , Peter Cook, (Instant City), 1968

The High Tech Architecture's Vision

The High Tech architects vision architecture as a branch of industrial technology, naturally it is the functional and efficiency that is expected and it is not about artistic or symbolic. The refusal of using imprecise materials such as bricks, mortar, concrete and timber and asking why use such materials when they could make lighter and more precision building parts with steel and glass. Materials that could be prefabricated in factories and with the flexibility of installing or even dismantling again on site if required. The flexibility to create interior service space not by sequences of rooms but by making the building a catalyst and with the technical services provided not becoming part of it. To boast the technical elements of the building by externalizing parts of them and achieving an industrial appearance. They believe that a High Tech building not only does the look and feel should represent technology but also using of advance technology to improve the functions of the building.

The Extent of Influence of Archigram's Visions on High-Tech architecture's Visions

Archigram was mainly paper architecture, a highly graphical type of conceptual expression. Their approach on real social problems and methods of their concepts to be built were clear. With a series of loud and bold publications using cartoon like and science fiction images had not really address on the social implications might be for the people who were to chose to live in their fantastic cities. As a consequence, it may be a reason on why Archigram was not taken seriously by developers and bankers who were responsible for financing projects.

High Tech architecture had difference visions and approach, the extent of influence is minimal here. The works in High Tech retained a sense of reality and its functions communicate directly solutions to real social problems.

Archigram's Building Expression

The ideas of cut and paste style of assembly was clearly expressed in their conceptual works. Using forms of capsule dwellings and plug-in units, they archive flexibility in terms of disposable and easily extended constructions.

Archigram's earlier and perhaps some of the most famous projects, created in the early years of 1960s, create and explore through vast graphical proposals for alternative cities and reversing the normal hierarchy. They were more interested in infrastructure than space or function, and they were also believe to be the first few to reveal the service compartment, structure and mechanical systems that architects usually prefer to conceal. Projects such as the Plug-in City had imagine vast sprawling megastructures, giant frames that accept prefabricated materials and removable dwelling units hoisted into position by huge rooftop cranes.

However, these conceptual proposals were found to be contradicting, as their main structure becomes obsolete just as fast as the capsule units it supports, the magastructures were very massive and totalizing as the static building they were meant to be replaced with. Archigram's optimistic encouragement for consumer freedom and choice was not very convincing, seemingly unaffected by the ideological critiques launched by their contemporaries that outlined capitalism's amazing capacity to shape and express than merely respond to desire.

High-Tech Architecture's Building Expression

Exposed structures and services were the two main visible distinguishing elements in the High Tech architecture. Although not all High Tech architects design their building this way, some will prefer the clean skin and slick finishes and some loves the loud visceral compositions. Most of the architects include the prominent display of the building's technical and functional components and an orderly arrangement and use of prefabricated elements. Materials such as glass walls and steel frames were also popular in High Tech architecture buildings. With often exposed services with different, bold colours were often used to symbolically diagram such as colour coding for individual elements, it makes the building more digestible at a human scale.

The exposing of the building services such as water, heating, ventilation ducts and stairs on the exterior comes with the function of the building leaving the internal space uncluttered and open for more flexible space usage. A modern style of architecture name "Bowellism" was directly associated with this type of High Tech expression. In 1977, Richard Rogers along with Renzo Piano, completed the Pompidou Centre in Paris (Figure 5) [14] . Based on the rationale that the greatest amount of floor space possible should be allowed for the interior so as to maximize space to appreciate the exhibition, everything from the lifts to the sewage pipes were visible on the outside of the structure. This inside-out style was termed 'Bowellism'. [15] Directly influenced by the inventor of Bowellism, Mike Webb (Archigram) and his idea can be seen in his project for Furniture Manufacture's Association Headquarters (Figure 6) [16] .

Figure , Richard Rogers & Renzo Piano (Pompidou Centre) in Paris 1977

Figure , Mike Webb, (Bowellism) 1958

Extent of influence of Archigram's on High-Tech Architecture's Building Expression

With Buckminster Fuller personal investigations into technologically sophisticated designs in the early 1940s, technology has provide both a formal language and structural became a moving force to reconceptualise design methodologies in architecture. With this movement between the visual High-Tech look and its' obvious building elements there emerged a body of work dedicated to futurist project of utopian proportion.

However, the futuristic designs of Archigram in England took a slightly different approach from the origin root of High Tech technology style. The group react against the standardisation uniformity of the post-war international style and discourage the aesthetics use of modern steel and glass skyscraper. Slowly but surely the group turn into the direction of techno-utopian fantasies of the future, results in the design of hypothetical mega-structures reaching unbelievable proportions. These huge mega-structures forms reflected an earlier vision that mirrored the sensibility of Richard Buckminster Fuller's proposal for a geodesic dome. Fuller's principle of prefabrication and mass production were also realized in the emergence of High Tech architecture in the 1970s.

Similarly, the emergence of High-Tech architecture in the 1970s took a radical different style and approach base on engineering and construction to present the building expression of High Tech architecture.

The Plug-In pod idea came from Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion bathrrom (1936) and Archigram Peter Cook's Plug-In City (1964). It combines different types of preoccupations with flexibility, renewability, able to dismount and mass products. One of the best examples of a High Tech building using this method were the Lloyd's Building (Figure 6) [17] . The Lloyd's Building gives the clearest expression that each floor are stacked up like shoe boxes on racks and toilets look alike pods are slotted in to the concrete flames subsequently. Clearly, the pods can be unplugged and replaced or even moved to another location of the building.

It appeared that the direction of influence may not be one sided. Buckminster Fuller works seemed to have some extent of influence on Archigram and similarly Archigram had some on the emergence of High-Tech architecture in the 1970s.

Figure , Richard Rogers, (Lloyd's Building), in London 1986

In Conclusion

Apart from conceptualise in different ways, Archigram and High Tech architecture saw much different in their visions and their contemporary influences respectively. It will be a mistake of assuming that High Tech is simply built Archigram. [18] They both may shared the same source of influence in the beginning but however interpret it differently. By discussing the three types of influence define as: their influence source, their visions and their building expressions and functions, technology advance style was a common word for both movements.

Each emerged in reaction to it, questioning the limitation on the extent of influence of Archigram on the emergence of High Tech architecture in the 1970s. Just how much and exactly which part of Archigram did influence High Tech architecture?

The Archigram respond and focus much on conceptual and exteriorizing for its technological expression desire, while High Tech architecture explores into a more practical and functional justification in their design decision. In terms of influence, the extent depends on the use of either the conceptual part of the Plug-In system in Archigram, or the physical part of balancing functional and representation of form used in High Tech architecture.