AD Classics presents you with great buildings of the past, providing inspiration and motivation for architects to design for the future. But why must inspiration only come from poured concrete and erected walls? For this edition of AD Classics, we share a work, the Plug-In City, by the avant-garde group Archigram. Though never built, their projects and ideas provoked debates, combining architecture, technology and society; when Plug-In City was proposed in 1964, it offered a fascinating new approach to urbanism, reversing traditional perceptions of infrastructure’s role in the city.
More on this radical project after the break...
Between 1960 and 1974 Archigram created over 900 drawings, among them the plan for the “Plug-in City” by Peter Cook. This provocative project suggests a hypothetical fantasy city, containing modular residential units that “plug in” to a central infrastructural mega machine. The Plug-in City is in fact not a city, but a constantly evolving megastructure that incorporates residences, transportation and other essential services--all movable by giant cranes.
Persistent precedents and concerns of modernism lay at the heart of Plug-In City’s theoretical impulse, not limited to the concept of collective living, integration of transportation and the accommodation of rapid change in the urban environment. In his book Archigram: Architecture without Architecture, Simon Sadler suggests that “The aesthetic of incompleteness, apparent throughout the Plug-In scheme and more marked than in megastructural precedents, may have derived from the construction sites of the building boom that followed the economic reconstruction of Europe.”
Dissatisfaction with this status quo pushed the experimental architectural collective to dream of alternative urban scenarios that flied in the face of the superficial formalism and dull suburban tendencies common to British modernism of the time. The Plug-In City, along with other projects such as The Walking City or The Instant City, suggested a nomadic way of life and, more importantly, a liberation from the modernist answer of suburbia.
Archigram was formed in 1960 at the Architecture Association in London by six architects and designers, Peter Cook, Warren Chalk, Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb and David Greene. In 1961, Archigram (an eponymous publication whose name was derived from the combination of the words “architecture” + “telegram”) was born as a single sheet magazine filled with poems and sketches. As David Greene wrote in the first issue, it was meant as a platform for the voices of a young generation of architects and artists:
“A new generation of architecture must arise with forms and spaces which seem to reject the precepts of ‘Modern’ yet in fact retains those precepts. We have chosen to bypass the decaying Bauhaus image which is an insult to functionalism.”
Archigram’s visions did in fact succeed in inspiring a new generation of architects and architecture. Most obviously, their radical suggestion to reveal infrastructural elements and reverse traditional building hierarchies inspired the famous Pompidou Center by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, and their drawings and visions continue to be invoked in urban thinking today.
Check out more about Archigram on ArchDaily:
- The indicator: On Disappearance, Part 1
- Question: What would Archigram have done for the 2012 London Olympics?