Review: ‘Richard Rogers: Inside Out’ at the Royal Academy

“Architecture is too complex to be solved by any one person.”

Richard Rogers is an architect who understands the significance of collaboration. As a man with an intense social mind and a thirst for fairness in architectural and urban design, Rogers’ substantial portfolio of completed and proposed buildings is driven by the Athenian citizen’s oath of “I shall leave this city not less but more beautiful than I found it.”

In honor of his success, London’s Royal Academy (RA) is currently playing host to a vast retrospective of Richard Rogers’ work, from his collaborations with Norman Foster and Renzo Piano, to the large-scale projects that define Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) today. The RA’s extensive exhibition has been condensed into a series of motifs that have defined his architectural work, punctuated by memorabilia which offer personal insights into how Rogers’ career has been shaped by the people he’s worked with and the projects that he has worked on.

Continue after the break for a selection of highlights from the exhibition. 

Courtesy of the Royal Academy of Arts. Image © Andrew Zuckerman

Fairness: A Place for All People

The Centre Pompidou (1971-1977) - a collaboration with Renzo Piano - “would be a place for all people, the young and the old, the poor and the rich, all creeds and nationalities, a cross between New York’s Times Square and London’s British Museum.” The building is open and transparent, with glass escalators scaling the side of the building and pipes and services on view. Similarly, rather than select and edit the exhibition according to successes and failures, the show is an open uninhibited journey through Rogers’ life with both mistakes and triumphs displayed in equal measure. Something which stood out is Rogers’ 1958 report from the Architectural Association, detailing how “he has a genuine interest in and a feeling for architecture, but sorely lacks the intellectual equipment to translate these feels into sound building”, the irony of which hangs proudly on all four surrounding walls.

Pompidou Centre, Paris, 1971-77 - courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Image © David Noble

The City: Florence, Paris, and London

The final room of the show exhibits Rogers’ love for urban sprawl: “cities represent a high point of human achievement” acting as “the place where people, goods and ideas come together”. More importantly, they encourage co-operation, collaboration and “the formation of social groups."

The Arno Masterplan (1983-1984) is notable because of its personal connection to Rogers, who was born and grew up overlooking Florence’s Duomo. Although unrealised, it laid the foundations for his visionary London as it could be proposal two years later, which was also dismissed by those in power at the time. The incredible ambition of the proposal is encompassed in the models and sketches on display, the process of which politicised Rogers who became no longer merely a facilitator of development, but an activist for social change.

London As It Could Be, 1986 - courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Image Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Collaboration: “Architecture is too complex to be solved by any one person.”

Great architects are often known for a defined style, but a style which has been shaped by those they have worked with. Roger Stephenson once told me that the best practices are those which are led by people who embed their design ethos within their practice so that it can evolve autonomously and still maintain that essence that makes them unique. It would be safe to say that Rogers is one of these architects, with almost every building demonstrating a virtuoso understanding of the power of teamwork. The development of Rogers’ numerous practices, from Team4 at the very beginning to Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners today, encapsulate the morphology of his architecture through a fascinating series of models, hand renders, photographs and personal notes.

Courtesy of the Royal Academy of Arts. Image Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts

With Rogers now at eighty years of age, Inside Out brings together an unparalleled collection of work in a show which has been expertly curated. The exhibition emphasis that that architecture cannot be expressed in one single medium. It is a testament to how architectural designs are devised and developed through an infinite number of methods and can lead to some truly groundbreaking buildings.

“Architecture is measured against the past, you build in the present, and try to imagine the future.”

Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out is exhibiting at Burlington Gardens until the 13 October 2013.

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Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "Review: ‘Richard Rogers: Inside Out’ at the Royal Academy" 17 Sep 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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