The British architect Richard Rogers (born 1933) was an avowed modernist who represented high tech architecture with his concern for advanced technology. He was best known for his joint design of the Centre Pompidou in Paris with Renzo Piano and for the Lloyd's of London Building in London.
Richard George Rogers was born in Florence, Italy, on July 23, 1933, to British parents. He served in the British Army (1951-1953) prior to attending the Architectural Association School (1953-1959) in London. He received the Diploma of Architecture in 1959 and in 1960 married the architect Su Brumwell. The following year he studied at the Yale University School of Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut on a Fulbright scholarship, and received the Master of Architecture degree in 1962. Returning from America, Rogers formed a partnership with Norman and Wendy Foster and Su Rogers (1963-1968) in London called Team 4. They completed an industrial building (1967) at Swindon, Wiltshire, England, for Reliance Controls Ltd. The Team 4 arrangement was followed by the partnership of Richard and Su Rogers (1968-1970).
Successful Collaboration With Renzo Piano
Rogers' collaboration with Renzo Piano began in 1970, and one of their earliest designs (1971-1973) was for the small office building located at the entrance to the B & B Italia factory in Novedrate, Como, Italy. Their use of chromatic effects, an open interior space that could be freely laid out and divided up, and the suspension of that space from an exterior trellis structure all look forward to the Centre Pompidou, or Beaubourg as it is more popularly known in Paris. Winning the competition for the Centre National d'Art et Culture Georges Pompidou (1971-1977) and then building it was an extraordinary achievement for Rogers and Piano. Criticism has been directed against the high tech appearance of the building, but the public's acceptance and use of the building contradict this controversy. It has been said that Pompidou has attracted seven million visitors a year, "more than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower combined." For Rogers, the aim of technology is to satisfy the needs of all levels of society. In Beaubourg the mechanical services and plant have been hung around the exterior of the building, thus leaving the interior spaces clear. These flexible spaces can accommodate new developments in information systems and communications. The multiple and varied functions of the Beaubourg are served well by the evolutionary nature of this building.
The most unique design to come from the Rogers and Piano collaboration was the one for the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in the center of Paris (1973-1977). This subterranean building with its roof at street level and improved acoustics contains studios, workshops, and an experimental concert hall. Scientific research and listening to music occur at IRCAM as scientists and musicians work side by side to explore the possibilities of abolishing the barrier that separates science and art.
Formed Richard Rogers Partnership
In 1973 Rogers married Ruth Elias and in 1977 formed the architectural firm of Richard Rogers Partnership with John Young, Marco Goldschmied, and Mike Davies. Lloyd's of London, the insurance underwriters, held a limited international competition in 1979 for a design to replace the 1925 headquarters designed by Sir Edwin Cooper. Richard Rogers & Partners presented the winning entry. Rogers' plan was a straightforward rectangular atrium office block, but by bringing the service elements (elevators, escape stairs, restrooms, and service ducts wrapped in gleaming stainless steel) out on to the facade, an ordinary building was dramatically altered. The technology of the Lloyd's building was not innovative, having been done before—mostly in the United States—but it was sophisticated. The design focus of the building is "The Room," which is lit and dominated by the central atrium. Several features from earlier Lloyd's buildings were saved for use in this scheme: Cooper's pedimented entrance and library, Lutyens' war memorial design, and Adams' committee room.
The Inmos microchip plant (1982) in Newport, Gwent, Wales, presented Rogers with an exacting task just as IRCAM had, but instead of refined acoustics, a high degree of environmental control was needed. The necessity of cleanliness in the production of microchip wafers was the controlling factor in the design. Inmos also wanted a friendly environment for its employees and maximum flexibility for an evolving industry. The design had to be responsive to any site and capable of being built in a range of sizes. The key organizing element in Rogers' plan was a wide corridor that acted as a central spine. The clean room for production was placed to the north of the spine and the offices, restaurants, and testing labs to the south. Through the use of a standard bay system pre-fabricated off-site, Rogers was able to give Inmos an eight-bay building with the potential for enlargement to 20 bays.
A natural evolution from the Inmos plant is seen in the research and development facility Rogers designed for Patscenter International (1983) in Princeton, New Jersey. Rogers and Piano had built a facility near Cambridge, England, in 1975 for the parent company based on an open plan, but here in Princeton Rogers repeated his idea of open space ranged on either side of a central spine. The smaller size of Patscenter and less rigorous environmental requirements allowed for a simplified structure. The different approaches of the British and American construction industries are also reflected in Inmos and Patscenter.
A later project of a somewhat different nature was Rogers' plan for the development of a site in the London borough of Hammersmith on the Thames River (1983-1985). It included a new studio for his firm, start-up spaces for innovative companies, and private housing. By refurbishing already existing structures and building new ones, while maintaining the residential character of the area, it was hoped that the qualities of the riverside would be preserved and enhanced. A new public riverwalk served as a unifying element and provided access to river views for pedestrians.
In 1997 the Richard Rogers Partnership received a contract to design the Millennium Exhibition—a 130-acre site on London's Greenwich Peninsula that will hold a year-long event in the year 2000. The center piece of the exhibit will be the Millennium dome, which the architects described as being able to hold "two Wembley Stadiums."
In spite of attacks on modern architecture, Rogers remained a committed modernist. He was interested most in the imagery of technology and concerned himself with advanced technology in architecture. There is a consistent development in his works so that those designs singled out are more or less typical. Even though devoted to technology, Rogers remained faithful to the environment. He thought that people should live closer to their workplace, so there would be no need to commute: thus, less pollution. He believed that people in the cities need open spaces. In a 1995 interview in the Los Angeles Times, Rogers said that urban design must contain squares and open spaces. "City squares are special," he said. "People come to them to talk, demonstrate and celebrate." Rogers was awarded the 1985 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). He served as president of RIBA and was an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He was an internationally respected architect of the latter half of the 20th century.
In 1996, Rogers was introduced into the House of Lords, taking the title "The Lord Rogers of Riverside." He was given a Barony of the United Kingdom for life. In April 1997, Rogers received an honorary professorship from the Thames Valley University. He has written one book, Architecture: A Modern View (1991).
Further Reading on Richard Rogers
Books about Rogers and his work include: Richard Rogers: A Biography by Bryan Appleyard (1986); The Architecture of Richard Rogers by Deyan Sudjic (1995); Lloyd's Building: Richard Rogers Partnership by Kenneth Powell (1994); Richard Rogers Partnership: Works and Projects by Richard Burdett (1996); Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, James Sterling: New Directions in British Architecture by Deyan Sudjic (1986); and Richard Rogers 1978-1988 (Architecture and Urbanism Extra Edition Series). There is also a collection of architectural monographs titled Richard Rogers and Architects edited by Barbie Campbell and Ruth Elias Rogers (1985). Numerous articles on Rogers may be found in international architectural journals such as Architectural Review, The Architects' Journal, Building, and Architectural Design. Rogers is listed in Contemporary Architects, edited by Muriel Emanuel (1980). Rogers, Piano, and others authored The Building of Beaubourg (1978). Current information can be found on the Richard Rogers Partnership Web site (www.richardrogers.co.uk/home.html).