Trends & Ideas

Collection Spotlight: Archigram

 

Archigram was the six-man avant-garde architecture collective that exploded onto the fringe design scene in 1961. In their fourteen influential years together, the group turned conventional 'sterile' city-making on its head, redefining the boundaries of architectural planning by exploring ideas of space travel, science fiction and new technologies.

Born of the fusion between ‘architecture’ and ‘telegram’, the group consisted of Warren Chalk (1927-1987), Peter Cook (1936- ), Dennis Crompton (1935- ), David Greene (1937- ), Ron Herron (1930-1994) and Michael Web (1937-), and was based at the prestigious Architectural Association of School of Architecture in London.

The legacy of the group rests in their commitment to their namesake: exploring contemporaneous ideas of space travel and moon landing, subculture and the Beatles, science fiction and the new technologies of the sixties and seventies in order to create radical – often shocking – alternatives to cities, houses and other architectural archetypes. Archigram employed a rich tapestry of vocabulary and mediums to challenge the status quo: from vivid collages of advertising images and their titular magazine - first published in 1961 - to metaphor drawings on robotics, conglomerates of cities reminiscent of spaceships, and their radical re-definitions of flats as “Capsules”, and of cities as “Plug-in Cities” or “Walking Cities” (both 1964). 

Drawing on historical inspirations such as architect/artists Buckminster Fuller, Bruno Taut, and Friedrich Kiesler, Archigram blended contemporary ideas of consumerism and technology to give voice to an underground movement impatient with the conservatism of modern architecture; ideas that shaped subsequent High-tech and avant-garde architecture movements on a global scale, in Europe but notably also in Japan and America.

In 2018, in fact, Hong Kong’s M+ Museum acquired the entire Archigram archive consisting of tens of thousands of drawings and models produced by the group throughout the 1960s. The collection was inaugurated in 2020 with a symposium in collaboration with the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong and the Power Station of Art in Shanghai. Titled ‘Archigram Cities’, the events introduced the group to new audiences and expanded readings of Archigram’s practice on a global scale.

Goup members on the set of the Archigram Exhibition, Mito, Japan

Ever ahead of their time, Archigram anticipated the global inter-relatedness of culture and technology and thus had an immediate influence on architectural discussions world-wide. Neo-futuristic, anti-heroic, and pro-consumerist, Archigram's impact on the international design community has long been recognised, and the group received the RIPA Royal Gold Medal in 2002. 

In partnership with the Archigram Archives, we have published a series of special edition prints endorsed by original Archigram artist, Dennis Crompton.⁠ Printed on 330 gsm Somerset Enhanced Velvet paper and embossed with an Archigram Archives stamp, these collectible prints capture the ingenuity of this playful movement.⁠

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