(1933 - )
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Lloyds Building, London
Millennium Dome, London
Richard Rogers was born in Florence, Italy in 1933 into an Anglo-Italian family. Immediately before the outbreak of World War Two, he was taken to Britain, and spent an unhappy childhood in boarding schools where teachers mistook his dyslexia for laziness, and recommended that he become a policeman.
Today, Richard (now Lord) Rogers vies with his one-time acquaintance Norman Foster for the title of Britain's most influential architect, with projects ranging from Shanghai's new business district to London's Millennium Dome, and has the ear of Britain's arts and political establishment.
Rogers met Norman Foster when both were scholarship students at Yale University in the United States. On their return to Britain, they joined forces to form the architectural practice Team 4, which was dissolved in 1967 after only four years, but not before their Reliance Controls Factory in Swindon had earned them the label 'high-tech', which would stick to each man through their careers.
Despite persistent rumours of animosity between the two, Rogers insists that the rivalry is a friendly one. After the split of Team 4, Rogers and Foster went their separate ways, but both began to explore ways to celebrating new technologies in their work, resulting in a catalogue of spectacular buildings across the world which pushed the boundaries of Modernism, and increasingly began to redefine what modern urban buildings should look like.
Rogers' most famous example of this new style is the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which he designed with Renzo Piano and completed in 1977. With this amazing building, Rogers and Piano took their desire to celebrate the art of engineering and industrial design to spectacular extremes.
Everything, from the lifts to the sewage pipes, is visible on the outside of the structure. The rationale was to allow the greatest possible amount of floor space for the interior, so that art lovers (it is, after all, an arts centre), could enjoy enough space to appreciate the exhibitions. Today, the building itself is one of Paris' most popular tourist attractions, but at the time reaction was decidedly mixed. Critics dubbed the inside-out style 'Bowellism'.
In 1986, venerable insurance brokers Lloyds of London unveiled their new headquarters in the City of London. Rogers had again designed a spectacular celebration of the engineering aesthetic. Once again, the services were on the outside, and despite criticisms from some of the 10,000 or so who worked in the giant tower, the Lloyds Building has become almost as famous a London landmark as Big Ben.
In the 1990s, Rogers has turned his hand to city planning, and was appointed to the British government's Urban Task Force in 1998. A convinced urbanist, he believes that authorities should encourage people to live in cities and that these should be made to be more humanist and friendly.
For Rogers, many of our cities fail because of a bad use of space, a neglect of human elements in their planning, and an often soulless emptiness in their most important public spaces. His ideas for high-density, open, user-friendly cities are perhaps not as ambitious as the grand plans of Le Corbusier and other early Modernists, but they represent a significant development in Modernists' attempts to solve the long-standing problems of living and working in a city in the modern world.
A personal friend of Tony Blair and other members of the Cabinet, and with a host of official positions in the arts and architectural world, as well as his position as the Government's chief adviser on urban regeneration, Richard Rogers is arguably the most powerful British architect since Sir Christopher Wren.
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