Inspired by the space program, science fiction, pop art and youthful idealism, Archigram, an avant-garde group of London architects, was a major cultural influence in the 1960s, says Sarah Deyong, associate professor of architecture at Texas A&M, in a chapter about the group she wrote for the four-volume “Companions to the History of Architecture,” published April 2017 by Wiley-Blackwell.
In the chapter, Deyong suggests the architectural group’s ethos and pop aesthetic, in contrast to the modernistic style of the 1950s, gave rise to some of the most compelling design concepts of the day.
“Instead of serious and monumental, Archigram’s style was light, colorful, fantastic and hedonistic,” Deyong said.
Highly influential, the group’s peers included prominent and prolific architects Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Michael Hopkins, among others.
“Because Archigram did not build much, their most important contribution was not a building, it was their eponymous magazine.” said Deyong. “Since they were trained as architects, that might seem surprising to some people, but for architects, it is not. Architects are not only concerned with how to build things, they are also interested in ideas and how they are represented, packaged and communicated visually to a broader audience. Hence their fascination with comic books, science fiction and popular culture.”
Archigram, she said, is also recognized for its enormous influence on the High Tech movement, the Late Modern architectural style that emerged in the 1970s, incorporating elements of high-tech industry and technology into building design.
“Projects like the Centre Pompidou in Paris, designed by Archigrammer Peter Cook, celebrate building technologies with an elegant, steel-frame and exoskeleton into which prefabricated mobile parts, such as stairs, mechanical systems, and other service elements, are playfully plugged,” Deyong said.
Archigram’s designs and influence, garnered worldwide repute before eventually falling out of popularity during the economic recession of the 1970s that marked the end of the post-World War II economic boom.
While studying post-war architecture as a doctoral student at Princeton, Deyong said she was drawn to the topic because it then represented an understudied reaction to the ideologies of the modern movement that distinguished it from postmodernism. The literature on Archigram has grown since then, and today Deyong has expanded her own research on the interim years between modernism and postmodernism to include other key movements and figures.
A widely published author, Deyong’s work has appeared in leading venues including the Journal of Architectural Education, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Praxis, the Journal of Visual Culture, the Journal of Architecture, A Critical History of Contemporary Architecture and the New York Museum of Modern Art exhibition catalogue, The Changing of the Avant-Garde.
Deyong’s chapter on Archigram can be found in the fourth volume of “Companions to the History of Architecture,” published by Wiley-Blackwell in London in April 2017 [ISBN: 978-1-4443-3851-5].