The current Richard Rogers exhibition at the Royal Academy is deeply thoughtful and inspiring. And more than a historic documentation of all of Rogers’ projects, this retrospective offers a wealth of wisdom about being a socially conscious architect, in a way that Rogers thought architecture should be. In what took us three well-spent hours to walk through this display, here are some of Rogers’ ideas that remain with us several days later –
‘Architecture is too complex to be solved by any one person. Collaboration lies at the heart when different disciplines, from sociology to mathematics, engineering to philosophy, come together to create solutions.’
‘The scale of a building is not defined by its size alone, but by the articulation of its parts. To reduce the apparent bulk of the Pompidou, we created a façade that could catch and sculpt the light. A layered façade, not a wall, but a series of transparent screens, metal structures with terraces and balconies, one behind the other.’
‘My first government appointment after finishing the (Centre) Pompidou was to join the Board of Tate Gallery. Later I became Chairman. It was a wonderful experience surrounded by knowledgeable artist trustees: Tony Caro, Patrick Heron, Rita Donagh, but it was also in some ways an old-fashioned institution.
One of my last jobs was to sit on a small committee to appoint a new Director. I consider my greatest achievement to be appointing Nick Serota, a man who has totally changed the culture of art in this country.’
‘What I stand for is more important than what I have achieved.’
‘To bring about change you need to campaign constantly. Demonstrations, parliamentary speeches or the way you run your life and business could all be means at our disposal. It is equally important to campaign for the planting of a tree as for a just National Planning Policy.’
‘I shall leave this City not less but more beautiful than I found it” was the ancient Athenian citizen’s oath and is the driving ambition behind my work.’
‘No one is more integral to the clarity of a project than an enlightened client.’
‘Work is not an end in itself. A balanced life includes the enjoyment of leisure and time to think.’
‘In ‘open-minded’ spaces we are readier to meet people’s gaze and participate. These spaces give us something in common, bring together diverse sections of society and breed a sense of tolerance, awareness, identity and mutual respect.’
‘Our buildings are more like carefully designed indeterminate objects than frozen temples. Flexibility to meet the changing needs of a building over time is key to our design approach.’
‘Architecture is measured against the past, you build in the present and you try to imagine the future.’
‘Good design humanises. Bad design brutalizes.’
We love the explosion of colour that is Inside Out, the personality of Rogers’ that shines through, and the vibrant open room at the end of the exhibition with its wall covered with ‘Your Ideas for London’.
Don’t miss the poetic note written to Richard Rogers at birth by his uncle, the architect Ernesto Rogers.
Calling him ‘Dani’ it says,’Dani, beautiful baby, this is life – do you like it?
It goes on to have Ernesto describing himself –
‘In general I am likeable.
I am not handsome but I live to compensate the world,
forcing myself to invent beautiful things.’
And among other bits of wisdom, Ernesto tells Richard to,
Life is beautiful, life is curious
Many get confused and spend their lives eavesdropping through the door.
Break through the door!’
Such honesty is hard to come by. But when we do, it stays with us a long time.