People who know me well are aware that it takes me at least two hours to see an exhibition. But I only spent an hour at the Royal Academy’s Richard Rogers exhibition.
Rogers is a British architect internationally renowned for his modernist and radical designs. The show reminded me of the architecture room of the Royal Academy summer exhibition. Good for an introduction, but I was hoping to learn more about the man himself. I very much enjoy RR’s works, including the Centre Pompidou (known as Beaubourg in France) of course, and Madrid’s Barajas airport in particular. In my view, the RA exhibition raised the question of the integration of new designs in the existing architectural landscape.
National Gallery extension – too modern?
The exhibition shows plans for a proposed extension of the National Gallery which was never approved. At first I felt glad it didn’t go through, as I believe the proposed modernist design didn’t fit the NG collections. Mr BB, who I met afterwards for dinner, rightly told me that I would probably have opposed I. M. Pei’s Louvre pyramid when it was being proposed too. Indeed, would I have thought the same if Beaubourg had not been built? What about the Lloyds building (also by Rogers, and also one of Mr BB’s favorite buildings)?
Further in the exhibition, there was a photo of the Guggenheim museum, showing in amongst its surroundings. The photograph shows how striking it is vs. its classical neighbouring buildings. I felt that seeing the plans of the now iconic Guggenheim building must have been a shock initially.
Beaubourg screen – shame!
Rogers is best known for the Pompidou Centre in Paris, jointly designed with Renzo Piano. An LED information screen was proposed to run along the facade of the Centre Pompidou, but this was rejected in the end. Which is a shame.
I would have also liked his ‘London as it could be’ (see link for more details). Rogers proposed in particular that the road along the embankment be sunk in a tunnel, allowing the river-side to become a new linear park.
Although I would have liked to see a bigger show, the exhibition made think about how architects have an impact on our lives. RR certainly went well beyond pure functionality, even engaging in politics. Holding true to his belief that architects should foster democracy, his National Assembly for Wales is transparent, allowing the public servants inside to be seen at work by the public. The RA shows runs until October 13.