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Obituary: Richard Rogers, architect, 1933-2021

Richard Rogers, who has died aged 88, likes to tell a story about the opening of the Center Pompidou in Paris in 1977. He was standing in the drizzle with the crowd during the opening when a well-dressed woman next to ask him what. he thinks about the building. Bursting with pride, he replied, “I’m an architect” – at which point the woman picked up her umbrella and started hitting him on the head with it.

It’s a well-loved typical anecdote that portrays himself as an icon and outsider. In fact, he is anything but. Rogers’ Chelsea home, its floors split to create a stunning space, is a hub for parties organized for good causes and attended by London’s art scene, translating to Catering was provided by his wife Ruth, who co-founded (with Rose Gray) the River Café, which started out as Rogers’ office canteen. Knighted in 1991 and made Lord Rogers of Riverside five years later, despite opposing objections, the architectural establishment remains personified.

He was born in Florence in 1933, his second cousin was the famous Italian modernist architect Ernesto Rogers. Fleeing Mussolini’s regime, his family moved to England in 1938. Dyslexia and learning a new language, he struggled at school. However, he went on to study at the Architectural Association in London and won a Fulbright Fellowship to Yale, where he met the man who would become his double column on British architecture throughout. his career, Norman Foster.

Together with their then-partners, Su Rogers and Wendy Cheesman, they formed Team 4 in 1963 and went on to build an influential cottage for Su’s parents in Cornwall (Creek Vean, 1966), an exquisite glass box in Wimbledon for his parents (1968, since donated to Harvard University) and the Reliance Controls factory in Swindon, buildings that showcase the man’s open and generous style USA to UK.

The operation was dissolved due to lack of commissions in 1967 but Rogers went on to win the competition that would change his life, the Center Pompidou in Paris, which he designed in collaboration with Italian Renzo Piano and engineer Peter Rice. The building is a realization of sci-fi ideas that emerged from England in the 1960s, a blend of mechanized modernism – all exposed ducts and pipes left behind. free space, inner flexibility – and pop art.

Center Pompidou in Paris, designed by Rogers in collaboration with Italian Renzo Piano and engineer Peter Rice

Center Pompidou in Paris, designed by Rogers in collaboration with Italian Renzo Piano and engineer Peter Rice © Ian Dagnall / Alamy

Lloyd's Building in London

Lloyd’s Building in London is one of the most striking in the burgeoning modern city © Simon Dawson / Reuters

Fiercely controversial during construction, Rogers claimed Pompidou had gone from being the most hated thing in France to being the most loved building as soon as it opened. The building remains the perfect encapsulation of the desire to create a colorful, generous civic architecture of culture and entertainment. It also reveals his key influences, from the great engineers of the Victorian era to the downtrodden economy and openness of mid-century California architecture and playful futurism. Symbolism of Swinging London.

His next great achievement came with Lloyd’s Building in London (1978-86), which remains one of the most prominent structures in the now enlarged City. Bursting out from the streets adjacent to Victorian Leadenhall Market, it transforms a more limited version of Pompidou’s figure, separating service space from waiter and creating a virtual city within a city. The street is centered around a stage full of movement and life.

The lull after Lloyds saw Rogers increasingly play a political role as the loudest, and often top-level voice for contemporary architecture and civilized urbanism in the Thatcher era. These lean years, however, saw the construction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, an often progressive commission. He again gained attention with the construction of the Millennium Dome in London. Its opening on the eve of the Millennium was a widely publicized disaster, and it later became an empty shack even though, conversely, it was revived as O2, now the site UK’s most popular music spot.

Likewise, equally famous was the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, a gruesome tale of lost luggage and lengthy delays although the building has since proved to be durable as well. reliable, efficient and famous. Terminal 5 follows the famous Barajas Airport in Madrid, a complex and immensely successful piece of architecture that, arguably, reinterprets the engineering ambitions of glass and iron terminals Victorian British splendor.

His work spans buildings from the US to Asia, each of which embodies the company’s brand transparency and Meccano-like construction, which is clearly seen in “Cheesegrater”, the Leadenhall Building 225m tall in the City of London the company moved its offices in 2016. His motif is an exposure, revealing the ins and outs, whether the services or the structure and making. Highlight them through color. When the TV show satirizes Identical image As a Rogers puppet, it has its internals suspended in a tangle of intestines.

Rogers at his studio in London in 1979

Rogers at his London studio in 1979 © Hulton Archive / Getty

Rogers with his second wife Ruth in 2016

Rogers with second wife Ruth in 2016 © Nick Harvey / Shutterstock

His uncompromising attachment to the ideals of modernism became the enemy of what became his arch-enemy, the Prince of Wales. On the tallest architecture list and longest running publicly, Prince Charles made a number of interventions that killed Rogers’ plans, including writing private letters to Qatari investors. behind the redevelopment of London’s Chelsea Barracks venue which subsequently failed. In a way, they’re both stuck in a historical moment, Prince Charles in rural England, Rogers in the big, bold modernism of the 1960s.

Rogers has always had a reputation as an exemplary employer, his office has a model in which the highest paid are only allowed to earn multiples of the lowest paid employee at a fixed rate of return. always sent to charity. In 2007, the year in which he won the architecture industry’s biggest prize, Pritzker, the firm became Rogers Stirk Harbor + Partners, with Ivan Harbor and Graham Stirk as successors. There has been a gradual shift from the familiar colorful style to a softer modernism as seen in the Welsh Assembly Hall in Cardiff and the delightful Maggie’s cancer care center in Hammersmith .

Rogers became one of the most distinctive figures on the London cultural scene. His permanent tan combined with his brightly colored shirts and sparkling smile make him an image of charming sociability but they also conceal a shrewd political operator. and tough. He is an advocate of sustainable, livable cities that rely on people, not cars. His 1999 book Towards the Urban Renaissance summarizes his optimistic view of the future of our cities. In many ways, his career has been a privilege, starting with the construction of a house for his parents-in-law and then the architectural works to establish a company. He has also been criticized for building apartments for the super-rich in One Hyde Park and in Nine Elms, which seem to go against the egalitarian principles of his practice.

Rogers had five sons: three with his first wife Su and two with Ruth. In 2011, his youngest son Bo, 27 years old, died after an accident in Italy.

Rogers has become less directly involved in the design of the buildings of his practice, and he will probably be less overlooked as a designer than one of the few architects. Architects can be politicians and policymakers on all sides. Our cities would be poorer without him, but he has left behind some of the world’s most striking, powerful, and popular contemporary architecture.

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