Archigram is well known and its influences on architectural world are clearly understood and illustrated. The name of Cedric Price (1934-2003) is often heard in Archigram circles as he was close to the group and took active part in discussions and even contributed but was never a formal member.

He was born in Potteries  his father was an architect who specialised in Art Deco Cinema design. Cedric Price was trained at Cambridge and AA where he also taught influencing many architects, Richard Rogers, Rem Koolhaas, Will Alsop to name a few. He also worked for Maxwell Fry & Denys Lasdun before setting his own practice to build Aviary for London Zoo. He built very little but like many other thinkers had tremendous influence on future direction of architecture which  continues to this day.

He was a believer in “calculated uncertainty” where adaptable, temporary structures were preferred. He believed that an ‘anticipatory architect’ should give people the freedom to control to shape their own environments. All buildings according to him should allow for obsolescence and complete change of use. Will Alsop, who worked for him in early 70s recalls  CP’s delight in designing a Cafe for Blackpool Zoo which was eventually to be turned into a giraffe home. This fitted perfectly into his themes of uncertainty, adaptability and change.

In his ‘Thinkbelt’ University project he proposed simple, moveable buildings which would deliver education “with the same lack of peculiarity as the supply of drinking water.”

His most influential project was ‘Fun Palace (1961) ‘  for Joan Littlewood. It was killed off by local government bureaucracy. The design of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano’s Pompidou Centre in Paris is called a direct descendant. Soon after that he designed ‘ Potteries Thinkbelt (1964)’ which still makes great deal of sense. Among his built projects only Aviary in London Zoo remains, as he ensured that the other temporary structure for a community use ‘Inter-Action Centre’ in Kentish Town was not listed but demolished as intended. It is also amusing to recall that he was the only architect who was a fully paid-up member of ‘Britain’s National Institute of Demolition Contractors’.

“Aviary was designed for a community of birds and his idea was that once the community was

established it would be possible to remove the netting . The skin was a temporary feature: it only needed to be there long enough for the birds to begin to feel at home and after that they would not leave anyway. ………Price the theoritician, functionalist was frightened of and avoided style. …. he wasn’t interested in being remebered. He was building a memory.” 1*

Later in his life he worked on  ‘Magnet City’ which was an exercise in using intermediary spaces in London urban landscape to stimulate new patterns and situations for urban movement in the city. shown in an exhibition in 1997.

He also contributed to the ‘Non-Plan’ debate with Paul Baker and Peter Hall. This basically was an ‘anti-planning polemic’ which resulted in the formation of ‘enterprise zones’ like Canary Wharf in London and  ‘Metroland’ in Gateshead. On personal level I never came to see great sense in this reaction against the previous planning failures and put in their this ‘free for all’  American style money making  system even if it generated big business and attracted lots of users.

1* Will Alsop’s recollections.

Photo above shows three views (interior & exterior) of Fun Palace by Cedric Price 1962.

IBC/MPS, (International Broadcast Centre/ Main Press Centre)

The following quotes give a glimpse of opportunities which were on offer for a structure which could bring all Olympic ideals and emotions in play due to impact of  broadcasts for few magical weeks involving almost all the nations and population of the world.

“During the Games the IBC will include a 12,000 sq m catering village serving 50,000 meals per day. There will also be a 200m-long High Street between the MPC and IBC featuring outlets such as banks, newsagents, travel agents and a post office.

The MPC includes 29,000sq m of ‘green’ office space with four storeys of workspace for journalists and photographers during the Games. It has an innovative design that enables the building to be adapted after the Games for either a single tenant in the whole building or on each floor, as well as multiple tenants on each floor. The MPC includes state-of-the-art utilities, power and digital connectivity during and after the Games.”

It saddens me to see this appalling project produced in country which has produced figures like Cedric Price, Archigram team, Rogers and Foster with clear intellectual groundings and built examples. Any good designer would have loved to produce a structure which could encapsulate the key role the modern broadcasting technologies would play and a building to reflect the multi-use and flexibility to match this task.

Cabe in a polite way describes the ‘extraordinary banality of the IBC megastructue’ and goes as far as saying that this could ‘blight rather than enhance the Olympic Legacy.’ They say that their comments about this gargantuan building are not dealing with matters ‘…stylistic but about identity and character, scale, coherence and creation of both medium and possibly long term legacy which is appropriate for this important use.

Unfortunately, after saying all this they have no power to demolish the whole of this disastrous mess, which should have not been allowed to reach this advanced stage of construction in the first place. Their talk of improvements to elevational treatments, drapes of differing colours and transparent screens is unlikely to save us from this blot on the landscape.

After saying all this I have to come clean and say that in my opinion this elevation (as it stands today) showing possibly the most economical ducting solution, waiting for some Cabe approved multi-coloured cladding to hide it, is one of the most exciting and appropriate elevations on the Olympic site and at least manages to indicate the nature and function of this important structure giving a faint glimpse of the lost opportunities.

PS: I was so pleased to notice that the latest photos of this completed building show that my fears of a scheme hiding the ducts in this elevation behind ‘screens’ did not materialize after all. (July 2012)

One of the best examples of 60’s brutalist monolith structures is a sizeable and well considered building designed for a dramatic site in cold climate. Since a significant slice was built as the first phase by a confident and dedicated architect, the functionality of the building can be assessed to measure various design criteria envisaged by John Andrews.

Unfortunately, the Canadians seem to be shy or ashamed of this significant building and the younger generations of architects seem to be unaware of this example of romantic brutalism, representing a significant branch of modern movement in mid 20th century.

I visited Canada as an architectural student to see Expo 67 and also took this opportunity to see as much architecture on East coast of Canada and USA I could cope on the Greyhound buses. Scarborough College, as it was known then, completely bowled me over. Even my semi-matured architectural understanding could not fail to grasp the ‘magic’ of this building. Luckily the slides I took, survived more than 40 years of storage and a bit of cleaning of digitised images is the basis of my photographs here and on Flickr pages. Set

Kenneth Frampton wrote a critique of this building in April 1967 issue of Architectural Design. I am reproducing some of the drawings from this article and paraphrasing or quoting some other relevant parts.

Scarborough was designed as one of the first two satellite campuses to take all their undergraduate programmes. As it was a fair distance away from Toronto, the students were to gain access by car or bus. Kenneth Frampton was surprised to see lack of undercover walks from distant car parking to a building which entirely relied on warm covered student circulation. He assumed that this was either a cost saving measure or possibly certain architectural preconceptions about approach and entry to the building. Andrews wanted the open academic near the admin block to be a dignified, formal hub of the college activity giving access to all college buildings.

The layout is centralized in its organization. The positioning of radiating wings of the building was governed by the site constraints and maximum walking distance of 10 minutes.

“The choice of site has ruthlessly determined the plan profile of the building, making it an obsessive and rock-like extension of the escarpment upon which it rests. The old classic imperative that man-made form be rendered distinct from natural form is at once challenged by this organic parti.”

KF considers the building to be a biological organization on an irregular site, difficult to handle formally. Receding or cantilevered wings modulated, when possible, by structural or servicing elements as well as cranked ‘knuckles’ containing lecture halls, changing  the direction of wing segments. The entire building is thus ‘coded’ externally to express consistently four different component functions: lecture halls, offices, laboratories and staircases.

The projecting or receding elements also help to form continuous enclosed pedestrian streets rising two floors or full height of the building. The inclined service ducts serving laboratories not only feed and drain waste from the laboratories but also distribute forced air to and from ducts on the roof.

In the humanities wing a two-tiered counterpointed battery of lecture halls maintains a protective windowless wall on northern windswept face, while the faculty offices on south face project out providing solar protection.

Tiered sections also provide daylight to internal streets and full height court, ‘meeting place’ placed at the meeting of two converging streets.

“One cannot but be impressed by the ingenuity and generosity of this organization and by its evident operational success. It is a success that is ‘environmentally’ supported by the consistent use of high quality internal finishes and by felicitous light.”

Scarborough possesses a built-in allowance for variable patterns of use…..

As Oscar Newman has observed, ‘The continuous problem of change can to some extent be avoided by the further development of the organic logic and hierarchical organization of spaces and activities—a solution which in itself goes a long way toward limiting the need for large-scale future changes.’

“Scarborough departs radically from the traditional Anglo-Saxon quadrangular university complexes of recent years. It is by far the most daring, comprehensive and radical, and as such merits serious critical attention.”

Towards the end KF writes in some detail about the intellectual aspects of campuses as prototypical city form and compares Scarborough with work of Candilis, Josic and Woods. He considers  limits of growth, organization and classic vs. romantic thoughts. I suggest you read the article to read this analysis.

The article ends by stating, “Scarborough belongs to the nexus of thought… shaped by Camillo Sitte ….and travels to Frank Lloyd Wright….. and back in Europe is to be found in the thoughts of an Aalto, a Pietila. It is equally the thought of a James Stirling or a Paul Rudolph. These men are all positively not of the classic mind – and neither is John Andrews.”

After 40 years of expansion and changes, the latest master plan can be seen here

When John Andrews was designing and building this in Canada Denys Lasdun was in the middle of constructing University of East Anglia which has many similarities with Scarborough. While Patrick Hodgkinson conceived Brunswick Centre in London almost at the same time as Scarborough was being designed, although it was not completed till 1973. It has a much more urban and slightly formal context as one of the best megastructures of the period in this country.

More photos of this project and other Andrews work on my Flickr set

For recent photographs see set from Ben