SPEAKER: I would like to introduce to you today Sir Peter Cook. He was born in Southend-on-Sea. So it's somewhere in the [INAUDIBLE] of England. At least I've got my own opinion, of course. Went to Bournemouth College of of Art for around five years, and then studied at the Architectural Association until about 1960.
I'd like to speak a little bit more personal about Peter, which I like to do with some of our speakers. Most of them, well in the end, all of them I had known. But I guess I know everybody. So it's not like [INAUDIBLE].
Peter Cook was awarded the very competitive, extremely, of course, competitive and kind of fought about professorship at the Stadelschule. It was more or less an MArch II post-professional program in Frankfurt. And you could imagine it went from, does the guy speak German, to no, we don't need anybody who can't build kind of situation, to let's find the ever, ever, ever, never hasn't happened before that an English-speaking, non-building architect was awarded this incredibly prestigious professorship.
I, at that point, I was floating around the world and decided that I needed yet another post-professional degree. And was then-- I think there was probably a competitive application process. Though in Germany, that's not normally very competitive anyway.
And there were only two people admitted to the program. One was me, and one was somebody who then later on became a very good friend of mine. And we were like, oh, this is really interesting. We didn't expect, do you know what's going to happen?
And then we were floating around London. And then somebody very important said, do you know where you're going? And we were like, no.
He says, you're going to teach with the best ever architectural critic and teacher in the world. There's nothing matched with this person. And we were really scared. You could imagine.
So as we arrived, the first thing we learned is that Peter Cook really loved to do mood music. I think he's going to give us some presentation today. So he was like walking through this amazing very, very grand classical building. And he was [HUMMING].
And you always knew where the professor was. [HUMMING]. Amazing, we sat in the studio. He's coming soon. And we had unheard juries, a lot of them.
We worked about 23 hour a day, and in total, not desperation, in total awe and excitement. He made everybody-- he then pulled everybody from the AA back together with the people who were in this post-graduate school. He made us speak English immediately. Luckily I was already kind of in an English-speaking Danish-speaking program at that point.
And he says, well what will we get to do? He's going to be in London until Wednesday. And then we were, oh, my god, we're going to get to [INAUDIBLE] London. And every time one of them showed up was the most amazing staffed set juries.
And then somebody would, oh we could go to Vienna. We need look at this, and that, and Kiev, and Oslo. So I really, truly did have, at that time, the best post-graduate-- that was a two-year program-- education I could ever imagine.
And since then, at awe, I have watched Peter Cook move around the room. And we're just talking this weekend. And we realized, if we just looked at the people in the past, which was in the AA, two people were-- several people were then later on also in the Stadel. And Peter Cook, at that point, has been a critic of the AA-- I think you started in the AA in 1964. So he's been at the AA, in the end, it's 26 years with this unit.
And we looked at all the names which we could remember. And we realized that out of all these names we could remember, 75% of these people were either directors of the school, chairs, deans, or somebody everybody was talking about. So you could imagine what an enormous influence Peter Cook has.
He has not only created an enormously valuable education, he's created numerous leaders within architecture in education as well as in production, half-half I would say.
In all of these wonderful things, and I will talk a little bit about his production, he was created a knight. Well, it's very English, so he's Sir Peter Cook. And he's been created a knight, actually in 2007 at the queen's birthday, I think. And the queen is really recognizing the most important people, cultural producers, and the most important cultural people in England at her birthday, not very many.
So now we have a knight, which I think is very interesting. And the only other one I remember is Norman Foster. Right?
PETER COOK: [INAUDIBLE].
SPEAKER: Oh, he's a lord now. But he was a sir before that.
So that's one thing about Peter. Another one regarding the knighthood is just, he thinks it's very funny. The other thing, which is very important about Peter Cook is not only as a teacher, as an academic, as building up schools, as building up careers, he's been always kind of a worldwide figure. And if you think about it-- I'm going backwards now. Maybe I should go forward. Where he's either exhibiting or building-- and we're going to start, just start 2004, so not too far away.
He does social housing in Madrid. He's done the [INAUDIBLE] in [INAUDIBLE]. He's finishing the Kunsthaus in Graz, which is in Austria.
He gets the Gustave Eiffel prize in Paris. He is selected as the professor of architecture at the Royal Academy in London. He is the keynote [INAUDIBLE] speaker in Australia. He gets awarded the German National Technology prize.
He wins an urban design competition called Contemporary Street Systems in Madrid. He starts his, at least, third studio, craft studio, 2006. Of course you all know that he started Archigram. And he also had different other partnerships before that or after that.
He then wins the Municipal Theater in Italy. He then starts building a very large administration building in Vienna. And he then gets, lately, the Marco Pani prize in Mexico City.
He then gets awarded an honorary doctorate of technology in Lund University. And then he wins the Taiwan Tower. And as he wins the second prize, he gets awarded the first prize for a new architecture school in Queensland, Australia. This man is everywhere actually.
He's a guest professor in [INAUDIBLE] in Lund, which I should probably let you know, Lund is in Sweden. And he's a guest professor in Paris. And he is our guest this semester here.
So, as you can see, in terms of production, and I don't know, [INAUDIBLE] more than anywhere else, but that's quite amazing.
And Peter has a very wide range of projects, which he's been engaged in, from the cultural buildings to social housing, to actually also a historic museum, where preservation plays a large role.
He's done I don't know how many books, but he did lately a book on drawing Architecture- Action and Plan, Experimental Architecture. He did many, many editions on Archigram. AA press U, of course, had at least one monograph from him.
He had conversations at the Academy Royal in London. He has publications in Tokyo, conversations as well as New York, and in Vienna. So clearly, also empirical works on city projects that start, of course, in '64 to '66, Plug-In City, Instant City, which was '69 and '90.
He had a lot of different very, very large-scale urban design conditions. But then he also has finished a beautiful social housing project for the International Building Exhibition in Berlin, Lutzowplatz Housing in '92.
So scale-wise, he's going to go from giant city all the way to social housing. And then I remember, which we were very much admiring, the transformation of the cafeteria at the Stadelschule, the post-grad school in Frankfurt, where every little detail was just perfect.
So now, with Gavin Robotham he has started a new company called CRAB. And I don't know exactly how this comes to be. I want to hear a little bit about it. And I'm really very much looking forward to seeing the newest projects. Because as he stepped a little bit-- not too much-- down as an academic a few years ago, he immediately stepped up the production in architecture, which makes us all be very optimistic of what we're supposed to do when we step down from academia.
So please, help me welcome Peter Cook.
PETER COOK: After that amazing litany of history, I feel quite exhausted. Did I do all that? It took awhile. And this evening will be a little faster. And maybe a little bit more selective. I'm not sure.
It's weird because you've-- Dennis, my old teammate from Archigram has given you, I've been told, a very autobiographical, and amusing, and engaging lecture. And I've heard him on the subject of Blackpool before. And we both come from the seaside. You realize that? And that is a sort of subtheme.
In fact, I start off with-- I think that the seaside town I pick out is not-- on the left, is a little seaside town, not where I was born, another seaside town I lived in for a while called Felixstowe, a very minor seaside town on the east coast of England. And I hadn't realized it at the time. I wanted to be an architect from about the age of 11. But I was in Felixstowe about the age of nine, or thereabouts.
And there was this fun fair. It's still there, I think, this fun fair with a funny old sort of rickety, helter skelter-- underneath the helter skelter is a sort of crazy house made of ferro-cement or something. And to the right of it is a piece of East of England art deco.
Of course, at the time I wouldn't have called the helter skelter a megastructure. I wouldn't have called the crazy house a piece of expressionism. And I wouldn't have known what art deco was if you spelled it out to me.
But somewhere or other in my funny psychology though, I suppose there was some strange mixing of those things. I was avid for the different. And it was down there in this small, ordinary little seaside town.
Then somewhat later, we moved to Bournemouth, which is a much bigger, more known seaside town. And the device on the right-hand side there is the cliff lift. I think it's still there.
At the time I lived there, if you were stupid, you paid a penny to go down the cliff. If you were sensible, you paid a penny to come up the cliff. It probably costs about five quid or something now.
It was, of course, a piece of mechanical device. But it was just there. It was just a way of getting up and down the cliff for the many old people who live in Bournemouth and live another 10 years after they're expected because the climate's quite nice. But they go up and down the lift.
And I realized that what was significant in the context of what I'm going to talk about is that it was a mechanical device. But it was just there. I didn't say, that is a mechanical device. Therefore, it has a certain cultural significance. It's this bloody thing you go up and down the cliff in.
And I think that that has interested me greatly ever since, the notion that the vocabulary of what we use, of architecture and so on, can be extended infinitely, that there isn't a special brain that you wear when you go in a vehicle. It's just extending the environment like anything else.
And I jump to a very relatively recent project that we did in CRAB CRAB stands for Cook Robotham Architecture Bureau. It is Gavin Robotham and not Kevin Rowbotham. I say that avowedly because they're very, very different personalities.
In fact, this is a competition project for a bridge in Skopje in Eastern Europe. And all they wanted was a footbridge. And to those who know me well, I'm very keen on collecting kiosks. I collect photographs of kiosks. I'm into kiosks.
And so I said, well a bloody footbridge, that's a bit boring. Why don't we put a kiosk on there. That would be great. Kids can buy ice cream and stuff and cross the bridge. Not much else to do in Skopje.
And then Gavin said, hey, why don't we make the kiosk move backwards and forwards? Makes it even more interesting, tell the time by it. Then I said, hey, if the kiosk move backwards and forwards, you could have an upper level with steps that drop down like on certain backs of aircraft where, at a certain point in the evening, the kids are still buying their ice cream maybe, maybe not. And the steps come down, and there's a Slivovitz bar on the upper floor.
So it's a kiosk that moves, has a Slivovitz bar, has the-- and it moves. And then we got BuroHappold, the famous engineers, to engineer it for us. Of course, we didn't win the competition because all they wanted was a bloody footbridge.
But I don't suppose there's a client for such a thing sitting in the audience now. But I introduce this at every lecture I possibly can because we really love the scheme. We think, shit, somewhere wants a footbridge, or a pier, or a way-- but, you know, you could have an amazing one in this town that would go up and down this enormous hill to-- ideal place.
Just thought of it. You could have the local white wine on the upper floor and-- well it's a bit cold for choc-ices, but some useful hot dogs or something being sold around underneath. And it could go up and down. Don't you get it. There you are. It's an offer.
And I then return to my early days in terms of architectural inspirations. Of course, as I said, by about 11, I was sort of wanting to, I was interested in architecture. There'd been no architects in the family or anything like that. I was just interested in it.
Anyway, I started taking books out of the local public library. And we'd stayed in Bournemouth a bit longer than the other places. And I went to the public library and took every book on architecture I could possibly lay hands on between about the age of about 14 and 16. And I got the books about old churches.
I'd lived in one town that has 40 medieval churches in it. And it's quite good for you because medieval schmedieval. You know, you see one medieval church, you've seen the lot really. In a way I got old buildings out of my system by about the age of 14 because I collected castles and made balsa wood models of cathedrals. So been there, done that.
I sort of got into modern. And there were some Corbusier books. And I read those. And then one day, I was going through and I saw this picture. And it's, as it says on the caption, Gunnar Asplund 19-- it was in fact built and taken down, a temporary building, taken down long before I was born. But it was unlike anything I'd ever seen.
It was much more different than anything I'd seen because it looked like an airplane. It was sort of wafting in the air. It was light. It was airy. It was translucent.
It was really wonderful. It's like a sort of wonderful flying kite or something. But it was a building. And I think that that has led to the issue of one's approach to architecture in general. That I think this taste, if you like, and I will admit to it being a taste, this taste for the constantly changing, the light, the translucent, the non-solid is something which just dawned upon me in recent months. And that's why I said slithering towards it.
I haven't really said, now I will say I am non-solid. I've just found myself slithering towards the discussion of this position of non-solidity, prompted way, way, way back in things like the Asplund building.
Ah, this is the city of Norwich which was the city I lived in for awhile with the 40 medieval churches. The best and biggest of which, of course, is in the foreground, which is the cathedral.
I think an interesting characteristic of this is the way in which it is a kind of patchwork. It is a sort of percolated patchwork. You see all sorts of different kinds of funny, funny space in between many different styles of building. And there's the original cathedral, near-Swedish buildings, souped up sort of Norman castles, real old churches, the Catholic cathedral, which is a 19th century thing by Gilbert Scott. Poor bugger, he had to compete with a really good cathedral down the hill, which-- he won the competition, but must have been a bitch to say, however clever you think you are, there's this really great one done 800 years before. But that's life. He survived.
And there's a whole patchwork. Now recently, five weeks ago, I was in your neighbor city of Syracuse. And I was trapped by the snow and so took photographs out of the window. And I realized that there's an inherent very different attitude towards the culture of a city and the culture of the built object.
In somewhere like Syracuse where it's box, box, box, box, box, bigger box, bigger box, bigger box, box, box, box, box, compare it with the romanticism and the de cache nature of Norwich, slightly older city, roughly similar size. I think Norwich is a shade bigger, but give or take, the same sort of order of size, but an infinite variety of spaces, and typologies, and driftings, and so on and so forth.
I cannot help find the varietous nature, the lightness of touch, if you like. You look at-- well I'll come to that in a minute. The lightness of touch as opposed to the sort of pedantic block, block, block, block, blockness of many North American cities-- not this one, not your little town, but certainly Syracuse.
And it really leads me to the issue of pomposity in architecture. I think that there is a kind of architecture, which one grew up from a earlier generation than mine. We talk about the Bernatz building because Bernatz is associated with the Third Reich to some extent. But also down the street from where I studied and where I work is also our English version of the pompous building of the 1930s. Some people would argue that it's proto-modernism. I would argue that it is stripped-down pomposity.
And of course, we can then look at more specific instances of pompous architecture, obviously spare, but also some French people who were equally pompous, and heavy, and insistent, that kind of insistency, which I hate. But even we have a new British pomposity.
Look at it. Look at it. It has the same deadly, deadpan, po-faced, I-know-better kind of attitude towards architecture. I hate it with a vicious hate.
Even some of my heroes from time to time, there's a kind of heaviness, which I find now-- though I was very influenced by Kahn as student-- I find now perhaps questionable. Even Sullivan or Dudok have their heaviness.
But there was a takeoff. There was a takeoff. Whether it was Ladovsky and the students in Moscow in the '20s and the architects of the Russian Revolution, whether it was New Babylon-- and I'm not talking about the political aspects of New Babylon, which I find slightly tiresome, but the actual created work. And people like Abe or Dennis' tower-- well it's not his tower. But I mean the same Blackpool type.
If you look at the superstructures, it's not, with great respect to Dennis and Blackpool, it's not the world's greatest building. But it has a lightness of touch. It has an optimism. It has an inventiveness, even if it's just pissing around really.
And Hitoshi Abe in his early work, it's the same invent-- if you know where to look, you can find this explosion, this lightness of touch. I deliberately have put a third-rate piece of Viennese architecture of the '60s because I want to say it's not just people as talented as Wolf Prix. It can be even the third-raters that were somehow caught up at that time in this tremendous optimism.
And back to Norwich cathedral, because the guys that did this didn't have computers. They didn't have even reinforcement. They had bits of stone that had been brought over from France or up the road somewhere. And they did this amazing structuring.
And I just make random reference to contemporary work, where it's all to do with tentacles, and structures, and leaping across. Those guys were doing that stuff 900 years ago, or there abouts, maybe 800 years ago, a helluva long time ago. If they could do it, we can do it.
And it was done. There was a whole movement in France before our time. And of course, there's the other aspect of lightness of touch, of non-solidity, in examples such as the much discussed house by Chareau. Where this same lightness of touch comes right down to the scale of the working part of the device, almost more Japanese than the Japanese in intention.
And I jump deliberately between Chareau and some-- I've taken a nice, lovely absurd Japanese architect called Masaharu Takasaki, who is not particularly fashionable, but again, just to make the point that this lightness can be an international condition. It's an attitude of mind. It's an attitude of mind, not of technology, not of national origin, from Tatlin to Rotondi, to Himmelblau.
And if I take a contemp-- I think they've been here recently. Or if they haven't, they've been everywhere else recently. I have to introduce them next week in The Bartlett.
Jesse Reiser and his wife, certainly Jesse, was fascinated by the British Wellington bomber and the geodesic structure that supported it. And there is-- I like to pick upon that, this link that there is, if you like, intellectually between those sorts of inventions, the geodesics, the engineering, the actually, dare we admit it, the breakthroughs in everything from glue technology to what you can do with a bent pin and a piece of string that was the demand of the Second World War, actually led to some tremendous engineering and architectural developments, which he and others-- those of you who wiz around on the computer-- are in a sense the successors of. So I think that there's this aspect of the lightness of touch architecture, which we should take seriously.
And then there is Plug-In City, this device, this piece of cliff lift in Bournemouth that become, if you like, becomes a whole structure. And one's other hidden agenda at the time was to extend the vocabulary of architecture, to say why does it have to stay with that foursquare stuff?
And that's why I still have an innate hate of what I call the new British pompous guys. It's just going backwards and not forwards.
And the Plug-In City, much discussed, was a series of armatures and devices that tried to see no boundaries between placement, and yet are romantic. I think that the Plug-In City, in fact, was quite a romantic thing.
I remember that our day job for Taylor Woodrow was to do prefabricated housing. And this was, in a sense, a comment back to that tradition of prefabricated housing, saying that the componented building need not be boring. It's a bit more to it than that, but that will do as a summary.
The Instant City then melted the thing further. It became a circus that could come from place to place, bringing the cultural essence of the city to your little village for a week, and then being trucked away. Or the Instant Village, which was a combination of devices from a hovercraft, an inflatable structure, a kind of circus tent again, a vehicle that was, in fact, a community.
And then through to the preoccupation, which has recurred, and recurred, and recurred, and recurred with towers. The tower, in a sense, is a device upon which one can make a series of propositions. Strangely enough, it may surprise you to know that I'm not very good about heights. I tend not to enjoy staying in hotels above about the 12th floor. But the tower, nonetheless, is a preoccupation, maybe because of that, that sort of fascinates me.
But what I'm interested in this evening, in this categorization of this evening, of the non-solid architecture, is to think of the notion of the tower like a kind of coat hanger, as a device that takes the placement of objects and the percolation of air through.
Montreal Tower project was done while we were working at Taylor Woodrow. Dennis made the model. I did the drawings. And it predates the Plug-In City by a year. And in a sense, it is in part prototypical.
The collage on the right is simply a potpourri of a number of towers that I'd done over the years. And this is three typical ones. The one on the left, devised for Paris, and incorporating that sort of slightly English arrogance of the notion of the back garden brought up into the sky.
The middle one, for London, takes the reality of the English scene, which is that it's often damp. Although having visited Ithaca for the last four days, I'm not sure whether it's the only place that's damp. But nonetheless, it's supposed to be more damp than other places.
And the region of London is Hampstead. So the project is called Dampstead. And the proposition is that you collect the rainwater in the big tanks at the top. And then you, by computerized methods, you trickle the water down the front face slowly. And you grow vegetation.
The tower on the right is for Tel Aviv, which is my wife's city. And there it was a sort of extrapolation of observing the entrepreneurship of people in Tel Aviv. And it's a kind of kabab on end, or a club sandwich on end, where the various components of the kabab are different types of buildings. Some are showrooms, some are hotels, some are offices, some are living places, some are dance studios, et cetera, which are layered, each of them having its own architecture. And then you simply stick them on the vertical structure. The two structures left and right are a housing block and the car parking stack.
Earlier than that, I was in Brisbane as a guest professor many, many years ago. And I was fascinated in Brisbane, Australia by the tradition of the naturally ventilated bungalow, of the one- or two-story houses with verandas.
Brisbane was in a swamp, semi-tropical swamp originally. And you had to keep the bugs off the house, so you put the house on legs. And then you had to ventilate it in the summer well. And so you had these big verandas and air catchers.
The right-hand tower is, in fact, a post-rationalization of that, which I drew in that town at the time, which was putting the bungalows as it were one on top of the other. And it is deliberately contrasting with the fully air-conditioned smooth, sleek office tower.
Mine was quite early, you'll note by the date, with a handkerchief dangling down it. And it was also inspired by the particular site, which has this freeway that hugs the rivers. I rather like this particular freeway. And you see that the freeway influences the bottom parts of the tower.
Much, much later, in fact last year, I did another tower, also for Hampstead, or Swiss Cottage, which is near Hampstead, which is in a sense a collage of various ideas about surfacing gardening on the-- again, same thing, gardening on the face of the building.
It's a watercolor drawing onto print. And I'm rather amused to say that it was bought in the Royal Academy by a French banker and sits on his wall. He says he gets a lot of clients from the Middle East. Whether the placement of this object on the wall will attract any of them, I doubt. But anyhow, it's funny things happen to drawings.
Another thing that has interested me greatly because I have spent a lot of time up there, and Dagmar has too, is Scandinavia. And in this instance, Norway, where my observation of a certain kind of building in the winter time, where Norway has also very cheap hydroelectricity. By the way, I don't know why you don't tap all your waterfalls and get cheap electricity. But maybe somebody knows why you don't.
The lanterns that were very fashionable around 1910, 1920 period do something to a dark, cold winter. They suddenly cheer up the place. They cheer up the street. And I borrowed from that on a project for Oslo, where I took the lanterns and I use the lanterns at lower level simply as lanterns, a little bit higher as little kind of peekaboo bay windows, a little bit higher as room-size windows, a little bit higher as apartment-size windows. And at the very top, the whole tower is a lantern. So it's lantern, lantern, lantern, lantern, lantern into the sky.
This is a slow-- I don't know why this one is slow. Ah, very recently we, as Dagmar said, we came second in a open competition in Taiwan with very big prize money. We just got the money last week. And it will float the office for about 2 and 1/2 months.
And we did a tower of droplets. Again, ventilated with the air trickling through the tower and these droplets dropping down the tower. And the purpose of the tower is to grow algae. They have an energy problem in Taiwan. And the possibility of growing the algae can contribute towards that.
It's also a sort of botanic tower. So the idea is that also people can be taken up into the tower and look at the process of growing the algae and look at some of the local plantations up in the tower.
It was again structured, although it was intended as a non-building competition, it was an ideas competition. We can't, when we're doing towers, we can't just sit there and do a sort of pie-in-the-sky tower. We work again, in this case with Happolds. And it was fully engineered.
And I make that point quite deliberately, that one is kind of intellectually in a situation where, to do such a project without making it engineerable is to me unthinkable. It would be sort of not interesting.
And so one develops the thing around a series of not quite geodesic pylons actually, with a sort of drape structure between, and then the buildings hanging in a sort of testicular way from the structure.
I gave a lecture at the AA of this material. And I said they look like tits. And my wife said, no they don't. They look like testicles. And she is, of course, completely correct in this important analytical point.
The question is that the tower grows, you grow the algae on the tower. And you hang the liquid in these testicles. And there is a little piece of detail of the structure of the pylon, and the droplets, air percolating through and between the pieces of building as in a forest, as in an aerated city, along with the constant inspiration that I have of the notion of vegetated architecture. The vegetated architecture, for this evening's purpose, is a secondary conversation. But it's one which does actually constantly preoccupy me. Though I have yet to do a vegetated building.
But there is something to say to the city when we see an image such as this. There is something to say to architecture when we see a combination of natural conditions such as this. There is something to say to the 21st century composer of artifacts and natural conditions when we see this piece of garden in Kyoto, where the placement of the artificial object is so considered, has many mythologies and many aesthetic principles behind it, along with the natural vegetation.
And in an old project, Christine Hawley and I made this construct, which was a house of shadows, very much in that same tradition. If we take the vegetable condition, a project here involves the time factor. I've done about-- probably about once every eight years, I do a metamorphic project, a project which suggests a complete metamorphoses of the arrangement over time. It's a sort of-- I have yet to build one, but it's an exercise, a very important exercise for me.
This is one of them from some years ago called the Veg House, the Vegetated House. And here we see, in the early stages, the bed area, the vegetation creeping more, and more, and more, and, my god, more. And at that point, I stopped the project. The thing has got-- what one does is to think of the program of it and then draw. And always in your mind is the next stage, but not two stages.
You draw the next one. And then already you're thinking how it will metamor-- it's almost as if you try and let the project take you over. It leads to a certain point in which the thing is virtually got totally out of hand. And then you stop the project.
Although on one occasion, I did do a sort of loop cycle and went back to the original. Difficult to do.
This is also a two-year-old drawing looking at the proposition of the landscape, which contains within it the artificial part. This, as you realize, is a preoccupation of mine. The artificial part sometimes being simply adrift within drifts. Sometimes the artificial part, if we look more closely, is one of the apparently vegetable parts that has some order to it, a little bit beyond vegetational order.
And then nearby, you can see the blue strips at the bottom, which are clearly constructed. And then you see the naughty boys up on the top left, the things that are obviously not a vegetable. They're too stupid to be a vegetable.
And if we backtrack a moment, we can find even more circumspect versions of these conversations done by such as Jean Nouvel, whose building is conveniently across the street from the [NON-ENGLISH]. And where he folds vegetation in amongst the technical building. Or Thom Mayne, who also does a non-solid architecture of a slightly different kind. But there are certain similar conversations in the Caltrans building in Los Angeles.
The notion of draping the vegetation with the structure is something that is in observations, particularly, as a matter of fact, in Germany. When one goes to Schwetzingen, or one goes to the Orangerie at Karlsruhe, you see these devices that were designed for the vegetation to become the enclosure and then drift away in the winter time.
And I can remember many, many, many-- I can't remember the date, but many years ago giving a lecture probably showing something like this in the lecture in Germany. And somebody said, it's down the street, your thing, done 200 years before you.
By the way, if somebody-- you know, this happens from time to time. One is not really that original. Somebody says, they show you a photograph and said, somebody did your thing in 1923. A good test of character, because I usually say, oh, oh, it's all been done. My life is not worth living. Or you say, bloody good idea. There you go. Didn't I say it was a good idea?
You have to take the second position. You have to. You owe it to the world to take second position.
A project called Way Out West Berlin was preoccupied by the irony of West Berlin as it was then and the idea of way out west. And it incorporated, would you believe, the cactus, which comes from Arizona, i.e. way out west, with Berlin. And if you could make a building like a cactus, you were onto something.
And then came the project for the Kunsthaus It was a competition. It was a both invited and open competition, with a lot of great people taking part in it. We won the competition. And it had to be built at breakneck speed. It also had to be built within the normal budget for an art museum in Austria, which meant it could not be high tech. We couldn't afford high tech.
And I've always said it wasn't high tech. It's crap tech. It's sort of stuck together in the best way that you can find for the money.
It sits like a dog in a basket amongst its city. It sits at the scale of the city. It comes up above the trees. And in a sense, its coming up above the trees is also inspiration for the landscape drawing with the [? knotties ?] sticking up on the left.
It is aerated, though it contains these debatable solids. It is an aerated building. And in fact, though much of the discussion and technical discussion and development was built around the main vessel of the galleries, in fact, the bit that I was most pleased about when I saw it up there in the sky was the strip that hovers above, this needle.
My reason was because many years before that, as a student at the AA, I and a couple friends used to go up to the library and would look at a wonderful book from Russia called Chernikhov's 101 Fantasies. And the librarian would stand there with the key. When I mentioned this the other night at the AA, somebody went the next day and checked that the book was there. And in fact, it is still there.
And I saw the stuff. And it, quite obviously went into my head. I thought, this is amazing to have these constructs that fly into the air and hang, and hover, and so on. And I was lucky enough to do one.
And I admit this, that one is influenced by certain-- I think some of them subconscious, some of them key. A key factor of the building was also that it could peel away. Colin Fournier, who did the building with me, he and I really wanted to have many more of these peel-away conditions. But the city fathers got very nervous when we started arting around like that and said, not too much of that stuff. It's going to be expensive, which it wasn't.
And of course, at, night the building turns into something else. In a sense, the building melts as the lights take over. And there's been much published. I guess even several of you in the room know this project.
But I wanted to draw attention this evening to the secondary proposition. The first proposition is that the building is a pin inside a skin. And the other aspect of the building is, of course, that it conceptually just fills the available space. The site was not the full rectangle because we had to keep these old houses here. And we had to reconstruct this 19th century heritage Austrian building called the [? Eisnershaus ?].
And so we were left with a space sort of like that. And what we did effectively was to do as if you were pouring ketchup onto a plate. You went pffffft. And that was the building, with a two-meter interstitial space there.
But actually, the other thing is that it's not a totally solid building. The wind whistles around and through the parts of the building. In fact-- and I could digress here, but I won't. There is a link between the compositional notion of elementalism, which was very much beloved of the let's say Bauhaus period architects, and the dividing of the program into two elements that each have their own iconography, and the notion of separation of those elemental parts and allowing air to drift through. But I need to talk more about that.
Another more recent project again takes a proposition of hanging in the air, and the wind dropping through. It can be broken into its constituent elements, each of which is a sort of building in its own right. And then you move up through the building on the diagonal, again, the pin of escalators, travelators rather, hung within and under the building. And the total building then becomes a kind of loose collage of these conditions.
So one has often been interested in this business of drifting the parts, drifting around, drifting the part around the part, and the air loosely flowing through, a light, trying to have a light touch. In this project for Madrid, the wind is used to keep the territory cool because it's a very hot, dusty part of the center of Spain. And then the boardwalk is the place where the flaneur will parade his or herself to the local townsfolk. And sports can be played on the top of the buildings. And kiosks-- haha-- the kiosk be tucked in underneath the building. And here we see that happening.
In the theater that we won in Italy-- don't hold your breath if you win a competition in Italy. It doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen. Again, the wind sails through and between the parts of the building.
I now come to the second section, which is a little bit shorter than the first, of this pursuit, or this recategorization for this evening of a non-solid architecture.
Another freedom, for me, is the use of color. In Frankfurt, Peter Behrens made a building. It's interesting to see it as a sketch, this wish to have for once a building that would capitalize, if you like, upon the notion of color as part of its expression.
And here we were yesterday amongst the rocks. I couldn't resist putting this in because the interpretation-- I really kept the building in the lecture because of its use of color and what happens to the color when it becomes associated with cragginess. But there we were with the real cragginess down the road in a village a few miles away from here. Couldn't resist that.
In Madrid though, we extend this to the notion of a blue building. My early piece of housing with Christine Hawley in Berlin was the first blue building. Graz was the second blue building. And this is the third blue building.
It is social housing. It has lots of fun and games, games to be played on the top and jolly things poking out of it. Since Spain is very poor, the building stopped halfway, and now is being completed. But a lot of the nice jolly bits have been knocked off it. You can see the drawing on the left and the built manifestation, which isn't as blue as it ought to be. But I think it's still going to get the kiosks in underneath.
And the breeze will run around it. And you can see how po-faced the typical buildings are behind it, again these rather pompous brick hard buildings. In the original version, the top was to have these fun and games on the top and the kiosks tucked in the lower plan underneath.
Sometimes one just does a sort of quick project. We have a tendency, when the family Cook is in Los Angeles, to stay in Santa Monica. And if you look out of the back window where we stay, you see this big gray chunky hotel, not the one we're in, but another one. It sits there and you think, bloody hell. All those people came from Europe and everywhere to America to get freedom.
Then the lucky ones went further west to get more freedom, at least psychologically. Where if they were lucky, if they were really lucky, they ended up somewhere like Santa Monica. And then some fuckface goes and does a big chunky gray solid building. Come on.
And so I say, come on. And I draw this thing as a, in a sense, as just a knee-jerk irritation. Nobody commissions me to do it.
Sometimes one makes light draperies. And having made the draperies-- this is also done with BuroHappolds engineer, a guy called Paul Westbury, who is a genius engineer, who is now the head of the whole firm. And he's a great inventor. I'm very lucky that we've worked sometimes with him. And we sometimes work with Klaus Bollinger who we did Kunsthaus with, who does all Himmelblau's stuff.
And when you work with those sorts of guys, these two guys, anything is possible. And it's much more fun working with them than to try and figure it out for yourself. They're much less cautious than we are.
And some early studies I made for the Olympic stadium involve also sort of drapes and working with Paul.
I sometimes use just an idea. Nobody commissions me. We were talking about that earlier. And this was an idea three years ago for the idea of comfort, the incorporation of vegetation, and a few gizmos in a club. So I like making [INAUDIBLE]. For instance, I call it the Comfo-Veg Club because it's a comfortable vegetated club. I'm not sure how many comfortably vegetated clubs there are. There's some comfortable clubs. And there's some vegetated comfort, and-- Comfo-Veg Club, I like the combination.
In the building that we're building in Vienna, which was also won in competition, we have a color scheme such that the skin of the building will move from a sort of dark earthy color near the dark earth up to a light color near the light sky. But the internal passageways, originally we wanted the whole of the floors. But they have an edict that office floors have to have gray.
So we make these passageway floors do the reverse. Where you had the light room up at the top, you have a dark floor. And as you get darker down into the building, you have a light floor. So pretty-- not rocket science, but it's all right.
And in a competition for Birmingham, which we did not win, the task was to skin a very crappy but very, very busy railway station. Our notion here was to skin it in a rolling color variation such that the red part of the building would be facing this brick red street. The blue part of the building would be facing the late Jan Kaplicky's blue department store.
The pale light part of the building would be on the south side, and so on. And we managed to just about contrive it. And then the middle bit, which didn't have that rule to it, we made it green because we like green.
So the business of interpreting color, color conditions, is quite a complex one. And this was to be a pressed metal skin. And we think it would have been prettier than the foreign office one that won the competition. But we shall see.
Another competition project involving color for this type [INAUDIBLE] strip, where to the city end we do the rather stiff, almost [INAUDIBLE] like buildings. And then at the country end of the project, the architecture progressively loosens as you move down the strip.
And then there's another color game going on, where the colors change. And then towards the loose end of the strip, they become metal buildings. To the city end of the strip, the are opaque color buildings. So we were playing a sort of double series of melting games.
And I will admit that the high-level walkway-- I suppose there was something to the work of Alison and Peter Smithson in terms of the variated walkway. And then you descend down onto ground level.
In another competition-- we do many competitions. We only win some of them, but a proportion of them. We did a concert hall for Latvia, which was an invited competition to which we had reported back to us. They said, we do not want one of those here. Which I suppose is-- sometimes we do colored buildings, which aren't really colored. But you project the color on the building. It's actually a white building.
Sometimes we do black projects. This was, and I was very interested in John's extension to your house, which looked to be like black tile, though it's black something else. And I'm collecting black buildings, particularly since Gavin Robotham, my partner, has bought a black tar-covered mill.
So we're very much into discussing the idea of a black tar building. Though one has this other foot, which goes more and more into the direction of colored buildings.
And this is also percolated. The air blows through, the light comes through, this strange tower. It's a concert hall, as a matter of fact, for Estonia.
Then another proposition to do with time is what might happen? The doomsters continually say that global warming, the sea is coming up, it's coming up. Whole parts of London will be under the water. What would happen?
We take a really doomed scenario, where it's not even high tech or crap tech. It will be no tech at all. It will be people gathering bits of abandoned this and that.
And so we propose a kind of megastructure of almost like open tree trunks-- So that's got out of place, that slide. I don't know quite what that's doing there-- open tree trunks, which will hold do-it-yourself structures. People come up and nail things together and hang them off bits of string, and thongs, and so on, and survive, gradually climbing up the structures. And then there'll be some kites going across, collecting water, collecting fresh water. And then you build inside the carcass of the trunks.
And of course a few other preoccupations, it's still fairly interestingly structured. There are some proto-- this was earlier than the tower. But there are some proto-testicles there growing a bit of stuff and nonsense.
And then there's also vegetated skins. So you can see even in this doom scenario, it's not totally doom. We're still trawling back in a series of preoccupations.
Now another subject about liberalism. This is my son's birthday party. He's now 20. This is about 2 and 1/2 years ago in our garden in London. In the summer, there are strawberries et cetera. And actually, most of these kids are still his friends.
I know about 2/3 of these kids quite well. And they are all at university. I don't think there's a single one of them who is not at college of various types. And they are all probably sitting in rectangular boring boxes. They weren't that afternoon. But they are now, thanks to the architects of university buildings.
In [INAUDIBLE] on a Friday night, they have this wonderful long, half-mile long building. But on a Friday night, god, they want a bit of relaxation from the hard thing. There they are under a piece of tent, this drift.
In Paris, in the Ecole Special, which is a looser, lazier school, they also drift. They drift onto nice drifty spaces. Oh, my god, they even have a garden. They go actually with the hula hoop we employed for awhile, not because he had a hula hoop, but despite the fact he had a hula hoop. But I digress.
And they have this piece of really good real estate in the Montparnasse area of Paris. But that's Paris in the springtime. But it gets the nearest to our garden on that birthday occasion.
And here we are now in Vienna. There were a series of parallel competitions in three stages. You had to go through three competitive stages, where the number of people decreased each time. We were lucky enough to win our one, which you can see in the picture.
Zaha has the central library building. A company you won't have heard of called [? Buss ?] have a building. Hitoshi Abe has the one next to us. And then you can see the names of people, the nomad guys from, which is Eduardo Arroyo from Madrid and Carme Pinos.
And all the buildings are being done simultaneously and will be opened together as a complete ensemble. And on the side of it, particularly the side of our building and Hitoshi's building is the prata, the garden, the old emperor's hunting grounds. And the famous Prata wheel is just next door.
I was timorous about drawing this cartoon. And my mates said, go on, draw it. You know, I was talking-- I said, this could be Austrian life. Why isn't it like this in the university building? Drawing themselves, passing out, couple going off into a room, something else going on, the guy looks like a sort of highwayman appearing from behind a chair. You know, life as it is lived in Vienna after all.
It didn't lose the competition. And in fact, the entrance to the building in one rendition is this. You come up between two smiling noses. The one on the right-hand side is, in fact, the coffee shop, the bakery. And the one on the left-hand side is the common room. So you have these smiling rooms. And you come up between them.
And then on the side facing the garden, it melts and percolates. And there's a lot of air percolation, and gaps, and things drifting through so that the park becomes, as it were, a part of the building.
The first layer then is the skin of the room. The second layer is the light-controlling louvres, which are timber louvres. And the third layer is the waft of trees-- layer, to layer, to layer.
And at night, that is a whole building. It's 270 meters long. It's clearly our largest project to date. And that is that inner side, the side towards the other university buildings in a sort of monochrome version.
The plan, the plan I'm using this evening is actually the ceiling plan because I think it's the one that best illustrates the-- if you look at the dark blue blobs, they illustrate the places where there are these little collecting areas. What we've designed the building to was to not only have the required teaching rooms and study rooms-- it's a law faculty by the way, mostly postgraduate-- but also to have these meeting places, like in the cartoon, places that you could hang out in.
We didn't want to be yet another university, where at 4:30 everybody pisses off. And so we have these meeting areas. Well it worked for a second. You get the gist of the idea. And you have these drift through, these passageways that link through. So that the darker blue drifts. There are lots of pockets, and nookies, and places that aren't just the pftt, pfft, pfft, straight rooms.
And here is a sort of slightly schmaltzy plan of the library. The library is a double height space that drifts down either side with a garden working over it, with a bridge in the middle. On the bridge are these capsules that have small discussions, small literate discussions going on in them.
And there is one version of the garden rolling over the library. There again is another view of the capsules. So again, the light and the diagonal-- we're very keen on diagonal views. We're very keen that you're not just trapped into a foursquare room. We're always seeing that you can look above, and through, and down.
And the wind comes through. And the light comes through. And the leaves blow through, et cetera. So I suppose it's a romantic idea. So you see the deliberate percolation. Again, that word percolation of light and space. And it is on site, I report. Slowly the building is now-- well in fact quite fast-- is now coming up into the site.
Finally, I want to talk again about this, back to the question of all those kids sitting in the garden in foursquare rooms. But need they to do that?
We are in Queensland now. And we have recently won another competition for a university building. It is an architecture school. And I speak with some temerity, since you have Rem doing your architecture school upstairs, or around the corner, wherever we are.
It is a challenge because, if you were following Dagmar's fantastically embarrassingly precise list of my comings and goings, you realize that I've been in the architecture school game for a very, very long time as a teacher, 40-odd years. And you acquire a certain-- you don't just design the thing in the abstract. You design the thing anecdotally as much as anything else.
And even Gavin, who is much younger than me, has done about 12 years teaching and has studied at The Bartlett, and Harvard, and lots of different places. And between us, we have an amazing list of places that we say, how on earth? You'd go down in the toilet there. That would be a bit like that toilet they've got in such and such. Technical University of [INAUDIBLE].
Well you know, if they can get that [? crit ?] room. You remember the one at UCLA that does that? But there's another one. Do you remember that one at so and so? That's not bad, is it?
The one in Oslo, what they do, they come in there. And it's all full of do you remember? And how about that one?
This is the interior of our building. It has a street, which passes these sculpted pieces, which we call the scoops. The scoops are where you have the [? crits. ?] The scoops are also, in a sense, a development of the same Vienna idea, where you have these little pockets of conversations, these little nookie things.
Each scoop is different. But each acts as one of a series that support the structure of the building. It's in Queensland. It's very close to where I did that many years ago tower project with the verandas.
It's hot and sticky in the summer. It's almost subtropical. But it is on a hill. And it's in Bond University, which is a private university that has a very high academic rating in its law department and a couple of the other departments, a rather small university. And it's now about to have an architecture school.
And we won this in competition about four months ago. This is from the upper level. There's a higher level walkway, which leads on to the upper level of the studios. It's basically a studio-based project, with then the smaller rooms, the offices, and some computer room, and dark rooms, and so on on the right-hand side of the walkway.
Again, as with the ship terminal project, and also with the Taiwan Tower, we dissect the project into again this series of elements that, in a sense, you compose with. You have the dug into the ground at the bottom. The deck, because it's Australia, you come out on the veranda all the time. Then the pads of the studios. And then the boxes of the back strip.
The scoops are in the middle spot, those six funny looking things. And then above that are the upper plates, and then the skin, and then the flaps that have to catch the breeze. The scheme is, therefore, scoops and wrap. Just as the Graz building was skin and pin, this is scoops and wrap.
The few, yes, we were talking about drawings this morning. And I hinted that I'd recently taken to doing silly drawings. This actually, of course, was based upon the, presumed by my colleagues, success of the cartoon done for Vienna.
They said, well it didn't lose us the competition. In fact, it's something that we'll always refer back to. So do some more. Do some more. And they kept egging me to do more.
So these are based upon real life, based upon 40-odd years of experience and a certain degree of creative cynicism about architecture schools. You always get these sort of smart-assed young critics. They say, I question your terms of reference. You would do it in a different accent, but we all know what.
And there's some barbarous friend on the floor there with some stupid machine that's not going to work. You know, he's a desperate character. You've all been there. And here is life imitates art. In fact, it was based upon this, which is a [? crit ?] at [INAUDIBLE].
There we are. There is possibly Barbara about to be questioned on her terms of reference. Then we're back into the building itself, with the scoops, with this whole requirement to pull the air through the building, as much natural ventilation as we can. There's an Australian friend who said to me last week, he said, you leave the bloody door open. I can't do the accent, as you can tell.
And also, this is a double message that is it a question of following the drawing? But even if we have our very tectonic building, and I think you can see that the primary interest we have is in a memorable building. But why not paint it? If they want to paint it, paint it. Who cares?
So this just a sort of active day-- I always like to put two blokes carrying something heavy, implying that's life. I've spent my years, many years as Dennis will know, of carrying big things up staircases. You always seem to be carrying something that's about eight feet long. That's the story of one's life. These two blokes should not escape that.
Here's another very typical situation with a nearer scoop and another sort of slightly poncey, probably theory character, not my favorite thing. Look guys, you have to accept it as a point of departure. And there's some sort of old post-graduate student there, terribly sad. I know, somebody's friend up in the balcony giving it the V sign.
Or this is the very typical-- nice to see you in the building again, Jules. Jules is just about to try-- and a very important thing I've found teaching in schools of architecture, particular if you're going to be there for a long time, is to have a secondary means of escape. I was desperate for one earlier today, as a matter of fact.
It's very important both for the member of faculty and for Jules, who isn't quite escaping fast enough. Our building is bearing these characters in mind. I actually rethought the escape pattern in the Vienna building. And it seems that it's going up, it's a bit late now. I think there's a few escapes onto the roof and stuff, very important to the project.
This is on fast track, by the way. We've already sent somebody out there. More people are going out next week. It's rolling. They want to get it up. They want to get in the ground in September. They want it to roll fast.
It's actually hasn't quite caught up with-- Vienna is still ahead of it. But it will be, in about half a year, nudging Vienna. Quite interesting, that.
You have to do a lot with the systems of ventilation. We have, working obviously with local experts and a local firm to help us as well, and the local office of [INAUDIBLE] and so on. And lots of tricks with, again, organizing louvres, organizing the scoops, tuning the scoops, tuning water tanks, and so on to pull cooled air up through the building.
This seems to be a slow one. Here we are. So there we have the formal upper and lower floor plans as described, with the strip of small rooms, the upper street, the cross bridges where Jules was attempting to escape, the scoops, defining the whole thing. And if you notice, each scoop is slightly different than the other, a variety of sizes of scoop, but still in principle doing the same thing of actually supporting the building, defining it, and defining the studios, then dimensionalized to form these air attachments with the drape.
Now Australia, being the southern hemisphere, therefore, the north elevation has to keep the sun out. And the south elevation is the one where you can bring the cooler air in. But on the other hand, we have a wind drift, which is working in the opposite direction as it so happens. So that you have to tune the one with the other.
This is the entrance condition, the small rooms and the small eating place that's poking up. Again, there's noses. I notice that I have a predilection for nose-shaped buildings.
There is, in fact, Madrid is a nose. The two entrance rooms, the two main rooms of the Vienna building are two noses. And here we have a dropping nose in Australia. I just noticed that the other day. Someone said, you like noses, don't you? And we analyzed how many projects had a nose in them.
And there is a typical piece of teaching space with nobody in it. But here we have some more anecdotal information. Some of the best times at the [INAUDIBLE] had been where people have made these ridiculous contraptions that seemed a good idea at the time. And here we have a typical condition, where it does seem a good idea at the time. Except the wind's blowing, and everybody's heaving on it.
Maybe it's not such a good idea. But you got to have experiment in a school. I don't know whether you have it in your school. But you should have it.
But you have to make things that may not float, may not fly, like Tatlin's airplane, which is much more exciting than the airplane that I hope flies me successfully tomorrow. You have to have such experiments.
This is another piece of P. Cook's sort of critical cynicism. You always get some berk who wants you to think that something's interesting. Oh, I thought you might find this interesting.
The two young faculty are cringing. It is in no way interesting. But they're nice guys. They have to pretend that it's interesting because that's part of the game. And there's the site of their interest.
Or here, where the visitor, the impression that you keep the visitor away from the actual detail, but you show them, well they're all very bright kids, very nice and very reasonable down there.
Or this, which is life. One of our justifications-- this poor bugger, he stands no chance with the chick on the other side. But he believes that if he hangs around-- and it's useful that he's not alongside her. He can gaze across from pad to pad in desperate hope. And she has an escape route should things get heavy.
This is another piece of obvious anecdote, in which case things weren't going so well that night. There's our friend, always coming down the stair, giving everybody a V sign. I think his role in my building is to constantly go around the building giving the V sign to people. It is a role, which I'm sure somebody in the audience plays regularly. And there's somewhere where the weird algorithm or the mumbo jumbo I was listening to this afternoon has to go on.
And then there's the straightforward condition, somebody delivering wood. I mean, it's Australia. People deliver wood all the time in Australia. So you have to have a sensible piece of building around delivery areas. We're good on the delivery areas actually. You do an art museum, you have to be good at delivery areas. You just know what is involved.
Having also-- you see, the thing is, quite a strange biographical irony, I was directing an art institution. I have organized many exhibitions. I've hung-- taken part in many exhibitions. And Dennis has taken me around the world doing [INAUDIBLE] exhibition.
And then you get the building to do. So suddenly you are doing the building what you have done the stuff in. And you know all the funny hassles. It's not just a question of it looks fancy. Can you deal with the customs officer at one end whilst dealing with the programs coming in there, keep the audience coming in, and make sure the bloke who runs the cafe doesn't walk out on you kind of stuff? It's still sitting in your head.
Now it's architecture skills. You remember all these bits of anecdote. So that in a funny, I think in a funny way you can be more radical because you know the day-to-day rubbish that goes on.
Also romance in the air-- originally, the caption for the female member was Kylie. And then we deleted Kylie just before we sent the drawings off. We thought the Australians might think we were sending them up. And Kylie became Josie. But you get the general message.
There's that same character, who's not raising his fingers. But he sort of eavesdropping somewhere in the background. And you know, this is life. Not everything goes-- some conversations are better had outside the building.
But the building is the important thing. Let's forget the giggles. The important thing is the quality of the space of the building. And architecture schools these days are show business. They have to be. And that's not a bad thing. It keeps everybody on their toes.
And a bit of flattery to people at Bond, suggesting that of course, people would be dropping in from Princeton all the time. Mind you, I'm not sure whether people dropping in from Princeton is such a good thing, but it flatters them to think that they might. And an event with a famous large lady architect finally being seduced to come down and give a lecture there. The staff dutifully lined up so that they can say I met her, and there is Miss Hadid herself, giving the lecture with a number of buildings on offer.
And that is the north face of the building, the one that only has to judiciously let light in under certain conditions.
The last cartoon we took to Australia when we presented for the competition was that this thing that-- in teaching, you know that it's not just the central proposition. It is how you tweak it. So I think it needs tweaking, Laurie, was the point to make to them. This project will require tweaking.
Then there's a model shot about a week or so ago of us tweaking the scoops. And I think then you have to remember, this is a current state-of-the-play drawing. This is a very recent version of the plan, some minor modifications. It is a process of tweaking. But you have to, when you're tweaking, remember the basics of the project. In this case, that it's scoops and skin.
This is our studio. There are many funny conversations that go on. There is advocacy. There is somebody arguing a point through. There are people working in the normal way.
There are ladies having to deal with scoops. And there is-- evening when Dennis, and Mike, and David came around, the old Archigram group, the survivors of Archigram, appearing at one's current studio, which is very nice to record. And I think, on that occasion, Mike Webb was drawing an airplane. And Gavin Robotham, with the staff, was watching him draw the airplane because he too draws airplanes, which is sort of, I think, where we came in. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: First of all, thank you for all your work and inspiration all year. My question is about showing us all your competitions. When do you decide a project's going to be some ideas based or just going for a [INAUDIBLE]?
PETER COOK: I can't quite hear the--
AUDIENCE: You were showing some competitions where you said, obviously, this is more of an ideas-based competition, not to be built. Your intentions were not to be built, and another were obviously to win the competition and build.
PETER COOK: Yeah, the majority of the competitions that I showed actually are to be built. The only one that was, of the more recent ones, that was announced as non-building one was the tower. And why I raised that issue was that because, even though it was stated as not to be built, we couldn't bring ourselves not to use serious engineering proposal. Because it just seems stupid to mess around.
Because in a way, even with a non-built competition, it's a piece of research. And if you leave out a key part of the research, you're not being use-- but most of the others were, I think almost all the ones that I told you were competition were to be built.
That is to say, the theater, and obviously the two university buildings, the station, the port terminal, all are to be built. And some of are being built by other people. I don't think any of them has been canceled.
The theater, it looks like it may not happen because of Italian politics. But it's all been priced, and engineered, and heating and ventilating engineered. I mean, it's all for building. And I don't think we very often do on now that we don't see how it could be built.
The only thing is like when I do the vegetation thing or the Swiss Cottage tower, they are not even-- I mean, that's the ones that aren't built and aren't likely to be built because nobody asked for them to be done at all.
So instead of doing ideas competitions, generally or instead of doing-- I think I see the thrust of your question, which sometimes one would do a competition knowing that it stood no chance of winning and was built of sort of rubber pumice stone or something, or something that would hang in the sky. Not so much lately, they're all done so that they could be built. Whether they're cheap is another question, whether they're the cheapest scheme.
But it's also a question of tweaking. I think that it's important from time to time to do non-buildable schemes, or to do schemes that don't have a client. But then I think you can experiment even more because you're not constrained by the competition.
Now what conclusions do you draw from that, I don't know. It's also partly to do with-- I hadn't noticed how it comes about. I don't think that you-- I think that we've been least successful in competitions when we'd been rather timid actually. I think that if you really go for it, if you've really got an idea, you just go for it and see what happens. Otherwise one wouldn't have done Graz, one wouldn't have done the Australian thing.
What's interesting with the Australian one is that all the other projects by the other people, there are about 9 or 10 entries in that competition, limited competition, were rather more safe than ours. And yet they went for ours because they wanted something that was something, that just happened to be the politics of the-- we didn't know it was the politics. We just did what we did.
I don't know what conclusions you draw from that. Other question?
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] I want to know what's your point of view about architectural education. What should we learn from school. What's your way of teaching.
PETER COOK: Oh my god.
How late can we go? In essence, I don't know whether you were there at lunch time. You weren't. because this came up briefly. And I described myself at lunchtime. And I haven't changed my view in the last five years, as being a meritocracy elitist.
I'm actually a believer in elites. But I think that they should be elites which you can allow anybody to join if they are good and they work hard. That sounds very old fashioned.
And then I think that the best students should have the best teachers. And that the best teachers shouldn't be forced to waste their time on crap students. And that the reward should come on a broad base. And I think that there's a sort of-- the other thing in terms of architectural education, now I'm sure I'm going to tread on some toes here. I think in the last 25 or more years, particularly in the United States, but also in England to some extent, there's been too much emphasis on theory. I think theory has nearly destroyed the art of architecture.
Now this is my view. And I know that very powerful forces in the United States of America have made it so that a very high proportion of people, who are the heads of schools of architecture, who are the inferential professors, and who are the best paid professors, are theory people.
And I put it down to Peter Eisenman, if you want me to be honest. I think Eisenman has been an extremely damaging force to architecture because he has very cleverly engineered the situation to suit his own strengths and weaknesses.
And I don't care if that's reported back to him because I believe it to be so. And I think he's such a charismatic figure, and so crafty, and very good at football leagues and stuff that-- I could explain that, what I said-- that his influence to the Americans seem viciously.
I think there's now a bit of a backlash going on. I think there are people who actually realize that it's a sort of emperor's new clothes situation. But they will fight tooth and nail because they're in powerful academic positions. Are I think that architecture got left behind.
And I think that's why-- I'm now going to say something else unpopular. That's why, I think actually, European architecture, in the main, not all of it, had been more interesting in that same period because there are a lot of pockets, not particularly London, but other pockets, where the interesting and committed architect architect has a certain amount of academic power. Where the best European architects have tended to find themselves also being professors unable to jump between what they were doing in their day jobs so to speak and the influence on the students.
Although then some of those same very good students come to the United States and then waste their time doing a lot of theory. But this is my very particular position. And I hold it vehemently. And I very rarely say it as openly as I have this evening. But it really pisses me off. And I think it nearly lost the game because somebody somewhere will go on doing the buildings. But they won't be the smart place.
I wish that intelligence could be tapped back into the creative role of architecture. But I know I'm a minority voice probably, But not for long.
AUDIENCE: Is it often that when you complete a building you feel satisfied that you've achieve the quality of the drawings?
PETER COOK: No, very rarely. I mean, I haven't done that many buildings. But there are moments when something is done that you didn't capture on the drawings, and you didn't realize what happened. And I suppose the key example of that is Gratz, where a number of issues I-- in another lecture I show drawings of the orifices, of the light tubes in Graz. I show a hand drawing, some computer drawings, and then I show the built object.
And the built object is better because it's less fussy. There's a certain amount of fussiness that drawings can sometimes bring. Also, again in Graz, and I was sort of pointing to that this evening, was the question of the aerated nature of the project. It's sort of always a sort of a bovine bum of a building. But actually, there's a lot of air passing through it.
And the other thing is that there are certain moments around the building when, if you look at the interstitial space between the old preexistent building and the new building, that is some of the best visual condition on the building. We never predicted that because you don't just generally don't design that way around.
You design by how the thing organized itself and how you put the pieces together. What is harder to do is to predict the condition where you have not put the pieces together. But this is there. And my frustration is that I've done such little building, I've found very strange things happen.
Again, way back, the first substantial building I did was in Berlin. It was housing. And we agonized over angles. Christine and I did sort of things with 3 and 1/2 degree shifts and four degree shifts. You go in there. It looks as if either the builder got it slightly wrong, or you don't even notice the shift.
But other things that you didn't countenance, which is the way that a soffit will drop, or a beam, or a radiator, something like that. Even if you make models, you don't-- in reality, it's the presence of the object, the presence of the object, I suspect if you build enough, you get better at that. You get better at predicting.
But that is the thing I found most surprising between drawings and buildings. It's this category of light upon territory, upon things that cast shadows, of things that-- and I remember with the Berlin housing, we agonized over the entrance hall. We agonize that this entrance has was very tight and we mustn't-- it had one column, very tight space.
But what we had, in a way, miscalculated was the height. The space was very high. And actually we needn't have agonized at all. It's a great space. But because we were still, despite ourselves, thinking in terms of plan.
Now that kind of thing, I'm sure that, the fluency of feedback, comes with experience of building, which isn't to do with whether it's a certain kind of brick work or isn't or what. It's to do with the fact you're dealing with substances that drip, catch the light, look spooky, don't look spooky, look flimsy, don't look flimsy, et cetera. It's that sort of stuff that's very difficult to get on drawings.
But once you start seeing the stuff-- also-- sorry, now this is going be a long answer. My wife, who is also an architect, we stayed in a hotel behind the Graz building in its later stages of building.
And she was looking out the window, and this poxy little hotel was on the back of the building, where the delivery part of the building is. And one day, she said, you and Colin didn't bother much with that delivery door, did you? And she's absolutely right.
I looked and I said, no, it's true. We skipped that. We were so concerned with all the other bits that we just, it just sort of happened. So you can see it. You can see that you didn't bother as much.
And that's another thing, which is to do with watching the fact that the building is completely three dimensional. Certain bits get attention sometimes, usually because there's a sort of hassle, like there's certain bits of all the building [INAUDIBLE], where the argument is about the cost of it, or the size of if, or the material of it. And then you sweat, and sweat, and sweat, and think, god it's going to be too-- oh, oh.
In that view it works fine because you put a lot of input into it. So, yeah, look. There you are, guys. It's fine. And then some other bit, which you thought was going to be easy, you didn't bother much with, and you let your braces down a little bit. I think I will stop now. But it's actually an interesting question.
SPEAKER: Well thanks.
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Professor Sir Peter Cook, founder of the radical experimentalist group Archigram and former director of the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, has been a pivotal figure within the global architectural world for over half a century. Cook spoke at Cornell on April 18, 2011.