Archigram Archival Project: Your Gateway to the Future of the Past!

I often wonder what a ‘complete’ archive of a body of work, institution, or style would look like. This ideal completeness is unattainable, as so many items that would be included in an archive are often lost, sold to different institutions, or in their contemporary moment, regarded as unimportant and thrown away. One such project attempting to recuperate the distance that often separates elements of an archive is The Archigram Archival Project (AAP).

Members of Archigram: Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Michael Webb.

Members of Archigram: Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Michael Webb.

For those of you not already familiar with the seminal architectural group Archigram, here’s a quick bio:

Archigram was an avant-garde architectural group formed during the 1960s in London. Their work was largely unbuilt and hyopthetical, taking its cues largely from the neo-futurist movement of the late 20th and early 21st century. ‘Plug-in-City,’ designed by Peter Cook in 1964 was not a building, rather it was a mega-structure in which cell-like or module dwellings could be slated into. In 1964, Ron Herron proposed an alternate city, ‘The Walking City,’ which was comprised of moving buildings (essentially buildings that were robots) which contained space for people to live-within while the buildings roamed the city. Sounds weird, but awesome right? That’s why this archive is is fascinating!

Walking City: Proposal for a nomadic city infrastructure in which urban utilities would not be tied to a specific location. Originally called Cities:Moving, 1964.

Walking City: Proposal for a nomadic city infrastructure in which urban utilities would not be tied to a specific location. Originally called Cities:Moving, 1964.

Archigram focused their efforts on understanding the relationship between space, technology, and architecture, relationships that in the 21st century we are still trying to understand and negotiate as different forms to technology become engrained in everyday life. Archigram was interested in both temporary and permanent structures to facilitate and mimic modern life, and while largely hypothetical, has had lasting impacts on contemporary architects.

Plug-In City Article, Sunday Times Color Supplement Article written by Priscilla Chapman on Plug-In City, published in The Sunday Times colour supplement magazine, 20th September, 1964

Plug-In City Article, Sunday Times Color Supplement Article written by Priscilla Chapman on Plug-In City, published in The Sunday Times colour supplement magazine, 20th September, 1964

The Archigram Archival Project is a digital-based resource that displays images of works that are held throughout many different collections, creating a digital place for all of their work and projects to co-exist with one another. In some ways, this digital resource of all of their projects sort of mirrors one of their city planning designs doesn’t it? Instead of you searching for the projects, the project resources move to you!

Dream City Project, 1963: Speculative proposal for ‘city’ suspended on tension system: expanding to cover the earth or as Zeppelin war machine. Shown in Living City exhibition.

Dream City Project, 1963: Speculative proposal for ‘city’ suspended on tension system: expanding to cover the earth or as Zeppelin war machine. Shown in Living City exhibition.

The AAP primarily centers on Archigram’s work between 1961-1974, but contains information regarding projects before and after these dates. Unfortunately, the primary gap in this resource is the absence of film and AV material due to copyright issues. The 10,000+ collection was created largely in thanks to a £304,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and a team from the University of Westminster.

Looking through these projects, its almost uncanny how much some these mirror the our communication patterns in the 21st century. This is a great resource not only for understanding 20th century avant-garde architecture, but also finding inspiration for that sci-fi novel you’ll one day write!

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