Jun 28, 2012|
HK Magazine: Can you tell us a bit about your exhibit?
Richard Rogers: In 2007, the Centre Pompidou [which Rogers and Renzo Piano designed] celebrated its 30th birthday and we were asked to do an exhibition. We wanted to tell our story, how we developed our own language for architecture.
HK: There have been many questions about whether or not you’ll be retiring soon.
RR: People ask me when I will retire, but I ask, “Why would you give up something you enjoy so much?” What would I retire to? As long as I can be of use, I would like to continue in architecture. I always say the last half of my life has been more enjoyable than the first—the last half has all been about architecture and family.
HK: What would you say was your most memorable or most challenging project?
RR: Probably the Centre Pompidou. One has to remember that Renzo and I were one of 700 entries for the competition. We would not have even tried if we’d known there would be that many. We had only built very small, single-story buildings up until that point. If you compare this jump in architecture to writing, it would be like moving from writing a newspaper article to writing “Crime and Punishment”—and it was pretty punishing, I can tell you.
HK: Do the different cultures you’ve worked in have defining architectural characteristics?
RR: Architecture is about creating a sense of “place.” Obviously, this is affected by the climate—if you live in a tropical country or a Nordic country. The specific cultures are also tremendously important. We spent 25 years working in Japan. I was tremendously interested in seeing how the Japanese dealt with some of the problems we deal with. For instance, they give jobs for life and yet their economy is very strong; there is very little theft in Japan and so the retail system is totally different; vertical [hand]writing can affect their approach to architecture; they have to build for earthquakes; and, of course, so many of the sites in Japan are so very much smaller. Then you go to China, which is totally different politically; the buildings are much bigger and there is less of a tradition in terms of a modern architectural movement. There is, however, a tremendous historic cultural heritage that is comparable to Egypt.
HK: Besides designing buildings, you’ve also held advisory and urban planning posts.
RR: Urban planning is the most challenging part of designing the built environment. Planning can be big on a global scale, but it can also relate to small, local needs. Even the Pompidou is about the public domain—it is a response to the feeling of place and [the] giving [of] identity. I was the chief advisor to [London mayor] Ken Livingstone for his eight-year tenure and together we set up a plan for London.Working in the House of Lords presents its own challenges and it is amazing to be involved in shaping the laws of the country.
HK: What are the biggest changes in architecture you’ve seen over the years?
RR: The single biggest change in architecture has been the modern movement that has taken place over the last 100 years. I often count myself lucky that I am what you could call a third-generation modernist. If you take Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and other masters as first generation and Louis Kahn, Denys Lasden and others in Britain as second, by the time we came along opposition to modernism was still considerable, but [it was] nothing compared to the battles our predecessors fought. The biggest change since I started practicing architecture has been environmental sustainability. This has brought about the realization that the built environment has the power to destroy mankind in terms of pollution. You have to design buildings that use less energy and capture the natural energies of the sun, wind and water. It changes how you look at things.
Catch Rogers’s exhibit, “From the House to the City,” at IFC Mall through July 8.