Thought Leader: High-tech architecture

Thought Leader: High-tech architecture


British architect noted for his modernist and functionalist designs in high-tech architecture. Best known for his work on the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and the Lloyd's building and Millennium Dome both in London


 For the Thought Leadership meeting on March 10th 2015, Richard Rogers' reflexion:


On transformation

“Our two biggest challenges are climate change and the unequal distribution of wealth in the world. The solutions to both are within our reach, and closely connected: we could switch to a low carbon economy if we wished to, and this transformation would also result in a fundamental redistribution of wealth, both between states and classes.

Urbanisation is accelerating, and putting our cities at the sharp end of both challenges. By 2050, nearly 70 per cent of us will live in cities. In many developing countries, however, half the urban population live in slums, without adequate shelter, water, sanitation, education or health services.

Adapting and retrofitting our cities to create a better quality of life for all citizens will be a challenge in these informal settlements. It will also be a priority for established cities like London, where a growing population is likely to apply pressure for intensification and retrofit across the city, even in what are currently stable suburban locations.

For almost 100 years, many of our cities have been designed by highway engineers for the efficient circulation of cars, with disastrous consequences for the environment and society alike. The attitude is encapsulated by President Pompidou’s statement that “Paris must make way for the car”. Spurred on by the threat of climate change, new technology is on the verge of revolutionising the way we travel around our cities – with driverless cars and personalised transit systems replacing the highly inefficient model of private vehicle use.

This will have profound impacts on our cities, opening up new possibilities of space and designing our cities for people not cars. 20,000 hectares of London is taken up with roads; 12 per cent of London’s land area, and more than is occupied by houses. We need to consider now how we make best use of this windfall of public space, which could form new walking routes, new cycle paths, new parks and playgrounds for a city that is continuing to grow.”


On holistic design

“Tackling the challenge of our growing cities, and making the most of the opportunities opened up by driverless streets, will require better urban design. From volume housebuilders to PFI concessionaires, our towns and cities are being designed by accountants, with a focus on short-term profit maximisation not long-term social, economic and environmental value. Architecture and design are being marginalised, viewed as superficial, like putting lipstick on the proverbial gorilla.

Design is not a cosmetic afterthought, but critical to making buildings and places that work in the long term. We need more ambitious clients and public authorities, who take the long view, and value design quality more highly in public procurement processes. But we also need better architects, designers and planners, who are trained to take a rigorous approach to the design and construction of buildings that are environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive as well as cost effective.

To revitalise our cities in the 21st Century, we need better design to become part of the mainstream of urban management; we need better clients and governments, but better designers too.”