Richard Rogers, the British architect who helped change the look of modern cities by installing items such as elevators and air ducts on the outside of his buildings, has died at the age of 88.
Rogers burst into the public eye in 1972 when work began on the Center Pompidou in Paris, a futuristic block of metal pipes shaped like scaffolding and glass walls that he designed with another young architect, Renzo Piano . Rogers’ other major projects included the Millennium Dome in London and the Lloyd’s of London building.
But Rogers also wanted his designs to be part of revitalized cityscapes, arguing that parks and public spaces should be developed alongside office buildings and that improved public transportation and communications should replace private cars.
Rogers Stirk Harbor + Partners, the architectural firm he founded, announced Rogers’ passing on Sunday.
“Thanks to Richard, as a recent graduate, I learned that architecture was much more than the design of buildings, its social and political impacts were just as important,” said Ivan Harbor, senior partner of the firm, in a statement. “He was not an archetypal architect, but he was a unique and wonderful human being.”
In a career that spanned nearly 60 years, Rogers won his profession’s highest honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2007 and the French Legion of Honor in 1986. He was also member of the British House of Lords.
Born in 1933 to an Anglo-Italian family in Florence, Italy, the family moved to England before World War II.
As a child, Rogers had difficulty reading and could not memorize his homework. Depressed and at the bottom of his class, Rogers was sent to a special school, where he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
He then followed a training course at the Architectural Assn. School of Architecture in London before obtaining an MA from Yale University in Connecticut.
Rogers credited his parents, a physician and an artist, as well as his cousin, the post-war Italian architect Ernesto Rogers, with inspiring his interest in architecture.
“They instilled in me a clear understanding of how, if we build well, we can create a socially inclusive environment,” he told the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. “It helped me to conduct my work.”
Rogers’ success as an architect opened doors for him to inject his ideas into broader urban planning issues.
In 1998, he was asked to chair the UK government’s Urban Task Force, which was tasked with identifying the causes of urban decline and creating a strategy to reverse it. He has also advised the mayors of London and Barcelona on architecture and urban strategies.
Rogers said his work on the task force, which presented a vision of compact cities “where people live, work and enjoy their leisure activities up close,” was one of his most significant accomplishments. He said he was captivated by the idea of the square – the center of public life in Italian cities.
“Cities are a stage where people perform and buildings are the backdrops that frame the performance,” he said. “A place for everyone. “
In 1995, Rogers was the first architect to be invited to present the BBC Reith Lectures, an annual series designed to increase public understanding and debate on important issues.
Two years before the Kyoto Protocol was ratified, Rogers warned that cities were a major driver of global warming because they were designed around the automobile. This emphasis on cars allowed development to encroach more and more into the countryside, divided towns into distinct areas for work, housing and recreation, and led to “inefficient and hostile architecture” that has neglected public spaces, he said.
As an alternative, Rogers promoted a vision of densely populated cities developed around technology and transit.
“We are seeing technological developments which, if harnessed creatively, could breathe new life into our cities, making them greener, more sociable, more beautiful,” he said. “Above all, more exciting. “