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Rogers riffs with Yentob in TV retrospective

It’s not often one gets a chance to see Richard Rogers in a vest, but Tuesday night’s Imagine programme offered exactly that (Richard Rogers: Inside Out, 10.30pm Tuesday 25th February).

Those who shunned Channel Four’s offerings of another vest-wearer – Frank Gallagher of Channel Four’s Shameless – were treated to a fifty minute blast through Roger’s portfolio.

After host Alan Yentob’s roundup of the British architect's recent plaudits – Stirling Prize, Pritzker, commission to design a tower on the World Trade Centre site – the camera panned in on Rogers sitting mafia-don style outside his Italian villa.

The programme purported to explore Rogers’s influences and made much of his Italian heritage; he left the country at the age of six and has had close links with it since then. So we saw him and Yentob promenading the streets of Florence, comparing its bricolage of medieval and renaissance to London sites with hi-tech additions like the Lloyds Building.

The two have shared a screen before, and as the host was keen to point out, had known each other since Rogers worked with Renzo Piano on the Pompidou Centre, but at times the repartee felt stilted. In exchanges where Yentob projected opinions onto Rogers, it seemed that the pairing was not entirely equal, with Rogers visibly the stronger of the two.

Shots of the paunchy leather skinned duo strolling through piazzas – Rogers' and Piano's competition designs for the Pompidou designated half the site as a public square – were punctuated by talking heads from former wife Su Rogers and colleagues Mike Davies and Ivan Harbour, who filled out back stories to projects from Team 4 days through the Pompidou, Lloyd's, Barajas and ending with the proposed 122 Leadenhall Street.

The bumf for the programme trailed that ‘The battle for modernism, Rogers claims, “has been won”’. Toward the end of the programme this was touched on – Rogers arguing that recent projects like the National Assembly for Wales could be less austere in their utility because of this triumph – but what could have been an interesting avenue was not explored.

With Yentob at the helm, you don’t sit down expecting to watch a grilling; despite this the programme would have benefited form sacrificing a little description for more analysis; particularly on subjects like Rogers' role in Ken Livingstone’s Architecture And Urbanism Unit.

With well-lit shots of his work over the years, the programme was a good roundup of Rogers' work, highlights include the shots taken inside the Lloyds Building. Some intriguing snapshots into his life pop up – the heavy punch bag hanging in his house for example – and for a programme that made much of shots of middle-aged men in shorts it offered pretty good visual snacking. Suspend your critical faculties, settle down to a history refresher and enjoy the pictures.

If you were occupied with the travails of that other vest-wearer and missed the show, the riot of coloured blazers and white trousers will be up until Tuesday 4th March on BBC’s Iplayer.

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