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Archigram

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Archigram Edited by Peter Cook.Princeton ArchitecturalPress,1999.144pp. £21.95

First published in 1972, this new edition of Archigram is just as it was, writes Paul Finch - with the addition of a brief introductory essay by team member Mike 'Spider' Webb. Following the brilliant exhibition of Archigram's work in Vienna in 1994, which has been travelling worldwide ever since, the group's ideas have found a fresh audience. With their graphic clarity and stop-at-nothing quality, they continue to provoke.

Webb notes that whereas Archigram would try to make the essentially inert (a building) into something moving, at the Bilbao Guggenheim a fluid process is arrested to create an inert object. If you have nothing on Archigram in the library, get this now. But when will the Hayward Gallery stage the show for which it was made?

book is genuinely revealing about the architect's inspiration, although the breadth of interest in what inspires McAslan must be quite limited; at least Powell refrains from trying to grant him much historical standing. The final section of the book is a thorough catalogue of the practice's work, with brief descriptive notes.

Lyall seems doomed to be remembered as the James Gowan of his generation rather than the Michael Wilford. McAslan on the other hand has apparently taken to sole practice as a natural state and now intends to create a European rival to SOM or KPF, purveying an acceptably modern international style to big business.The Powell book shows that he has as good a chance as anyone, and as a portrait of a thoroughly commercial practice it is more interesting and revealing than it has any reason to be.

Both of these books can easily be seen as promotional literature, indirect mail to the culturally interested chief executive or to the ambitious young architect wondering where to expend his talent for a few years. It is very clear which of the two subjects is more in control of his image and his resources - and more likely to reap the commercial rewards.

Gerry McLean is an architect in London

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