Archigram founder Peter Cook used a speech at the AJ100 Awards to criticise the current state of architecture in the UK
Guests at Wednesday night’s AJ100 Awards were left with a mixed reaction after the keynote speaker slated British architecture, seemingly in a bid to shake up the industry.
The legendary architect, who is a professor at The Bartlett and a co-founder of CRAB Studio, was addressing the country’s largest architecture practices at the annual event.
Standing on stage – in a patterned shirt and cream jacket – he began by recounting his long relationship with the Architects’ Journal. He described how it published a page on Archigram’s first broadsheet.
Cook then began to dicuss the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Recalling how his friends in Venice had asked, ‘Why was your British pavilion so weird, so boring, so archaic?’ He responded: ‘I didn’t do the bloody thing! I happen to be British, but sorry guys, no connection to the firm next door.’
Cook added: ‘There is a camp, probably represented in this tent, that enjoys what I call the grim, biscuit-coloured world.’
He then went on to praise Bjarke Ingels and his Serpentine Pavilion, before warning that Ingels would surpass everyone at future AJ100 awards.
Source: Jim Stephenson
In a comment greeted with nervous laughter from the audience, he said: ‘Watch it guys he’s going to be in this – he probably won’t come along – but he’ll be bigger than any of you in two years, three years.’
Cook also spoke out against critics of AJ100 Contribution to the Profession winner, Zaha Hadid.
He said: ‘Of course the one that they love to hate – the ‘biscuit boys’ love to hate – and be bitchy even after she was dead. Zaha, who some of us miss enormously. I think the cultural situation of British architecture will miss more than they really expect.’
While reserving some praise for the ‘highly creative’ and ‘extraordinary Bloomsbury powerhouse’ the AA as well as the Bartlett, Cook also had strong words of criticism for the Cambridge school of architecture. He said it ‘does terrible architecture’ but is ‘very good dinner parties, very good for networking’.
In addition, Cook criticised the time spent in meetings at British practices.
He said: ‘There’s more bullshit time spent in British architecture in stupid meetings where everybody’s trying to cover their backside and everybody’s scared to do something that’s an interesting piece of design.’
Towards the end of his speech, Cook talked about the London skyline. He argued that old American skyscrapers were a ‘good idea’ because they ‘put style on the top, a bit of architecture on the bottom where you could see it and walk into it, and the rest is stuff’.
But of the British towers he said: ‘Most of the things that go up have neither style, dubious architecture and don’t like to admit that the stuff is stuff.’