London’s Royal Academy of Arts Celebrates Richard Rogers’s 80th Birthday With Career Retrospective

Daniel Rauchwerger Daniel Rauchwerger

Last Thursday, the Royal Academy of Arts, in London, opened its career retrospective of Richard Rogers. The timing couldn’t have been better: The architect celebrates his 80th birthday today. As part of the festivities, then, “Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out” looks at previously unseen, personal materials of one of Britain’s most renowned architects, who has been working in the industry for more than five decades.

A facade showing color-coded external services in Paris’s Centre Pompidou, Richard Rogers’s most influential project (in collaboration with Renzo Piano and Peter Rice). Image courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

One of Rogers’s early projects, a private home he designed for his parents in Wimbledon, London, UK (1969). Photo via Richard Rogers

Born in Florence, Italy, on July 23, 1933, Rogers was educated as an architect at the AA school in London and later received his Masters at the Yale School of Architecture. At the age of 29, he returned to the UK to establish his first practice, Team 4. Rogers led the small firm with his classmate and friend Norman Foster and two women partners: Wendy Cheeseman and Su Brumwell. (Foster and Rogers would later marry their female counterparts.) The four (professionally) split up in 1967, but the distinct aesthetic ideology they developed together—a genre known as “High-Tech Architecture”—continued to shine in all their later works. Visible in almost every project of Rogers’s is the emphasis on details of structure and construction, engineering and the building’s mechanic systems.

The best-known of Rogers’s earlier projects is the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which he planned together with Renzo Piano and Peter Rice. The museum, first starkly rejected, became an icon of modern architecture in Paris. It is the clearest example of Rogers’s signature style, where the building’s interior is clean and plain and the exterior is a complex mechanical composition. These characteristics can be found in abundance throughout Rogers’s career (mostly with the firm he has been associated with since 1977, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners), and include London’s Lloyd’s Building, Barcelona’s “Las Arenas” project, Terminal 4 in Madrid’s Barajas Airport, and Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport, London.

Model of “The Zip-Up House”, a project by Rogers with Mrs. Su Rogers, his long-time partner in life and at work. Photo via

The atrium at Lloyd’s of London Building, designed by Rogers in 1978-1986. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Janet Gill and the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Throughout the last 20 years, Rogers has slowly transitioned into one of the UK’s most established, and perhaps anachronistic, architects. His projects today are regarded as far less interesting than his earlier ones, and some are just pure capitalism (take the recent One Hyde Park, for example). Moreover, he comes today with a list of notable titles, including Baron Rogers of Riverside, CH (Order of the Companions of Honour), and Kt (Knight Bachelor). In his practice, he is today a background figure though still functions as an active partner. The firm employs hundreds of architects and other workers in three main locations: London, Sydney and Shanghai.

More high-tech architecture, inside Madrid’s Barajas Airport Terminal 4. Photo via wikimedia

Rogers at 80 years old. Image courtesy of Andrew Zuckerman and the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

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“One Hyde Park” by Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners: Perhaps the most expensive apartment building in the world (a penthouse sold for 140 Million GBP). Photo: Murray Scott.

Inside Rogers’s National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff, 2006. Photo courtesy of Katsuhisa Kida / FOTOTECA

“Inside Out” at the Royal Academy will run until October 18, 2013.

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