By Vinuri Ethapane

The power to inspire goes beyond that of the power to influence. The works of Archigram strongly possesses both these qualities, having successfully left their mark within the architectural discourse. Since its heyday they have brought about an unparalleled radical change to the thought process behind the architectural practice. What makes Archigram so unique is that the Archigram group was able to capture the attention of not only the architects but reach out and create a change in mass culture through only the publication of their magazine “The Architectural + Telegram” = Archigram.

Brought on as a reaction to modernism, it could be said that Archigram was not aimed at criticising modernist principles, but were updating modernist ideas which they believed could be taken further than had been before.

“The house is a machine for living in” can be seen as the driving principle behind Archigram.

In Lara Schrijver’s Radical Games she establishes that Archigram was “truly dismantling modern architecture” yet she continues that they were “revising… Some traditional modern beliefs; updating a modern architecture they still believed in.”

The modernist ideal of “the house is a machine for living in” can be seen as the driving principle behind much of the technological creations developed and illustrated by Archigram. The Walking City by Ron Herron, illustrates a robotic machine structure which is mobile. The machine-like dwelling walks to its desired destination until the inhabitants find the most suitable location; if the desire to move once again arises the machine will move to another location. This concept was applied to the structure carrying an entire city, as if nomadic in its lifestyle were the inhabitants of an entire city could be relocated as they desired. The walking city took mobility and technology to a new level of thought not only within the realm of architects but created an impact to the thoughts of the average individual.

Peter Cook’s plug-in city developed in 1964 was another mobility inspired dwelling where crane mounted pods could be plugged in where the inhabitant desired. A large framework which contains access and services can be fitted into any terrain, into this structure that the pods are “plugged” in. The pods comprise of the dwelling modules, which can be removed, moved and replaced.

Their influence has inspired many of the architects today to use technology as an extension of creativity and not as merely a tool…

The living pod is upon closer examination also a re-invention of the modernist machine aesthetic for living. The living pod is a self-inflating dwelling unit designed to be an “appliance” which the individual carries and sets down wherever desired. Developed by David Green the project explores mobility, technology and radical change of the norm, all concepts, which are the base behind many of Archigram’s inventions. The living pod is a well insulated, machine. It comprises of disposable toilets, air entries, climate machinery for temperature zone and self inflating sleep mats, as well as a non-static food dispenser, with self-cook modifications. It is this living pod that can be mobile when desired or inserted into the framework of the plug-in city urban structure. The experimentation of this thought process extended onto projects such as Michael Webb’s 1966 Cushicle mobile environment and his 1967 wearable house, the Suitaloon.

Radically extreme in their creations the works of Archigram were never fully realised, as the technology required was not available at the time of its inception; nevertheless the works of Archigram have triggered, and inspired those beyond them to deem the impossible as possible, becoming an irrevocable catalyst of progress to the architectural discourse. Their influence has inspired many of the architects today to use technology as an extension of creativity and not as merely a tool necessary to realise these concepts. The works of Archigram were illustrated and detailed to the greatest level of perfection, in that it was all but realised. Maybe this was the intention as the magazine’s approach to architecture was to push the boundaries of technological possibilities and bring in the element of fun and surprise into architecture triggering an entire new realm of inspirational creativity through their existence.