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archigram: retrofuturistic architecture    The magazine Archigram was at the avant-garde of 60s architecture. Six young London architects (Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron and Michael Webb) founded and fostered it. The pages of the magazine were full of pieces and reflection on provocative and innovative architecture of the future. In the first issue, David Green set out Archigram's philosophy in poetry:
"A new generation of architecture must arise forms and spaces to reject the precepts of ‘Modern’ yet in fact retains those precepts.
We have chosen to bypass the decaying Bauhaus image which is an insult to functionalism.
You can roll out steel – any length.
You can blow up a balloon – any size.
You can mould plastic – any shape.
Blokes that built the Forth Bridge – they didn’t worry."

The first issue of Archigram was published in 1961. Printed on cheap paper, it was made up of Green's poem and Cook, Webb and other colleagues' architectonic project drawings. It was a time of political and social change. It was the time of intellectuals like Foucault, Barthes, Lévi-Strauss, filmmakers the likes of Godard, Truffaut and Fellini and in the fields of science and technology huge progress was being made. It was when the cosmonaut Gagarin was the first man in space, satellites began to twirl around the world, the photocopier was invented, as was the pill... Having rebuilt everything from the destruction of World War II, people lived in a rich and satisfied society. And this led Cook to proclaim English architecture "has turned its back on what is happening in Europe and is weak and spineless. We classify it as modern but we betray the philosophy that is the foundation of this modern architecture". The first issue of the magazine clearly reflected the frustration caused by the conservative nature of English architecture. The first issue sold 300 copies, mainly to students of architecture and workers in studios. Experts and teachers of architecture didn't pay the slightest bit of attention to the publication. A year later, the second issue was published with more crafted content and on better quality paper. That same year Yves Saint Laurent opened his Paris studio, the Beatles released “Love Me Do” and Bob Dylan recorded his first album. On the other side of the ocean, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Olderburg opened an exhibition called The new realists. The young architects at Archigram were invited to set up an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The exhibition Living City opened in 1963. They proclaimed the city a unique living organism. What was at first a proposal by rather eccentric students suddenly attracted the interest of professors and experts alike, and the magazine Archigram was soon being regarded as being cutting edge.
The spirit of the magazine was one of total positivity. The architects involved decided to refute all architecture that was anchored in the past. In this sense, they were the fathers of the futurists. They believed that the advantages provided by technological advance would help create a happier society. To this point of view, they added liberal dollops of British humour. Archigram was always in favour an architecture that teased. That's why many elements of the past were always included in their work and proposals. They ironically added Victorian elements to their furniture, cement and glass. That very characteristic is what gives Archigram architecture that retrofuturistic touch. By the end of the 60s the magazine was being sold in the thousands and often included articles by the likes of the prestigious architects Isozaki, Hollein, Otto and others. In Monte Carlo in 1969, they won a competition to build a leisure centre. They wanted to bury a giant underground dome by the Mediterranean where all the elements (seats, lights, toilets...) would be set on wheels and thus be movable. The objective was to enable infinite use of space. It was never built. Funding issues caused the project to be scrapped and the positive technocratic climate in their favour began to darken. The war in Vietnam and the worsening situation in the North of Ireland showed a darker more evil side to technological progress. The members of Archigram soon began to disagree on certain things and the group split up in 1974. Each member struck out on their own path. Archigram was the last provocative and groundbreaking architectural movement to research and investigate architecture and urbanism. Even so, they only ever developed three projects: a children’s playground in Milton Keynes, an exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute in London and a swimming pool for the singer Rod Stewart. They were the victims of the very same
lack of daring inherent in the conservative English architecture that they condemned in the first issue of Archigram.