The 1950s, and conventional land planning tools, were trailing in popularity polls. The rediscovery of the avant-garde’s traditional tools satisfied a general anti-bureaucratic sentiment. While English pop scoffed at the new American idols, not without humour and affection, young architects took on the city.
Impertinent, opportunist, and illiterate, Archigram was to architecture what Apocalypse Now’s Playboy Bunnies were to war. Original, skilful, vital, and sincere. Experimentation replaced contemplation. Their architecture was wilful, violent, and provocative affirmation. They emphasised contradictions, making them even more apparent. Certain members of the group had grown up in seaside resorts (hence, perhaps, the semblance of seaside dancehall in their projects).
Their fanzine, nine issues of hyperactive layout between 1961-1974, elevated insolence to an art form. Their mobile machine-cities rekindled a biological and mystical industrial dynamism, long forgotten since the Italians’ brief rise to fame. They cherished ambiguity. They breathed new life into Fuller and Otto, Prouvé and his prefabs, mobile homes and inflatables. They planned to open, in Monte Carlo, the first ever psychedelic sea-food stall, perhaps even the first paper bikini vending machine. Long live appearances and public space!
A transparent igloo for trendy travelling salesmen. Mobile pods for motorised slaves. Suspended capsules for sterile bachelors. Solipsistic inflatable bubbles. Cells for fusional couples with no kids and a definite penchant for small spaces. Theories of decisive movements: changes take place when enough favourable conditions are united. this isn’t a battle of wits, simply readymades, the generation game.
Transforming one’s objects, one’s vernacular into a weapon against the establishment. Combining hippy free love with high-tech space travel research. Neither trees nor greenery, just roads, girls, and speed: the middle classes at home. Neither art nor business, just a flow. Everything must be disposable, random, nomadic. Programmed obsolescence. They’re not into the business of spare parts: their discoveries don’t add up, they multiply. They are, in their own way, far closer to the situationists than their comic-strip-reading counterparts in France.
Archigram : Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Mike Webb.
Text from Yves Tenret's The inflatable as a form of denial, in Air-Air catalogue