28 in 28 #2: A Guide to Archigram 1961-74

February is Book Month on A Daily Dose of Architecture. The "28 in 28" series features a different book every day of the month.

A Guide to Archigram 1961-74 by Dennis Crompton
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012
Paperback, 448 pages


On my first (and so far only) trip to San Francisco about 15 years ago, I found a book on Archigram at a small bookstore in the Haight Ashbury area. I'd always been curious about the Archigram Group but never delved much into their projects in school or the few years since graduation. So Concerning Archigram..., a small book with a small price, was just right for somebody with a small bank account, a small apartment, and a big desire to know about them. The postcard-sized pages wouldn't seem to be ideal for getting a good look at their drawings and collages, but somehow it works really well; my best guess is that the small pages are more immediate, personal, letting readers comfortably hold the book and get intimate with its contents.

The exact same page size—and the same page-edge pagination, and a similar graphic treatment throughout—is found in A Guide to Archigram 1961-74, edited by Archigram member Dennis Crompton, who also edited the earlier title. Little did I know when receiving the book from Princeton Architectural Press that the book is a second edition of a 1994 title. But chicken or egg, Concerning Architecture or Guide to Archigram, it doesn't really matter; what's important is how the page size and layouts work so well with Archigram's output. Flipping through the Guide nearly 40 years since Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Michael Webb ceased the Archigram experiment, it's easy to see why their individual and group contributions have been so influential in recent years.

A cluster of some of their most well-known projects happen in 1964, the year of Archigram Magazine Issue No.4, Peter Cook's Plug-In City, and Warren Herron's Walking City. (These links are to the fantastic Archigram Archival Project by EXP at the University of Westminster, what can be seen as a digital counterpart to this book.) 1964 was also the year of the British Invasion, as the Beatles toured America, one of many pop culture (and social and political) references that are listed at the beginning of each of the years in this chronological survey of Archigram. These lists are short, but the familiar names and happenings help remind readers what happened each year, further situating the group's work within the larger zeitgeist of a time of intense revolutionary change. Archigram's projects may not have gone beyond "paper architecture" (oh, but what great drawings they are!), but their promotion of true freedom and embrace of technological change make their work hard to resist all these decades later.

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