(Original language: English, Mandarin)
SHIRLEY SURYA: Archigram never actually liked the idea of the symposium.
DAVID GREENE: When we were young, we would just think this conversation is very dull.
PETER COOK: I remember telling them that it was very academic and very stiff.
SHIRLEY SURYA: So, this video response that you will see is this predictably unpredictable and politically incorrect set of comments on some of the papers.
MICHAEL WEBB: I mean, they're amazing, aren't they?
DAVID GREENE: They're amazing and stupid, simultaneously.
SHIRLEY SURYA: We organised ‘Archigram Cities’ as a way for us to really embed the archive where M+ is in Asia.
SIMON SADLER: The timing is happily coincident with demands that we decolonise every aspect of history and practice. This compels us to look at the archive across different modes, roles, circumstances, and ontologies.
MARK WIGLEY: It's a fantastic moment, and it's a great reversal, right? Because, normally, everything goes from the colonies to a museum in London. And now it goes the other way to an even bigger museum in Hong Kong. It's a little bit like a dream come true. But, you know, every dream that comes true is a bit of a nightmare, too. It must be very complicated for Archigram.
SHIRLEY SURYA: Expand readings of Archigram and architecture.
HADAS STEINER: Archigram, by contrast, dismissed this hierarchy of public life altogether in its conception of housing as a transportable standard of living package, in which form temporarily captured the lifestyle desires of the body.
LIAM YOUNG: The pages of Archigram's magazines acted as a new kind of site. A tangible ground on which to build projects that would have more influence on post-war British architecture than perhaps any single physical building. Such speculative architecture produces culture by designing a network of spaces and cities occupied through stories and the imagination of audiences turning the page.
EVANGELOS KOTSIORIS: Despite originating in the proverbial West, Archigram's work was carefully positioned as a pre-visualisation of what the future of Soviet prefabrication industry could be.
SHIRLEY SURYA: As well as to disturb ourselves a little bit.
PETER COOK: Wow . . . Ar . . .
MARK WIGLEY: Right now, they're playing the role of grumpy old men. And this grumpiness, this grumpiness, which often takes the form of anti-theory, of saying that they are not into theory, is all part of the performance and has been [since] the beginning.
LI HAN: I would say it's kind of stupid to discuss beauty today through text, through language, but actually you can, you know, show the beauty through drawings or objects.
DAVID GREENE: I know they're very unbelievably skilful but . . . I think they look like wall—very intense wallpaper to me.
LI HAN: So, in this drawing, what we try to do is really not about saying something, but just to make this beauty we found in Archigram’s drawings. Push it to the extreme, maybe—
DAVID GREENE: Not your drawings. They’re proper drawings they . . . They communicate something. They represented . . . a field of inquiry that . . .
MICHAEL WEBB: Yes.
DAVID GREENE: You're like inspecting, interrogating something. But those drawings, they're . . . They don’t, in my opinion.
LI HAN: I think their comment is really correct. I believe there's a, you know, the drawing itself is important and without, you know, any idea behind it.
LAI CHEE KIEN: When the exhibit was . . . was created . . .
PETER COOK: Oh, I remember it as being really jolly.
LAI CHEE KIEN: . . . perhaps, you know, some of the members of Archigram would think of that as jolly. But I think they were also trying to very much reflect some form of normalcy that had come back in terms of race relations when Dennis Crompton went to see the different places in Malaysia.
ARIEL GENADT: Archigram's dismantling was an operative term, a technique for invigorating modern ideals through expendability, de-mountability, disintegration, fragmentation, and absence. Absent from their discourse was art symbolism and theory, which, for Isozaki, would become increasingly crucial.
YUNG HO CHANG: [Mandarin] In terms of presenting details, there is nothing like tradition. To us, tradition and modern cultures coexist. It’s part of today; it doesn’t belong to the past.
DENNIS CROMPTON: One of the subjects of this symposium is that Hong Kong could be called an Archigram City. Do we agree with that? Or—
PETER COOK: Complete bollocks, actually.
DENNIS CROMPTON: Thank you, Peter.
PETER COOK: The only bit that's Archigramic for me personally is the sort of three-dimensional aspect of it. Particularly the bit where you get those escalators that go up and up and up.
DAVID GREENE: And also, there was a free—elevated freeway near our hotel that swooped—
ANNETTE FIERRO: Has society grown up enough to deploy some of the precise observations that Archigram's Control and Choice imagined? No. Not either in general architectural examples or specifically in housing, especially at the scale necessary for true emergence to occur, neither through operations of kinetic machines nor really as any kind of palpable architectural object.
MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m happy to see that those buildings haven’t been realised in the real world. Because I do think they are more like a machine instead of a habitat.
PETER COOK: Thank you for your view. It was a very, what I would say, orthodox view. You need to look a little more carefully.
LIU JIAKUN: [Mandarin] You all are over eighty years old according to the age list. I think we all already know how to maintain our physical health, but as to how to maintain our passion—could you share some of your experiences?
PETER COOK: You have to have humour in the operation, whether you’re drawing, teaching, pontificating, eating an ice cream.
YUNG HO CHANG: Peter, I think wearing a polka dot shirt also is part of your spirit.
PETER COOK: Correct.
DAVID GREENE: I just get a bit cross about it. I don’t think anybody’s learned anything from Archigram. [laughs] Yeah. I think, they just take the superficial aspect.
YOSHIHARU TSUKAMOTO: Another influence from Archigram was about behaviour. For example, Instant City is not formal urban planning. It is an intervention which activates behaviours.
PETER COOK: As to some people, if they want to interpret our work as being very interested in people, what's interesting is that Atelier Bow-Wow are interested in not exactly trivia, but they're interested in the sort of things that the more dogmatic. high-powered architects are not interested in.
MENG YAN: [Mandarin] To me, where Archigram matters the most is not in specific physical building methods. Most often, it combines technical skill, culture, society, and the responsibility of architects. In fact, it’s like Archigram’sdrawings express themselves through characters and events. We use real people and real scenes to shape a different city, so as to show the audience that this city is plausible, liveable, and energetic.
MA YANSONG: [Mandarin] Perhaps as a result of the political and economic climate, today’s architectural field tends towards a kind of realism and utilitarianism. I especially miss what I believe Archigram's era represents, in that many young people, young architects were full of these ideals of social responsibility. They weren't just concerned with the sort of success or goal of one or two reliasable projects. They turned their forward-thinking vision and this critique of reality into the primary responsibility of architects establishing themselves in society at the time.
MARK WIGLEY: So this idea of Archigram having a future, I think it's the idea of having new lives. And precisely what M+ means is we don't know what's going to happen. That's the brilliant thing about the 'plus'. We have no idea.
SHIRLEY SURYA: In an increasingly hyper-networked world of media and information, Archigram also becomes only one of the nodes within a larger network. It makes M+, this event, or even each of its participants, all nodes of their own, exercising the retransmitting of Archigram.
PETER COOK: We are all victims of agencies. What is the value of M+ and having the stuff in there? It is a trigger of a means to an end, to continue the conversation of expanding architecture. Use every means at your disposal to attack it, disseminate it, review it, get it to inspire other people.
SHIRLEY SURYA: So we hope the past three sessions can be the beginnings of encouraging a multiplicity in interpreting and enacting whatever Archigram's work has been. Whether these could result from glitches, unexpected mutation, or faithful replication of ideas of Archigram, in this seemingly unhindered flow of information, we hope that this would expand our views, not just of Archigram or architecture, but of the forces at work that could limit or flourish us.
MARK WIGLEY: What's great about this migration to M+ is that we simply don't know what's going to happen. So we have to sort of stay tuned.
MICHAEL WEBB: Got the drearies on the run.
Archigram Cities was a series of online and offline talks and screenings organised by M+ in collaboration with the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Architecture and the Power Station of Art in Shanghai in November 2020. The programme was designed to embed the Archigram Archive in the context of its new home—in Hong Kong, China and the region—and trace new lines of inquiry into Arcihgram's work through a broader geographical and disciplinary framework.
This supercut highlights key moments and exchanges between invited speakers, Archigram members, and audiences on the challenges and potentials of having the Archigram Archive at M+. More importantly, it encapsulates the productive collision and mutual reinforcement between Archigram's work and propositions made by scholars and practitioners, affirming the relevance of Archigram's visionary architecture of the 1960s to the immediate present and possible futures.
- Produced by
- Production House
- M+ Curatorial
Shirley Surya, Noel Cheung, Cyndi Chan
- M+ Video Production