Sorry

M+ no longer supports this web browser.

M+ 不再支持此網頁瀏覽器。

M+ 不再支持此网页浏览器。

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a green grid-like pattern.

Beijing-based Drawing Architecture Studio explain how they created three posters inspired by Archigram’s practice alongside architectural projects around Asia

In the work of the London-based Archigram group, architecture was about change, possibilities, and alternatives. Rather than building anything in the conventional sense, the group created speculative, utopian designs through publishing, teaching, and exhibitions. In the 1960s, the group—Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Michael Webb—was seen mainly as a peripheral agitator to the architectural mainstream. The last five decades, however, have shown the broader influence and relevance of Archigram’s projects.

The Archigram Archive, consisting of around 20,000 items from over 200 projects, entered the M+ Collections in 2019. Alongside a series of events titled Archigram Cities in November 2020, M+ commissioned Beijing-based Drawing Architecture Studio (DAS) to create three posters inspired by Archigram’s practice. These intricate drawings show how Archigram’s ideas of the city resonate with architectural projects and urban phenomena in Asia.

The Archigram Archive in the M+ Collections
The Archigram Archive in the M+ Collections
1:48

The story behind the Archigram Archive and its acquisition into the M+ Collections.

Video Transcript

PETER COOK: Archigram is the name of a broadsheet that suggested there were alternatives to the boring architecture that was going on in the ’50s and ’60s. It then gave its name to six guys who were enjoying inventing that architecture.

SUHANYA RAFFEL: I am very proud that the Archigram Archive acquisition was made while I am museum director of M+. We see the root of Hong Kong visual culture in relationship to global architecture.

DORYUN CHONG: They situated architecture amongst the wider landscape of visual culture, and that very much fits with how M+ is thinking about visual culture.

ARIC CHEN: The archive includes thousands of drawings, models, videos, and recordings and includes some of the tools that they used to draw with. You can see traces of Archigram almost everywhere. A number of prominent Hong Kong architects were either students or former employees of Archigram members.

DORYUN CHONG: We are focussed as much on displaying these objects in addition to storing and conserving them as making these materials accessible to people who are curious people who want to do in-depth research.

We spoke to Li Han and Hu Yan, founders of DAS, about architectural drawing and how they conceived the imaginary worlds that make up the three posters.

How did DAS start? Why the emphasis on ‘drawing architecture’?

We started DAS in 2013 after we published A Little Bit of Beijing. In this book, we tried to portray the most interesting urban spaces in Beijing through different formats of architectural drawings (axonometric panorama, black-and-white line drawing, and graphic novel). It was well-received, which encouraged us to explore the potential of architectural drawing as a practice. Unlike a constructed building, an architectural drawing doesn’t rely on clients or external factors. We can freely decide on the content and form.

Four books are laid out in a row at the top of the image. The books all have a detailed coloured or monochrome architectural drawing on the cover, and the title in a round colourful circle. Next to the books is a page with large Chinese characters. Below are two rows of three open books showing spreads of detailed architectural drawings, and one spread showing text in a book next to a monochrome image of a cat.

Drawing Architecture Studio. A Little Bit of Beijing, 2013. © Drawing Architecture Studio

Traditionally based on the use of ruler and compass and today mostly created with computer software, architectural drawings—plans, elevations, sections, and axonometric projections—demonstrate a unique aesthetic that appeals to the public and presents an architect’s distinct ways of seeing and interpreting the world. Compared to other ways in which environments are depicted, architectural drawings can represent far more complex spaces, especially cities. Cities provide inexhaustible inspiration with their density, layers, and ever-changing intricacy.

We initially used architectural drawings to represent real urban spaces. Gradually, we started to overlay real scenarios with fictive elements—such as collaging elements from different times and locations in a single image—to express our thoughts on the city. Architectural drawings can depict a corner of the city, critique a specific urban issue, or reinterpret classic architectural concepts based on contemporary urban contexts.

Archigram enabled architecture to cross professional boundaries and be incorporated into mass culture.

In the beginning, we initiated most of our projects. However, ‘drawing architecture’ has become our speciality over the years. As a result, we’ve been commissioned to apply our architectural drawings to various media, scales, and occasions—including public murals, graphic novels, and illustrations applied to interior spaces and exterior building facades.

How has the work of Archigram influenced your practice?

Archigram was both a collective and a magazine. They were architects, but they created architecture through drawing and writing. They inspired us to discover alternative ways to practice architecture. It was not based on the construction of actual buildings but on the cultivation of architectural culture that can be quickly disseminated and accessed by the public. Their works have demonstrated that architectural drawing has enormous potential as both a design and research tool, a finished product, and a powerful medium in and of itself. Deriving inspiration from magazines and comics, Archigram enabled architecture to cross professional boundaries and be incorporated into mass culture.

How did you conceive the three thematic directions for the Archigram Cities posters?

We developed three themes for the posters based on three of Archigram’s most notable projects: Walking City (1964), Plug-in City (1964), and Underwater City (1964). We called the themes Walking, Plugging, and Floating. They relate to relevant urban topics and have a lot of room for expansion.

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a large, grey, insect-like structure in which a collection of multi-story buildings is mounted on giant, telescopic steel legs.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Walking, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a green grid-like pattern.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Plugging, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image shows a complex network of structures built on top of a body of water, which contains floating units and buildings on stilts.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Floating, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a large, grey, insect-like structure in which a collection of multi-story buildings is mounted on giant, telescopic steel legs.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Walking, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a green grid-like pattern.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Plugging, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image shows a complex network of structures built on top of a body of water, which contains floating units and buildings on stilts.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Floating, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a large, grey, insect-like structure in which a collection of multi-story buildings is mounted on giant, telescopic steel legs.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Walking, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a green grid-like pattern.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Plugging, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image shows a complex network of structures built on top of a body of water, which contains floating units and buildings on stilts.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Floating, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a large, grey, insect-like structure in which a collection of multi-story buildings is mounted on giant, telescopic steel legs.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Walking, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a green grid-like pattern.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Plugging, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

A poster featuring a detailed, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image shows a complex network of structures built on top of a body of water, which contains floating units and buildings on stilts.

Drawing Architecture Studio. Floating, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

The Walking theme relates to mobility. Mobile architecture inspires thinking about temporary spaces, events, scenarios, and atmospheres.

The Plugging theme relates to megastructures—scalable buildings and entirely self-sufficient cities built of prefabricated changeable units. For example, Archigram’s Plug-in City illustrates a megastructure in which standardised housing units can be plugged in or out of a larger framework. Megastructures evoke architects’ interests in infrastructure, systems, prefabrication, and adaptability.

The Floating theme is about building cities on, or in, the sea. Some architects envision ambitious megacities on water, while others design more individual and nomadic structures.

We want to use these three themes to bring together architectural projects from different times and places, creating a dialogue between Archigram’s works and other architectural practices.

How did you select the various architectural projects represented in the posters?

The commission asked us to consider works represented in the M+ Collections, alongside other critical architectural projects across Asia, to be placed in dialogue with Archigram’s work. This dialogue is the overarching concept behind Archigram Cities.

Two images side by side. The image on the left is a detail of an architectural drawing showing a robot-like white structure consisting of a head, body, base, and three arms with human-sized buckets at the end. The head contains four control rooms. People are milling all over the robot. The image on the right is a photo of a robot-like white structure consisting of a head, body, base, and one arm with a human-sized bucket at the end. The head contains two control rooms.

Left: Drawing Architecture Studio. Walking (detail), 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio
Right: Isozaki Arata, Expo’70 Osaka Demonstration Robot, 1970. © Arata Isozaki. Courtesy of Arata Isozaki & Associates

In Walking, for example, we selected Demonstration Robot—a three-story-high performing robot with control booths that moved around the crowd in the festival plaza of Osaka Expo ’70—by Isozaki Arata.

Similar to Archigram’s Walking City, it reflects a fascination with architecture’s relationship to machines and mobility. We also included MAD’s Superstar: A Mobile Chinatown (2008) for its similar ideas about travelling and self-sufficient cities.

The image on the right shows an image of a large star-shaped structure hovering in mid-air over a street in the middle of a city.

MAD Architects, Postcard of New York, Superstar: a Mobile China Town, Venice Architecture Biennale 2008, Italy, 2008. M+, Hong Kong. © MAD Architects

Other architects consider mobility more from the sustainability perspective—building light, employing reusable materials, and requiring fewer resources. This is the case, for example, with Atelier Bow-Wow’s White Limousine Yatai (2003), a 10-meter-long street-side food cart on wheels that allows large gatherings in any outdoor location. We also included the rotatable bookshelf with bicycle wheels designed by Yung Ho Chang in 2000 for Xishu Book Store in Beijing. When these mobile architectures of different scales are put together, they evoke a transitory assembled urban scene—like Archigram’s Instant City (1968–1970), a transportable kit of parts that could temporarily infiltrate different communities and transform them into mini-cities.

Two images side by side. The image on the left shows multiple black bookcases inside a room. Each bookcase sits on bicycle wheels attached to their sides. The bookcases are all laden with books. The image on the right shows a long white cart on wheels sitting outdoors. People sit on stools on either side, eating food, and servers stand beside them. The cart has a white W shaped roof.

Left: Yung Ho Chang (Atelier FCJZ). Xishu bookstore, 1996. © Atelier FCJZ
Right: Atelier Bow-wow, White Limousine Yatai, 2002 © Atelier Bow-wow

In Plugging, the emphasis is on the analogy between Archigram’s Plug-in City. It works by some of the Metabolist architects in Japan. To represent megastructures, we overlaid the diagonal tubes of Plug-in City with the megastructural forms of Isozaki’s Cities in the Air (1960–1963)—a structure with large cylindrical cores lifting housing units off the ground. To represent designs based on modular units, we selected Capsule Homes (1964) by Archigram, units from Nakagin Capsule Tower (1970–1972) by Kurokawa Kisho, and modules from Isozaki’s Cities in the Air. We tried to reveal the similarities and differences in the thinking around megastructures by architects from various geographies and cultural backgrounds.

Two images side by side. The image on the left is an architectural drawing of an orange crane against a blue background. The crane carries two small housing units with the cross-sections visible. Two other housing units hang from above, including one unit consisting of three tubes tied together. The image on the right shows a cross-section of a small housing unit with green walls. Two women lie and sit inside on a small bed and stool respectively.

Left: Drawing Architecture Studio. Plugging (detail), 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio
Right: Warren Chalk, Archigram. Capsule Homes, overhead view, 1964. M+, Hong Kong. © 1964 ARCHIGRAM

In Floating, we used Buckminster Fuller’s Triton City as the background. It consists of a floating megastructure assembled from tetrahedral modules that can be extended as the population grows.

A monochrome image of a large structure with many levels and rooms floating on top of a body of water.

R. Buckminster Fuller. Inventions: Twelve Around One—Submarisle (Undersea Island) (1963) over Triton City (1967), 1981. M+, Hong Kong. Photo: Courtesy of Carl Solway Gallery. © Estate of Buckminster Fuller

Metroplan West Kowloon Reclamation Concept (1988)—a flexible, modular commercial and cultural development built on a floating deck by Hong Kong architect Tao Ho— is portrayed in the middle ground. Finally, Archigram’s Underwater City (1964), consisting of interconnected spheres under the sea, occupies the foreground.

Acrylic and cardboard architectural model depicting a plan in which an extended deck floats over the water next to a harbour. The deck includes structures and a tower, depicted in transparent acrylic.

Tao Ho. Site Model, Metroplan West Kowloon Reclamation Concept, Hong Kong, 1988/2013. Acrylic and cardboard. M+, Hong Kong. © Irene Ho

These designs exemplify their architects’ grand ambitions for inhabiting the ocean. Other architects, however, responding to the smallness of human beings compared to the ocean’s immensity, have instead considered building with lightness and flexibility under nomadic or minimal conditions. To represent this architectural strand, we chose to depict Pao: Dwellings for the Tokyo Nomad Woman (1985) by Toyo Ito; Archigram’s Seaside Bubbles (1966)—pneumatic units suspended on masts by the sea; and Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong’s Paddling Home (2010).

Two images side by side. The image on the left shows a detail from an architectural drawing in which five small units float across a body of water. The image on the right is a photo of a man standing on top of a small unit floating on the water in Victoria Harbour, with Hong Kong’s skyline in the background. The unit sits on wooden planks attached to car tires.

Left: Drawing Architecture Studio. Floating (detail), 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio
Right: Kacey Wong, Paddling Home 4, 2009. M+, Hong Kong. © Kacey Wong

Why did you decide to include vernacular examples—structures and urban phenomena built and designed by non-architects, often through community efforts—from across Asia?

When Archigram was conceiving their ambitious and utopian megacities, the focus of most architects was to develop top-down systems for individuals to fit into. But the decades since, the focus has gradually shifted to the individual.

As a result, many prosperous urban districts are developed from the bottom up, composed of relatively independent architectural units. Architects do not usually design these; instead, they’re spontaneous developments initiated by various actors in the community.

A photo of a group of wooden houses standing on planks in the water, with ladders leading down to small wooden boats docked in front.

Stilt homes at floating village in Kompong Phluk, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo by Todd Brown via Getty Images.

Although grand urban visions by architects are distinct from structures built by non-professionals, the core concepts behind their projects are similar. For example, the floating houses or villages in Cambodia or Bangladesh and Metroplan West Kowloon Reclamation Concept by Tao Ho are all floating settlements on the sea. The tricycle vendors in Bangkok and White Limousine Yatai by Atelier Bow-Wow are all mobile commercial facilities operated by a workforce. The Central–Mid-Levels escalators in Central Hong Kong and Archigram’s Plug-in City are examples of using portable systems to connect urban units.

Detail of a poster featuring an intricate, colourful architectural drawing in which multiple architectural projects, structures, and phenomena are collaged and put into the same space. The image is dominated by a green grid-like pattern of tubes.

Detail of Plugging by Drawing Architecture Studio. In the drawing: Hong Kong’s Central–Mid-Levels escalators, Tokyo commercial towers, Beijing hutongs, Shenzhen urban villages, and Asian vernacular houses

Many architects’ utopian dreams are never realised due to practical constraints. However, spontaneously formed urban phenomena and naturally developed neighbourhood settlements can incarnate those dreams through other approaches. For example, hutong communities in Beijing and urban villages in Shenzhen do not rely on external planning. Still, they are composed of internally developed individual units.

To reflect the central theme of this drawing series—Archigram Cities—we cannot ignore vernacular constructions that form the fabric of cities. Suppose Archigram’s and other architects’ concepts represent professional idealism. In that case, these vernacular buildings represent how the masses respond to changing social realities.

Archigram Cities Supercut
Archigram Cities Supercut
10:28

Relive the November 2020 Archigram Cities symposium with this highlights reel recapping insights from speakers in Asia and beyond.

Video Transcript

(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.

How did you choose to reinterpret and render the projects by Archigram and other architects?

Our visualisations emphasise Archigram’s drafting aesthetics. In the 1960s, they used pencil, compass, and ruler to represent three-dimensional space in a flat, graphic style through non-perspective projections (plan, elevation, and axonometric projection). Today, we use AutoCAD, which is just a digitised pencil, compass, and ruler. Drawing with AutoCAD preserves Archigram’s drafting aesthetics and enables us to create more complex graphics.

Archigram’s signature style involves highly saturated colours and the ‘clear line’ style. Comic art and pop culture were important references from which we borrowed similar techniques. For example, in Walking, many architectural components overlap and intersect to show movement and speed. This is combined with motion lines, a method found in comics.

Architectural drawing cannot only imagine the future but also document, represent, and critique current realities...

Archigram’s works present bold imagination on a macroscale and fine details on a micro scale. We were dealing with projects as big as a city or small as a food cart on the street, so we had to resolve how to represent these two scales in a single image. We didn’t use the rule in which objects appear smaller as their distance from the observer increases. Instead, we contrasted two scales: 1:200 for large projects on a macroscale and 1:60 for smaller projects on a micro scale. We put the city-scale projects like Walking City, Triton City, and Plug-in City in the background and the microscale projects like Capsule Homes, White Limousine Yatai, and Paddling Home in the foreground. To balance the difference, we used variable-size elements like gridded pavements, oceans, or highways to interweave and organise everything.

Two images side by side. The image on the left is an architectural drawing of a large, grey, insect-like structure in which a collection of multi-story buildings is mounted on giant, telescopic steel legs. The image on the right is an architectural drawing in which the same insect-like structure is surrounded by numerous other shapes and structures against a blue background.

Left: Archigram’s Walking City depicted in Walking by Drawing Architecture Studio
Right: Detail of Walking by Drawing Architecture Studio

In the end, each drawing looks like a perspectival image with no fixed viewpoint. Instead, everything is portrayed through axonometric projection from different perspectives and revealing multiple layers. This allows the viewer to transition between big and small, inside and out quickly.

Did creating these posters make you rethink Archigram’s practice and their relationship with architects in this region?

We used to understand Archigram by reading their words and looking at their images. Drawing their works has let us carefully study their beautiful details. Still, it also helped us see Archigram in new ways.

Sepia toned photograph of four large structures in which repeated capsules are suspended in the air over cylindrical and modular megastructures. The capsules form shapes reminiscent of layered triangles.

sozaki Arata's Cities in the Air depicted by yellow-coloured megastructures in Drawing Architecture Studio's Plugging

Firstly, although Archigram is from Europe, their city dreams are closer in spirit to Asia. Asian cities don’t always care much about order, formality, or immutability. They are more concerned with prosperity, fusion, and rapid change. Archigram’s Instant City reminds us of night markets throughout Asia: food courts that suddenly appear at night and disappear without a trace by daytime.

Plug-in City has beautiful structures and complex traffic flows, but (as its name conveys) the more beautiful elements are those plugged into the city: shops, houses, and inflatable balloons in the plazas. For example, if Isozaki’s Cities in the Air focuses on the idea of a megastructure composed of repeated units, then Archigram’s Plug-in City looks closer at the actual design of the units. The megastructure of Plug-in City demonstrates the mechanical framework of how integrated, scalable, and expandable units are.

Based on our experience with many Asian cities, which require architects to adapt to changing conditions, Archigram’s distinct urban vision makes them especially suited to designing in the context of Asia.

Three images side by side. The image on the left shows a tower consisting of a central steel pipe with geodesic sphere attachments. The image in the middle shows an architectural drawing of this tower with geodesic sphere attachments in red, green, and white against a blue background. The image on the right shows a detail from a colourful architectural drawing in which the tower with geodesic sphere attachments is portrayed amongst numerous other architectural projects and structures.

Left: Kikutake Kiyonori, Expo Tower, 1970. Photo: Hiromasa Matsuura. © Kikutake Kiyonori
Middle: Expo Tower and Pao in Floating by Drawing Architecture Studio
Right: Detail of Floating by Drawing Architecture Studio

Secondly, considering the radical proposals of Archigram and their peers in the 1960s–1970s, we were surprised to find that, in our view, there has been almost no intrinsic, comparable breakthrough achieved in the work of contemporary architects. In other words, the grand visions in the utopian proposals from the 1960s are difficult to surpass. This should force us to think of alternative ways forward. Architectural drawing cannot only imagine the future but also document, represent, and critique current realities, including city textures, architectural uses, and sudden changes.

We believe that by doing so, new ideas will naturally appear. Ultimately, documentation, representation, and design should be part of the same process—this is our understanding of the mission of architectural drawing.

Image at top: Drawing Architecture Studio. Plugging, 2020. Commissioned by M+. © Drawing Architecture Studio

This article was originally published on M+ Stories.

For Drawing Architecture Studio (DAS), Archigram’s greatest influence lies in their demonstration that architectural drawing has enormous potential not only as a design tool but also as a medium. Through forms of communication like magazines and graphic novels, drawing enables architecture to cross professional boundaries and enter mass culture. Inspired by the radical 1960s architects’ exploration of imagined futures and possibilities in the built environment, DAS makes architectural drawing a pivot point in their practice, transforming phenomena from the real world into digital images for narrative or criticism and communicating these images online. The drawing series DAS created for Archigram Cities is a reinterpretation of Archigram’s avant-garde concepts in a contemporary urban context, juxtaposing the group’s projects with designs for cities by other architects as well as everyday structures in urban spaces in Asia. The drawings are conceived as a series of visual dialogues between the past and the present, and dream and reality, and within the profession and beyond.

M+ Members

  • Access to the M+ Lounge with your guests
  • Access to M+ Private Viewing for General Admission only
  • Priority booking and member discounts
  • Priority lanes access for General Admission only
  • Free access to the M+ galleries (General Admission only) and selected cinema screenings

... and much more

M+ Membership benefits list updated in November 2022

Loading