"I would like to think that my ethics may continue" says Richard Rogers

Richard Rogers headshot

In the penultimate video from a series that we filmed in 2013 with Richard Rogers, the late British architect reflects on his career and legacy.

Rogers, who passed away on 18 December aged 88 was one of the world's best-known architects, best known for his pioneering high-tech architecture.

Among his most recognisable work is the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which he designed with Italian architect Renzo Piano and the Lloyd's building in London.

For the video series, the Pritzker Architecture Prize winner spoke to Dezeen from the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners studio in west London.

In this interview, filmed in 2013 to coincide with a retrospective of his work at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Rogers argues that shifts in societal attitudes over the past 50 years have changed the course of the profession.

He also reflected on his personal career highlights which include creating a collaborative architecture studio.

Read on for a transcript of the interview below:


"I'm proud of the fact that I've been able and been fortunate to work with lots of fantastic colleagues. Right now, I've changed the name of the firm so that it's Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners because, at 80, you can see an end will be coming.

"But I would like to think that my ethics – going back to the Royal Academy exhibition and the ethos of it – may continue. We have a constitution where the partners gave up their ownership. We only do certain types of work and that has created a certain team spirit.

"So I'm proud of all those things and I'm proud about the fact that I have been able to live at a time when I've been able to make use of my abilities.

It's very exciting, it's very dynamic – something which was impossible before

"On one side, Britain has now very good architects, very good modern architects. And you could argue there's no nation that has better.

"The Pritzker Prize, which is sort of sometimes talked about as the Nobel Prize of architecture, there's probably more architects who've got more Pritzker per population in England than anywhere else. Maybe Japan would be the competitor. So the architecture is there.

"Political interest has never been much and every now and then you get a bit of a flare. And I certainly have tried to work on it.

"I work in the House of Lords and I usually participate when there are things about the built environment. And in one way it is better. I mean, if you go to the City of London it is pretty good.

"I was coming out the other day from the Design Museum on the other side of Tower Bridge and I thought I was in New York with all these towers and lights on.

"Now I'm not saying it's good or bad, but it's very exciting, it's very dynamic – something which was impossible before.

"In my generation, every architect that left school went to work for a school department, hospital department, housing department, local county council, education establishments and so on. I don't believe one can say it's better or worse.

"Really, I'm going to say, 90 per cent of the students that I knew who left with me, they went to work, that would be natural. In other words, the idea was that you would build for the future.

We just had a horrible war and there was this very strong feeling, not by one party, by the way, possibly more than one party, about the welfare state. The state could be enriched by the way that we played out our abilities, our responsibilities.

It is much more an Age of Greed

"This has gone and it is much more an age of greed, especially in the sense of when we're wrestling with the economic crisis of the last years. It is very much about dog eat dog and the acceptance that it doesn't matter what you earn, you have no duty to society.

"And I think it's reflected in some of the things we do, I often point to Finland, where the teachers get the same money as surgeons. Of course, therefore, teachers are recognised in their important role.

"We [the British] don't. That goes throughout everything, it has nothing to do about architecture. That's about society.

"But it is a very exciting time and now we're looking at an international world and we weren't doing it 50 years ago.

"When I started doing architecture, Paris was pretty international, in the sense of going across the channel. Now, you know, we're fortunate we can make use of a much wider network of communication, and therefore change and adapt to that to that network.

"I wouldn't say that things are uglier, but we have to be very wary of protecting the public domain."

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