The life and architectural career of Richard Rogers

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Introduction

Sir Richard George Rogers is an Italian-British architect who is best known for his high-tech approach to architecture which he describes as “celebrating the components of structure”.

His work in architecture spans more than half a century, where he has designed pioneering buildings such as the headquarters for Lloyd’s of London, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Here we discuss his colorful life and distinguished career.

Quick Facts

  • Born: Richard George Rogers, 23 July 1933 (85 years old), Florence, Italy

  • Nationality: British, Italian

  • Occupation: Architect

  • Parent(s): Dr. William Abrahams Rogers, Mamie Levy Rogers

  • Practice: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

  • Website: www.rsh-p.com

Synopsis

Sir Richard George Rogers was born on 23 July 1933 in Florence, Italy. He is best known for his functionalist and modernist designs in high-tech architecture. Today, he is a senior partner at his firm, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

Throughout his career, Richard Rogers has received numerous awards for his work such as the RIBA Gold Medal, the RIBA Stirling Prize, the Pritzker Prize, among many others. In 1996, he was named The Lord Rogers of Riverside. 

Facts about Richard Rogers

  1. He was the first architect to deliver the BBC’s annual Reith Lectures in 1995

  2. In 2009, he stood down as the chief advisor on architecture and modernism to Mayor of London Boris Johnson

  3. Richard Rogers has served as an advisor on urban strategies to two mayors of Barcelona

  4. Two of his collaborators, Norman Foster and Renzo Piano have also won the Pritzker Architecture Prize

  5. His uncle, Ernest Nathan Rogers, was a prominent Italian Architect

Lloyds Building, London, UK

Lloyds Building, London, UK

Richard Rogers’ Family

Richard Rogers was the son of  Dr. William Abrahams Rogers and  Mamie Levy Rogers.

His father was the cousin of one of Italy’s most prominent architects, Ernesto Nathan Rogers. Ernesto was also a contributing editor to Casabella and Domus, which are the leading architectural magazines in Italy.

His father was the grandson of an English Dentist who had settled in Italy.

Richard Rogers’ mother was from Trieste. His maternal grandfather was an executive at an insurance company, who had initially studied architecture and engineering.

He also has a younger brother, Peter William Rogers, a property developer and co-founder of Stanhope. 

Early life

Richard Rogers was born on 23 July 1933 in Florence (Tuscany), Italy.

At the wake of World War II, Richard Rogers’ family moved back to England. In England, Richard Rogers entered the public school system by joining St Johns School, Leatherhead. Between 1951 and 1953, Richard Rogers went into National Service.

Education

At school, Richard Rogers experienced trouble reading and memorizing his schoolwork and therefore did not excel academically.

This made him believe that he was stupid and this affected his childhood. He was not able to read until the age of 11. He later realized that he was dyslexic, after having his first child.

He then took a foundation course at Epsom School of Art (now known as University for the Creative Arts) after leaving St Johns School. He then went to the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. There, he got a diploma between 1954 and 1959.

Richard Rogers later graduated with a masters degree in architecture from Yale School of Architecture in 1962 on a Fullbright Scholarship.

There, he met Su Brumwell, a planning student, and fellow architecture student Norman Foster.

Personal life

Rogers’ married his first wife, Su Brumwell, in 1960, where together, they have three sons, Ben, Zad, and Ab.

Rogers’ current wife is Ruth Rogers, who is a chef and co-owner of The River Cafe’, a restaurant in west London. Together, the couple have two sons, Roo and Boo, along with 12 grandchildren.

Millennium Dome. London, UK

Millennium Dome. London, UK

Early training & influences

While growing up, several members of Richard Rogers’ family were architects. His maternal grandfather studied architecture and engineering.

His father’s cousin was Ernest Rogers, one of Italy’s prominent architects. His mother had a great interest in modern design and encouraged Richard Rogers’ interest in the visual arts.

In 1951, there was the Festival of Britain. The festival brought the first officially sanctioned modern architecture to Britain. At the time, Richard Rogers’ family was pushing him to a possible career in dentistry. He, however, lacked the qualification. He was impressed with some of the temporary buildings set for the festival, which sparked his interest.

He later traveled to Italy and spent some time in Trieste. There, he got to know Ernesto and his work. He later decided on attending the Architectural Association.

Architecture career

Team 4

In 1963, architecture graduates; Richard Rogers, Su Brumwell, Norman Foster, and Wendy Cheesman established an architectural firm called Team 4. The firm was dissolved by Rogers and Foster after friction emerged within the firm.

The Creek Vean was one of the first projects that Team 4 was commissioned. The project was a commission from Su Brumwell’s parents, Marcus and Irene Brumwell. The house was to be built in Feock, Cornwall. The construction of Creek Vean took place between 1963 and 1966. It was the first house to ever win a R.I.B.A. Award.

Another of Team 4’s projects was Skybreak House, which is located in Radelt, Hertfordshire. Construction of the house began in 1965 and was completed a year later. The interior of the house was later used in the film, A Clockwork Orange.

The final project that Team 4 had before dissolving was the design and construction of Reliance Controls building in Swindon. The construction of the building was completed in 1967. The building created a common entrance and canteen, removing the separation of workforce and management.

Richard and Su Rogers Architects (with John Young and Laurie Abbott)

After Team 4 split up, Richard Rogers continued to collaborate with Su Rogers together with John Young and Laurie Abbott. Richard and Su Rogers designed and constructed the Rogers House which was commissioned by Richard Rogers’ parents.

Piano + Rogers

Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano set up the Piano & Rogers office in London in 1971. Together, Rogers and Piano won the competition for the design of Centre Pompidou. The high-tech design for the Centre Georges Pompidou which was constructed between 1971 and 1977, made it look like an urban machine.

The design of the building immediately garnered attention from the architectural community. The building has colorful air ducts and elevators positioned on the building’s exterior. The building created a vivid aesthetic impression and the structure’s playfulness challenged institutional ideas of what a museum should be.

Other buildings designed by the collaboration between Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano were; Universal Oil Products in Tadworth, UK, which was constructed between 1969 and 1974, the B&B Italia headquarters in Como, Italy, whose construction began in 1972 and was completed in 1973. They also designed the Patscentre Research Laboratory in Melbourn. 

The Richard Rogers Partnership

The separation of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano was finalized in 1978.

Richard Rogers then produced his new practice: Richard Rogers Partnership, with John Young, Mike Davies, and Marco Goldschmied. The practice was formed based on relationships which were developed over 20 years of his practice in architecture.

The first commission that he got in his new practice was for the construction of the Lloyds of London Building in London. His design for the building not only established him as a major architect in England but also in the world.

Richard Rogers’ design was a straightforward one, with a rectangular atrium office block. He, however, brought the service elements such as restrooms, elevators, service ducts, and escape stairs out on the facade in gleaming stainless steel. This transformed an otherwise ordinary building into a sophisticated masterpiece.

There were other several buildings designed and constructed by Richard Rogers Partnership. The main ones include; the Adolfo Suarez-Madrid Barajas Airport terminals 4 and 4S in Madrid, Spain, the Millenium Dome in London, UK, and the Marseille Provence Airport in Marignane, France, which was constructed between 1989 and 1992.  

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

In 2007, Richard Rogers Partnership was renamed Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, reflecting the influence of younger colleagues Graham Stirk and Ivan Harbour. Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners has designed several major buildings.

Some of the buildings include; London Heathrow Terminal 5, Maggie’s Centre, British Museum, World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, One Hyde Park, all of which are in London, the Three World Trade Centre in New York City, the International Towers in Sidney, just to mention a few.

Pompidou Center, Paris, France

Pompidou Center, Paris, France

Later career

Richard Rogers has devoted much of his later career to issues surrounding urbanism, architecture, ways in which cities are used, and their sustainability.

In 1998, he was invited by the British government to set up the Urban Task Force, to help in determining and establishing an early vision of vitality, beauty, and safety for Britain’s cities.

Richard Rogers also served as the chair of the board of Trustees of The Architecture Foundation and as the chair of the Greater London Authority panel for Architecture and Urbanism.

He has also served as chief advisor on architecture and modernism to Mayors of London Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

Architecture style & influences

Richard Rogers has several different architectural styles. What is common with most of his designs, however, is the fact that his structures have exceedingly large indoor spaces.

For the Pompidou Centre, his design relates to Bowellism. His Lloyd’s building in London is described as post-modern.

Richard Rogers’ Own House

The Rogers House was designed by Richard and Su Rogers in 1968.

Richard Rogers described the house as the “most successful small project I’ve been involved in”. The house carefully creates a balance of provision of privacy and seclusion and the openness of sheer glass facades.

Rogers House, Wimbledon, UK

Rogers House, Wimbledon, UK

Richard Rogers’ top 10 buildings

  1. Pompidou Centre, Paris, France (1971-1977)

  2. Lloyd’s Building, London (1986)

  3. Wimbledon House, London (1969)

  4. National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff (2005)

  5. Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain (2005)

  6. Terminal 5, Heathrow, London (2008)

  7. Maggie’s Centre, Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith, London (2008)

  8. International Towers Sydney, Sydney, Australia (2009-2016)

  9. Central Park Station (R9), Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (2003-2007)

  10. One Hyde Park, London (2007-2010)

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is an international architectural practice based in London.

The firm was founded by Richard Rogers in 1977 and was initially known as the Richard Rogers Partnership. It was then renamed to Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in 2007 to reflect the vital contributions of Graham Stirk to the firm.

The practice has a total of 13 partners and a large team of associate partners, senior associates, associates, senior architects, architects, graduates, and a support team. They are involved in several projects around the world.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners has offices in London, Barcelona, Madrid, and Tokyo.

RSHP’s practice philosophy is that cities are the physical framework of the society, generator of civil values, the engine of our economy and the heart of our culture. They believe that buildings, cities, and neighborhoods should be designed such that carbon emissions and pollution are minimized. 

Honors and awards

  • 1991: Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

  • 1985: Awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal

  • 1986: Made a Chevalier, L’Ordre National de la Legion d’honneur

  • 1994: Awarded honorary degrees from several universities including Oxford Brookes University, Czech Technical University, University of Kent, Alfonso X El Sabio University, Open University, and the University of Bath

  • 1996: Made Baron Rodgers of Riverside, of Chelsea in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea 

  • 2005: Appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering

  • 2006: Awarded the Stirling Prize for Terminal 4 of Barajas Airport

  • 2007: Awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, awarded the Minerva Medal by the Chartered Society of Designers

  • 2008: Appointed Member of the Order of the Champions of Honor in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2008 list

  • 2009: Awarded Stirling Prize for Maggie’s Centre in London

Quotes by Richard Rogers

  • “There are times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely know. Very often find confusion in conclusion I concluded long ago. In my head are many facts that, as a student, I have studied to procure. In my head are many facts of which I wish I was more certain I was sure.”

  • “I'm just saying that there are high-quality materials, and when we change them then there should be a way of changing them so that you can celebrate that change - rather than just 'mix it up'.”

  • “Sustainable development: Meeting present needs without compromising the stock of natural resources remaining for future generations. In terms of buildings, it implies resource efficiency, minimum energy use, flexibility, and long life”

  • “Everyone has the right to walk from one end of the city to the other in secure and beautiful spaces. Everybody has the right to go by public transport. Everybody has the right to an unhampered view down their street, not full of railings, signs, and rubbish.”

  • “My passion and great enjoyment for architecture, and the reason the older I get the more I enjoy it is because I believe we - architects - can affect the quality of life of the people.”

  • “I believe very strongly, and have fought since many years ago - at least over 30 years ago - to get architecture not just within schools, but architecture talked about under history, geography, science, technology, art.”

  • “ There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges facing our cities or to the housing crisis, but the two issues need to be considered together. From an urban design and planning point of view, the well connected open city is a powerful paradigm and an engine for integration and inclusivity.”