Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out at the Royal Academy
“I shall not leave my city any less but rather greater than I found it” – from The Ephebic Oath
It’s not the usual action to associate architecture with politics and philosophy outside of very specific, and mostly superficial, instances. Political leaders have large buildings to sit and shout at each other in, significant dead historic figures have large monuments erected to commemorate their lives, and museums house various works of art. Outside of these deliberate landmarks, in a city a building is a building. A block of flats, your local pub, or the park are based on utility above all else. Not so, if you take Richard Rogers’ exhibition into account. There’s a lot more going on than just finding more places to put people.
The humanitarian philosophy and politics that underpins the entire exhibition is actually quite startling. There’s an emphasis here on public spaces as a way of encouraging and facilitating interaction between people. This is an effort to humanise cities and advance society through a personal standpoint, rather than a structural or technical perspective. It’s all about the people, which is an intriguing stance to take as an architect. There are bold captions and plaques everywhere emphasising the importance of people’s connection to their surroundings, often stressing a need for more, and futuristic scale models of living spaces like the Industrialised Housing System, blending the natural and manmade almost seamlessly. Rogers acknowledges the inherent problems with a city, while praising them as a major milestone and achievement of humanity.
Inside Out isn’t just a showcase for architectural models, innovation and aesthetics. There’s a wealth of content, ideas and information lining the walls. It takes a quite a while to work through it all and soak it all up. You’ll miss something if you aren’t prepared to take some time with it and it requires a bit of patience. It’s certainly interesting, a fairly niche subject despite the broader themes and politics running through the works.
Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out is at the Royal Academy of Arts from 18th July until 13th October 2013. For further information or to book visit the gallery’s website here.