October 19th, 2005
CEDRIC PRICE (1934-2003) was one of the most visionary architects of the late 20th century. Although he built very little, his lateral approach to architecture and to time-based urban interventions, has ensured that his work has an enduring influence on contemporary architects and artists, from Richard Rogers and Rem Koolhaas, to Rachel Whiteread.
The Fun Palace was one of his most influential projects and inspired Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano’s early 1970s project, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Centre Georges Pompidou
Initiated with Joan Littlewood, the theatre director and founder of the innovative Theatre Workshop in east London, the idea was to build a ‘laboratory of fun’ with facilities for dancing, music, drama and fireworks. Central to Price’s practice was the belief that through the correct use of new technology the public could have unprecedented control over their environment, resulting in a building which could be responsive to visitors’ needs and the many activities intended to take place there.
As the marketing material suggested, there was a wide choice of activities: “Choose what you want to do – or watch someone else doing it. Learn how to handle tools, paint, babies, machinery, or just listen to your favourite tune. Dance, talk or be lifted up to where you can see how other people make things work. Sit out over space with a drink and tune in to what’s happening elsewhere in the city. Try starting a riot or beginning a painting – or just lie back and stare at the sky.”
Using an unenclosed steel structure, fully serviced by travelling gantry cranes the building comprised a ‘kit of parts’: pre-fabricated walls, platforms, floors, stairs, and ceiling modules that could be moved and assembled by the cranes. Virtually every part of the structure was variable. “Its form and structure, resembling a large shipyard in which enclosures such as theatres, cinemas, restaurants, workshops, rally areas, can be assembled, moved, re-arranged and scrapped continuously,” promised Price.
he died in London aged 68 in 2003.