|The Lord Rogers of Riverside
CH FRIBA FREng RA
Richard George Rogers
23 July 1933
The only way forward, if we are going to improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved.
Society has to get a grip and put a tax on carbon. Of course, there is much that flows from that, and it is a complex situation. The small details of something such as climate change are political and social, and they are a lot about fairness and how we rebalance towards a fairer society.
You know, the environment is fragmenting, and the environment is, in many places, absolutely hideous!
I remember my mother taking me to see the Picasso show in the 1940s, and I was impressed by the life and vibrancy of it all. It was a bit too avant-garde for most Londoners at the time, but since then, the city has become a centre for modern culture.
Clearly, private developers can have different aims, and architects can only play a certain role. You can have some pretty big battles on public commissions, too. The key is to have a good client.
Architects design buildings; that's what we do, so we have to go with the flow; and, even though I'm still an old Leftie, global capitalism does have its good side. It's broken down barriers – the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union – it's raised a lot of people up economically, and for architects, it has meant that we can work around the world.
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 effect the quality of life of the people.
Of course I know very little about architecture, and the older I get the less I know.
If you had a carbon tax, you'd have less cars and more bicycles, more people getting around on foot and by public transport.
Most buildings, whether they're Gothic cathedrals or Romanesque ones, were high tech for their time.
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'.
Architecture is a living thing. If I want to leave something to the future, it has to be able to change – but retain something of the ethos that we built up over 50 years.
One of the things you see in New York is that offices keep their lights on at night. They're proud of their building. Great. But they must find another way to be proud without draining energy.
Dyslexia, though, made me realise that people who say 'but you can't do that' aren't actually very important. I don't take 'no' too seriously.
I think you could make a completely Virtual Centre, though I have a general feeling, and maybe because I am getting very old, that you still need face to face.
It is quite interesting that whilst there are tremendous theories, in the 1960s when IT was born, everybody was supposedly going to their cottage in the countryside to work in a virtual way.
I like the idea of trying to influence society by taking a brief, then maybe subtly changing it or looking at it in a new way to see what interesting things can emerge.
The Athenians had an oath for someone who was about to become a citizen. They had to swear that 'I shall leave the city not less but more beautiful than I found it.'
Architecture is measured against the past; you build in the future, and you try to imagine the future.
Watching TV on your own is not very inspiring. But meeting people is where you get new ideas and get things done.
I think greed is a critical problem – the gap between the poor and the rich. The gap between the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent.
You have to modernise; you have to change – you can't just be traditional for the fun of being traditional.
A greater focus on design in all new homes would make the best use of land, create homes and public spaces, and reinforce the structures of urban life.
Education in British schools isn't good enough. It's not remotely imaginative enough. It lets down too many children, excluding them from society, and, as I've often said, people who are excluded from society tend to express themselves in ways not acceptable to society.
When I started out, nearly every architect I knew was working in public practice; that's where the radical thinking was done. But, there's always a danger of looking back as our fathers did and saying, 'Things were better then.'
If you live in a squalid environment, then of course you are going to want to get out of it, you are probably going to want to get into the country, because that's what it does.
In Florence, classical buildings sit against medieval buildings. It's that contrast we like.
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.
I had lots of trouble in school as a child, and I lost confidence. Teachers thought I was stupid. I learned to read very late, when I was 11. Dyslexia wasn't recognized then, and the assumption was you were incapable of thinking.
My architecture tends to be legible, light and flexible. You can read it. You look at a building, and you can see how it is constructed. I put the structure outside.
Cities are about juxtaposition. In Florence, classical buildings sit against medieval buildings. It's that contrast we like. In Bordeaux, we built law courts right next door to what is effectively a listed historic building, and that makes it exciting.
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.
Suburban sprawl leads to social atomisation and fragmentation and is environmentally disastrous, as carbon-intensive car journeys displace local shops and replace public transport.
I cycle, which is a healthy thing for an 80-year-old to do. I rarely go further than five miles, but in those five miles I can get to 80 percent of the places I want to go.
There is a Jewish tradition of family, too, but then not all Italian or Jewish families are close.
If I remember rightly Holland for instance has something like 45, and it's a much smaller country. In comparison we have very few and they are very badly financed.
I love cities, I spend most of my life talking about cities. And the design of cities does have an effect on your life. You're lucky if you can see trees out of your window and you have a square nearby, or a bar, a cornershop, a surgery. Then you're living well.
'Be passionate about your work and your life' was instilled in me by my mother Dada, who was a potter. She also introduced me to the arts and encouraged me to embrace the new.
I have a very big family, and that is my number one thing, and we go away for a month to see my cousins in Italy every year, but I need to work.
I am much more passionate about cities than I am about nations. The competition between cities is more civilised than between nations. There is an understanding there.
I believe very much in a dialogue between buildings – I believe it's always been there. I think buildings have different identities and live very well next to each other. We always have the shock of the new, and that's fine. The renaissance style is totally different from the medieval, and they have a dialogue across time.
So I think that, yes, anything that makes it more palatable and easier to understand, such as a Virtual Centre, has to be seen as a primary activity within the educational and information global state.
Cities depend on a healthy mix of uses and people for their vitality. As a pre-eminent world city, London is a magnet to people from across the globe.
The Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea provide plenty of opportunities to walk, think and relax.
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.
I think we did a pretty good role, linking, being a sounding board really and a driving force, especially from the bottom up. I think that part of this is bottom up as well as top down.
The one advantage of being dyslexic is that you are never tempted to look back and idealise your childhood.
Family is everything, although I've been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the most amazing minds over the years, including Renzo Piano, John Young, Graham Stirk and Ivan Harbour.