Cedric Price

Individual – London, United Kingdom

1934 – 2003

Cedric Price (1934-2003) was an architect whose oeuvre, though mostly unbuilt, has had a marked influence on contemporary architecture. Through his drawings, teaching and writing Price questioned architecture's identification with building alone, which was tied in part to his suspicion of institutions and their desire to use buildings as a means of consolidating power. Instead, Price proposed a time-based approach to architecture conceived as a series of interventions that were both adaptable and impermanent. He was a harsh critic of the tendency in the UK to list and preserve buildings endlessly and, alongside others proposed the influential idea of Non-plan, a critique of overbearing and outdated planning regulations that called for control to be handed back to citizens in order to allow self-organised processes to occur.

Whilst the Aviary at London Zoo (1961) is one of a few built projects, realised in collaboration with the engineer Frank Newby and the photographer Lord Snowdon, it is the unbuilt projects such as Fun Palace (1960-1961) and Potteries Thinkbelt (1964) that cemented Price's reputation. Both projects took an innovative approach, addressing the new economic and social context of post-war Britain. He had a faith in new technologies, which if deployed correctly could produce a democratic architecture.

The Fun Palace was designed for the agit-prop theatre director, Joan Littlewood, whose brief for a theatre where the audience themselves became players, was the perfect foil for testing Price's ideas on interactive environments that put users in charge. Conceived as an ever-changing learning environment its architecture was designed to be dismantled and reassembled and was clearly an inspiration for the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Although the project had many admirers and supporters, including Buckminster Fuller, it never came to fruition.

With the demise of manufacturing, Potteries Thinkbelt looked to harness the potential of the emerging information and knowledge economy, in order to revive the depressed manufacturing heartland of Britain. The project was also an implicit critique of the elitist university system, which concentrated on the arts over practical and technical education, as well as a comment on the many new university campuses being built at the time. Instead, Price proposed a travelling university on carriages that utilised the redundant railway and manufacturing sites of the area.

Price's approach perhaps most clearly embodies the role of the architect as spatial agent. Coining terms like 'anticipatory architecture' and 'beneficial change', his designs were both witty and challenging, questioning assumptions and empowering users as collaborators.

Other Work

Cedric Price, 'Cedric Price supplement', Architectural Design, 40 (1970).

---, 'Housing', Architectural Design, 43 (1972), 24-43.

---, Re: CP, ed. by Hans-Ulrich Obrist (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2003).

Cedric Price and Samantha Hardingham, Cedric Price: Opera (Chichester: Wiley-Academy, 2003).

References About

'Cedric Price', Design Museum, http://designmuseum.org/design/cedric-price [accessed 18 May 2010].

'Cedric Price Archive', Canadian Centre for Architecture, http://www.cca.qc.ca/en/collection/540-cedric-price-archive, [accessed 20 May 2010].

Jonathan Hughes and Simon Sadler, Non-plan: Essays on Freedom, Participation and Change in Modern Architecture and Urbanism (Oxford: Architectural Press, 2000).

Stanley Mathews, From Agit-Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price (London: Black Dog, 2007).
---, 'From the "Brain Drain" to the "Knowledge Economy"', Audacity, http://www.audacity.org/SM-26-11-07-01.htm [accessed 19 May 2010].

'Obituary: Cedric Price', The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/aug/15/urbandesign.artsobituaries [accessed 18 May 2010].

Quotes

"So that is another rule for the whole nature of architecture: it must create new appetites, new hungers-not solve problems, architecture is too slow to solve problems."

- Cedric Price, Re: CP, ed. by Hans-Ulrich Obrist (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2003). p. 57.

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