Plug-in City is one of many vast, visionary creations produced in the 1960s by the radical collaborative British architecture group Archigram, of which Cook was a founding member. A “megastructure” that incorporates residences, access routes, and essential services for the inhabitants, Plug-in City was designed to encourage change through obsolescence: each building outcrop is removable, and a permanent “craneway” facilitates continual rebuilding. Between 1960 and 1974, Archigram published nine provocative issues of its magazine and created more than nine hundred exuberant drawings illustrating imaginary architectural projects ranging in inspiration from technological developments to counterculture, from space travel to science fiction. The group’s work opposed the period’s functionalist ethos; Archigram designed nomadic alternatives to traditional ways of living, including wearable houses and walking cities—mobile, flexible, impermanent architecture that they hoped would be liberating.
Gallery label from 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design, September 12, 2012–March 25, 2013.
Peter Cook's Plug-In City was one of the many vast, visionary creations to come out of the collaborative and radical British architectural group Archigram. The name of the group, according to Cook, was to be "analogous to a thing like a message or some abstract communication, telegram, aerogramme, etc." It also describes their method: architecture by drawing, rather than actual building. Archigram were an influential architectural component of the "British invasion," the influx of British culture into the United States of the 1960s. Between 1960 and 1974 they produced nine provocative issues of their magazine, Archigram, and over 900 exuberant drawings illustrating imaginary architectural projects ranging in inspiration from technological developments to the counterculture, from space travel through science fiction to the Beatles. Their work directly opposed the period's functionalist architecture, which they saw as worn out; they liked to design nomadic alternatives to traditional ways of living, including walking cities and wearable houses—mobile, flexible, impermanent architectures that they hoped would be liberating. Cook believed that "architecture could break out of its narrow-mindedness if it acquired elements (a vocabulary of form) from outside itself." The Plug-In City was designed to span the English Channel and reach into Europe. An urban environment as a "megastructure" incorporating residences, access routes, and essential services for the inhabitants, it was intended to accommodate and encourage change through obsolescence: each building outcrop (houses, offices, supermarkets, hotels) would be removable, and a permanent "craneway" would facilitate continual rebuilding. The life of the units would vary in length, and the main structure itself would last only forty years. The network would include a high-speed monorail, and hovercrafts would serve as moving buildings. Cook's cheerful, colorful drawing is accessible and inviting. The comic book style popular with Archigram members, and characteristic of the counterculture of the 1960s, conveys a youthful excitement with form in a technologically enhanced world.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Bevin Cline, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 142.
Peter Cook, a founding member of Archigram, was instrumental in fostering the British counterculture in the 1960s. He promoted the view that the preceding modernist period's functionalist architecture was worn out. His proposed remedy, the Plug-in City, was a visionary urban megastructure incorporating residences, access routes, and essential services for its inhabitants. Intended to accommodate and encourage changes necessitated by obsolescence, on an as-needed basis, the building nodes (houses, offices, supermarkets, universities), each with a different lifespan, would plug into a main "craneway", itself designed to last only forty years. The overall flexible and impermanent form would thus reflect the needs and collective will of the inhabitants.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Bevin Cline and Tina di Carlo , in Terence Riley, ed., The Changing of the Avant-Garde: Visionary Architectural Drawings from the Howard Gilman Collection, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 50.