Peter Cook. Plug-in City: Maximum Pressure Area, project (Section). 1964

Peter Cook Plug-in City: Maximum Pressure Area, project (Section) 1964

  • MoMA, Floor 4, 417 The David Geffen Galleries

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.

Designed to span the English Channel, Cook’s Plug-in City is an urban megastructure, so called because it incorporates not only residences but also access routes and essential services for its inhabitants in a single, complex construction. It was intended to encourage change by eradicating obsolescence: each building outcrop (houses, offices, supermarkets, hotels) would be removable, and a permanent “crane-way” would facilitate continual rebuilding and updating. The lifespan of the units would vary, and the main structure 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, which depicts an area of highly concentrated construction, or “maximum pressure,” is accessible and inviting. Its comic-book style—popular with members of the radical, collaborative British architectural group Archigram, which Cook cofounded—conveys a youthful excitement about a technologically enhanced world. Plug-in City was one of many vast, visionary creations Archigram produced in the 1960s. Between 1960 and 1974, the group published nine provocative issues of its self-titled magazine and created more than nine hundred exuberant drawings, illustrating imaginary projects inspired variously by technological developments, the counterculture, space travel, and science fiction. Archigram opposed the period’s functionalist ethos, designing nomadic alternatives to traditional ways of living, including wearable houses and walking cities—mobile, flexible, impermanent architectures that its members hoped would liberate their users.

Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

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.
Medium
Ink and gouache on photomechanical print
Dimensions
32 7/8 x 57 11/16" (83.5 x 146.5 cm)
Credit
Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation
Object number
1186.2000
Copyright
Peter Cook © Archigram 1964
Department
Architecture and Design

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.