After COVID delays, M+ launches Archigram Cities series in a hybrid format

Better Late Than Never

After COVID delays, M+ launches Archigram Cities series in a hybrid format

Peter Cook, Archigram. Plug-In City, Max Pressure Area, section, 1964. (M+, Hong Kong. © ARCHIGRAM ARCHIVES)

After its opening was curtailed this past winter by the coronavirus pandemic, the hotly anticipated Archigram Cities exhibition is now officially up-and-running throughout November. Presented by the Hong Kong-based visual culture museum M+ and organized in collaboration with the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong and Shanghai’s Power Station of Art, Archigram Cities has taken form as a hybrid virtual/in-person slate of happenings—talks, screenings, presentations, and more—that plumb and celebrate the vast legacy of British avant-garde architectural collective Archigram. The Archigram archive, which spans over 10,000 images including renderings, technical drawings, collages, and other ephemera, was acquired by M+ for $2.37 million in March of 2018 and, after nearly a year of awaiting export approval, finally made its way to Hong Kong in early 2019.

As such, Archigram Cities is a multifaceted “welcome to your new home” fete of sorts that, in addition to the aforementioned talks and screenings, centers around a cornerstone three-day (November 4, 6, and 10) online symposium that caters to both admirers (and there are many) of the six-person band of dreamers and those less familiar with its neo-futuristic output from the 1960s and 70s. Per the museum, the symposium “reappraises Archigram through interpretations of the group’s work in relation to the histories and practice of architecture and urbanism across a wider set of geographies.” Architects and historians including Annette Fierro, Ariel Genadt, Evangelos Kotsioris, Lai Chee Kien, Li Han, Simon Sadler, Hadas Steiner, Tsukamoto Yoshiharu, Mark Wigley, Roger Wu, and Liam Young have/will lead presentations during the three-part symposium.

poster for Archigram Cities event
‘M+ International x Power Station of Art: Archigram Cities’ poster, 2020. (Commissioned by M+; © Drawing Architecture Studio)

All presentations are proceeded by “Trash History/Theory” video responses from surviving Archigram members, which include Peter Cook, Michael Webb, David Greene, and Dennis Crompton. (Of the collective’s six members, two, Warren Chalk and Ron Herron, passed away in 1987 and 1994, respectively.) The symposium also includes an online exhibition organized by the University of Hong Kong that showcases new works by student artists and designers.

Presented as part of the ongoing M+ Matters discussion series, the symposium is co-organized by Shirley Surya, curator of Design and Architecture at M+; Aric Chen, former M+ lead curator and professor of practice at the College of Design & Innovation, Tongji University; Eric Schuldenfrei, head of with the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong; Eunice Seng, associate professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, and Roberto Requejo, a lecturer with the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong. Noel Cheung, curatorial assistant of Design and Architecture at M+, also provided organizational assistance.

conceptual illustration of a city
Archigram. Archigram 5, 1964. (M+, Hong Kong. © ARCHIGRAM ARCHIVES)

“In the work of the Archigram group, architecture was about change, possibilities, and alternatives,” said Surya in a statement. “The last five decades have shown the broad relevance of Archigram’s speculative projects. As one of the earliest to explore architecture’s engagement with transformations in urbanism, technology, and popular culture, and to address the rise of the user-consumer in a globally interconnected and hyper-mediated world, Archigram left an indelible mark on how architectural practice is understood in relation to society. These events affirm the lasting—and sometimes unexpected—influences of the group’s projects.”

Also on tap for later in the month is M+ Matters: Archigram Cities — It’s Archigram!, a screening event scheduled for November 13 when two films, the BBC-produced Archigram 1967 (1967) and Archigram Opera (1972) will be presented online for the very first time, the latter film in a newly edited version. Panel discussions with Cook, Webb, Greene, and Crompton will follow the screenings.

Further ahead on November 21 is M+ International x Power Station of Art: Archigram Cities, a day-long in-person event tied to the 13th Shanghai Biennale that “focuses on the relevance of Archigram’s ideas for experimental architectural practices in China.” As part of these mainland China festivities, both Archigram 1967 and Archigram Opera (in its full version) will be screened live and be followed by a discussion with Archigram members. A panel discussion featuring several leading Chinese architects including Ma Yansong (MAD Architects), Yung Ho Chang (Atelier FCJZ), and Meng Yan (Urbanus) is also scheduled.

speculative illustration of a sleeping capsule
Warren Chalk, Archigram. Capsule Homes, overhead view, 1964. (M+, Hong Kong. © ARCHIGRAM ARCHIVES)

All Archigram Cities events, presented by both M+ Matters and M+ International, the latter of which serves as a “platform for partnership with institutions around the world that addresses shared interests and challenges,” are being presented to the public free of charge with all Hong Kong-hosted online events taking place on Zoom. As for M+’s permanent physical Hong Kong home, a Herzog & de Meuron-designed complex in the West Kowloon Cultural District, it is nearing completion and is set to open to the public next year.

AN will publish further, more in-depth coverage of Archigram Cities later this month, so keep an eye out.