The M+ Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKDC)
has been steadily expanding its design and architecture collection. Yesterday, 28 January 2019, it announced its acquisition of the Archigram Archive – a move that has garnered a rather strong reaction back in Archigram
‘s home country the United Kingdom.
Archigram was an experimental architecture collective founded in London in 1961 by six members: Warren Chalk (1927–1987), Peter Cook (born 1936), Dennis Crompton (born 1935), David Greene (born 1937), Ron Herron (1930–2011), and Michael Webb (born 1937). The group was active until 1974, producing publications, exhibitions, multimedia presentations and drawings that contributed to a global conversation on architecture.
Computer City, Axonometric, Dennis Crompton, ©Archigram 1964
The group’s forward-looking propositions, such as roving metropolises, self-contained living units and pop-up cities have inspired and informed architects and designers around the world, including Asia – something that has yet to be explored more deeply.
Instant CityIn a Field, Typical Set-up. Peter Cook, © Archigram 1969
As M+’s Curator-at-Large and former Lead Curator, Design and Architecture Aric Chen
puts it, “Archigram’s influence is broadly well known, but the group’s interactions and resonance with Asia, from the Metabolists of 1960s Japan through to contemporary Chinese architects, are less explored. We are confident that having the archive at M+ will prompt new frameworks for seeing Hong Kong.”
Plug-In University Node, Elevation. Peter Cook, © Archigram 1965
The core of the archive consists of approximately 20,000 items, including more than 3,000 drawings, prints, sketches, models, videos, ephemera, and other materials from some 200 projects the group produced in the 1960s and 1970s. The archive is hailed as one of Britain’s most important post-war architectural works.
Features Monte Carlo, Explanatory section © Archigram 1970
M+ states that the archive had been made available for acquisition for 10 years and no institution in the UK had made a move before M+’s curatorial team made their proposal in 2017. The archive was reportedly sold for 1.8 million GBP
M+ acquired the Archigram Archive from the living members of Archigram, and the personal representatives of the deceased members. Described the press release, “They see Hong Kong – a city of networks, hyper-intense layering, escalators, media facades, and connective megastructures – as an appropriate home for the record of their work, and for future research and scholarships.”
“Archigram’s influence is broadly well known, but the group’s interactions and resonance with Asia … are less explored.”
“This acquisition is one of the milestones in our ongoing effort to build a permanent collection of works of significant global cultural value for the new museum of visual culture for the twenty-first century,” says Suhanya Raffel, Museum Director of M+.
On the relevance of the archive to the region, M+ Deputy Director, Curatorial and Chief Curator Doryun Chong weighs in: “The core of M+’s design and architecture collection, as well as the rest of the museum’s permanent collections, are indisputably rooted in Hong Kong and focused on Asia, while the museum’s perspective is simultaneously global and multidisciplinary.”
Plug-In City, Overhead View, (Axonometric). Peter Cook, © Archigram 1964
Chong adds, “The acquisition of the Archigram Archive will greatly enhance M+’s position as a leading voice in the discussion on contemporary architecture, and more broadly, global visual culture, and will also provide a key resource for our ongoing work on architecture in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Japan, South and Southeast Asia, and beyond.”
We can’t wait to welcome the archives home in Asia.
All images supplied by the Archigram Archives, 2019