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Cedric Price fonds
1903-2006, predominant 1953-2000
The fonds documents the personal activities and professional practice of architect Cedric Price, and includes his student work and architectural and urban planning projects. Fonds also contains substantial textual records that document Cedric Price's teaching, lecture, publication, and exhibition activities. The archive comprises over 200 projects, from student work of the 1950s at the University of Cambridge and the Architectural Association to projects undertaken as late as 2000.
The archive is comprehensive, covering virtually all documents produced over nearly 50 years of activity with materials dating from 1903 and 2003, but predominantly between 1953 and 2000. There are more than 20,000 drawings and prints and over 50 models, including one full-size prototype, a demountable market stall commissioned by the Westminster City Council (Westal, 1986-1990). All significant projects are well represented in the fonds, including such influential work as Fun Palace (1961-1974) and Inter-Action Centre (1971-1979). Complete records include working drawings for the built New Aviary (1960-1966), and Inter-Action Centre, as well as preliminary working drawings, studies, pamphlets, for the un-built Fun Palace, Potteries Thinkbelt (1963-1967), Generator (1976-1980), and Magnet (1995-1996), among many other projects.
Cedric Price's complete office library, containing trade publications, periodicals and books, many annotated by the architect, is also included in the archive, as well as additional printed materials, photographic and audiovisual materials, models, an undefined number of model pieces, and artefacts, and materials that relate to office activities, operations, events and travel.
Cedric Price's projects and research illustrate his preoccupation with flexible architecture, indeterminacy, impermanence, and the fusion of information technology, entertainment, and educational activities. Other concerns include transportation policy, demolition, water, and changes in building use and in planning and social needs over time.
The fonds contains architectural drawings, including conceptual, design development, presentation, publication and working drawings, as well as reference drawings and maps. Of significant note are drawings in Cedric Price's own hand including conceptual drawings, sketches, diagrams, and ideograms, which demonstrate an economical, pertinent, optimistic, poetic, funny, and sometimes biting style, and many of which were also used for publication or promotion. Also of note are Cedric Price's presentation renderings, including those for significant projects such as Fun Palace (which show night views and views from a helicopter), as well as for smaller projects such as Two Tree Island (1971-1974).
Of particular significance is the extent of the textual records comprising correspondence, meeting notes, reports, specifications, building programmes, clippings, contracts, promotional and press material, site photography, drafts of articles, publication layouts, and office diaries, and which constitute a complete record of Cedric Price's professional activities. Additional photographic materials (including over 5000 slides) document built and unrealized work, exhibitions, and events. Audio-visual materials include a film reel on Fun Palace, as well as recordings of interviews, lectures, gallery talks and design conversations with clients and office staff.
Except for a small number of works acquired by collectors like Howard Gilman (the Howard Gilman Collection, now at the Museum of Modern Art, New York) and clients, notably Alistair McAlpine, the archive represents a complete body of work.
The fonds is arranged in nine series: Student Work; Projects, Professional and Personal Records; Library; Printed Material; Photographic Materials; Models, Samples and Artefacts; Audio-Visual Materials; and Awards.
Cedric Price (1934-2003) was one of the most challenging figures in the field of architecture in Britain during the second half of the 20th-century. He studied architecture at Cambridge University and received a diploma from the Architectural Association (AA) in 1957. After teaching at the AA and working in the office of architects Maxwell Fry and Denys Lasdun, he founded his own practice in 1960.
He worked from the premise that in order to establish a valid equation between contemporary social aspirations and architecture, it is essential to add to the latter "Doubt, Delight, and Change," as design criteria. His modus operandi was to question. His statement, "Technology is the answer, but what was the question?" is iconic. He was committed to "beneficial change" and "anticipatory architecture," and concerned with transportation policy, demolition, water, and the neglect of time as a consideration in most architectural and planning propositions, insisting that any built environment becomes inhibiting, restrictive, and obsolete unless it can adapt to future uses. Throughout his career, Price argued against the production of monuments - permanent, static, and curative spaces for particular functions - stressing instead the need for flexibility in view of the unpredictability of possible future uses. Form was of little consequence to him, and even building itself was suspect and might prove unnecessary. Price's Inter-Action Trust Community Arts Centre, London (1971-79) explored such major preoccupations as flexible architecture, indeterminacy, impermanence, and the fusion of information technology, entertainment, and educational activities. In addition to his social, political, and architectural agendas, Price persistently argued for and produced novel, client-less designs intended to evoke delight and pleasure in users. Magnet, an unrealized project of 1994, proposed a series of ten mobile "bridges," each affording pedestrians unexpected and previously impossible views of their city, while enabling the kind of social intercourse that no longer occurs at street level. They were conceived to act as both inserts and transplants, anticipating and encouraging future growth and change.
Price built little, but without projects such as Fun Palace, London (1961-72), and Potteries Thinkbelt (1963-66), much of 20th-century architecture would be inconceivable - from the work of Archigram and Piano & Rogers's Centre Pompidou in Paris (1971-77), to that of Rem Koolhaas and Diller & Scofidio. Price's provocative competition entries, such as "A Lung for Manhattan" for the CCA's International Competition for the Design of Cities, and projects concerned with natural phenomena, are of particular interest to young architects at the beginning of the 21st Century. Price was awarded the 2003 Austrian Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts.
The Cedric Price records remained in the custody of the architect until their transfer to the CCA beginning in 1995. At that date the records and other related materials were stored at the London office of Cedric Price at 38 Alfred Place. A small amount of material also had been kept at the London residence of Cedric Price.
Documents are predominantly English, with some German, French, Italian, Spanish, Thai, Finnish, Dutch, Serbian, Japanese, Norwegian, Swedish
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