Cedric Price was one of the most visionary architects of the late twentieth century, taking a playful, interactive approach to his projects that was wholly lateral and completely unconventional. From Agit-Prop to Free Space is the first and only authoritative text on the early work of this visionary architect and thinker. Born in 1934 in Staffordshire, Price studied architecture at Cambridge University and then at the Architectural Association, graduating with a diploma in 1957. After working with Maxwell Fry and Denys Lasdun, he founded Cedric Price Architects in 1961 and worked with Lord Snowdon and Frank Newby on the design of the Aviary at London Zoo. It was one of the few buildings designed by Price that was realised in his lifetime; it is the revolutionary nature of his un-built ideas and his ground-breaking, uncompromising thinking that have ensured his iconic status.
Price proposed radically new concepts of architecture and redefined the ways in which the architect might enhance human life, extend human potential and promote social change. He perceived architectural possibilities amidst the apparent cultural anarchy of post-war Britain where many pundits and social critics saw only the waning of an old order. Forsaking tradition, he dealt with variable structures, firmly believing in impermanent constructions designed for continual change; that architecture should "enable people to think the unthinkable". This book tells the story of Price's architecture, how his thinking expressed the changing character of life and society, and how his work has shaped architectural discourse today.
Specifically, From Agit-Prop to Free Space deals with two of Prices major unrealised works: The Fun Palace and The Potteries Thinkbelt. Not buildings in any conventional sense, these two projects were instead socially interactive machines, highly adaptable to the shifting conditions of their time and place. Initiated in 1962, The Fun Palace was perhaps the most innovative and creative proposal for the use of leisure time in post-war England. A collaboration with the avant-garde theatre producer Joan Littlewood, it was conceived as a dynamic and interactive theatre assembled by participant citizens using cranes and prefabricated modules. In his 1966 Potteries Thinkbelt, Price further pursued new architectural ideas in the service of revitalising the failing industrial sector. His proposal transformed the derelict Staffordshire potteries into a realm of higher education, mainly on railway tracks, creating a widespread community of learning and promoting economic growth.
From Agit-Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price is an invaluable and entirely original guide to what was a truly epic period in the story of modern architecture. It is the result of extensive research based on vast quantities of unpublished archive material, including letters, memos, notes, drawings and interviews. With previously unpublished illustrations and engaging accessible text, a portrait is painted of a true radical, who overturned conventional ideas of what architecture means, and had a massive impact on architecture across the world from Japanese Metabolism to High-Tech.
Stanley Mathews is an architect and professor of architectural history and design at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York State. He received his doctorate at Columbia University in 2003, where his pioneering work on Cedric Price, under the direction of advisors Robin Middleton, Kenneth Frampton, and Mary McLeod helped to further establish Price's reputation as a major contributor to contemporary architectural discourse.
Supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.