Crompton Walkthrough

Influential architect Dennis Crompton offers insights and perspective

Posted by Sydney Norton September 30, 2009

Close to ninety students, faculty, and members of the St. Louis community gathered in the Kemper Art Museum's College of Art Gallery on Saturday, September 19, to listen to British architect Dennis Crompton speak about Metabolic City, an exhibition featuring visionary proposals and drawings for urban architecture and design. Crompton was a founding member of Archigram, an avant-garde architectural collaborative that was active in London during the 1960s. The group functioned as an experimental think tank, producing a magazine, projects, models, exhibitions, and proposals that offered radical alternatives to conventional urban models of the post-war period.

Archigram, one of the three collectives whose drawings are featured in the Metabolic City exhibition, prioritized dynamic processes and structures for daily living over architectural stasis and rigidity. Its members—Crompton, Peter Cook, Warren Chalk, Ron Herron, Michael Webb, and David Greene—witnessed the destruction of their cities as children in World War II, and came of age in a period of vast, yet uninspiring urban renewal efforts. Working in a climate of social and political discontent, the group proposed imaginative and futuristic plans that embraced emerging technologies as a means of advancing individual freedoms and enhancing the lives of city inhabitants.

An example of an Archigram project is Peter Cook's Plug-In City (1962-64). According to exhibition curator Heather Woofter, "this design speculates on the infrastructure necessary to make a flexible urban environment that is designed for change and that can accommodate open-ended organization." Crompton's Computer City (1964), a colorful drawing which serves as a companion to Cook's design, resembles an electronics diagram and tracks the electronic communications that would allow Plug-In City to operate. "All of the Archigram projects emphasize mobility and flexibility," Woofter said, "two features that are increasingly indispensable to our contemporary urban needs."