Richard Rogers, who, with Renzo Piano, designed one of the most famous modern art museums in the world, has died at 88. His firm, the London-based Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, announced Roger’s passing on Sunday. It did not state a cause of death.
“A man of immense drive and charisma, he was equally a man of civility and integrity, dedicated to the art and science of architecture, of urbanism, the life of the city, of political commitment and positive social change,” the firm wrote.
Rogers has been considered one of the finest architects of his era, and went on to collect accolades such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the world’s top architecture award, and to join France’s Chevaliers de l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur, a title bestowed upon few in his field. But his most famous buildings were often greeted with a mix of confusion and anger upon their unveiling.
His most important building, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, is now considered an iconic structure, though it did not always hold that distinction. Designed with Piano, Rogers’s former partner, the Centre Pompidou is essentially an inverted museum. Its air conditioning, electrical, and plumbing systems are each given a specific color and displayed on the building’s exterior. With these systems placed outside the structure, the inside is more easily open and easily rearrangeable. “You can do anything you want on those floors,” Rogers told Dezeen in 2013.
Inaugurated in 1977, the building was initially considered an eyesore by Parisians. The French newspaper Le Monde, for example, disparagingly labeled it “an architectural King Kong.” Today, however, it is beloved by many. In 2021, T: The New York Times Style Magazine put the Centre Pompidou at #16 on its list of the top 25 most significant works of postwar architecture.
Born in Florence in 1933, Rogers once labeled himself the “last of the late modernists” when speaking to the New Yorker in 1988. He founded his firm in 1977, and departed it in 2020. During that time, he undertook an array of projects now considered major, including the Lloyd’s building in London, an imposing structure that, like the Centre Pompidou, has its architectural innards on its exterior. At 14 stories tall, this building is one of the most instantly recognizable ones in the British capital. Another Rogers design in London is the Millennium Dome, which is among the largest structures of its kind in the world. Intended to celebrate the beginning of the third millennium when it was unveiled in 2000, it was viewed as a flop, having failed to draw the crowds many had hoped for.
Periodically, Rogers oversaw projects that had an explicitly sociopolitical context. In 1998, he was invited by the British government to lead an urban task force focused on a housing crisis impacting the nation. Between 2001 and 2008, he acted as London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s chief advisor on architecture and urbanism. Boris Johnson later asked him to return in 2008, and Rogers agreed. Then Rogers departed the post amid an explosive standoff with Prince Charles over a plan to redevelop the Chelsea Barracks.
“I have always believed that there is more to architecture than architecture,” Rogers wrote in his 2017 book A Place for All People: Life, Architecture, and Fair Society. “The first line of my practice’s constitution states: ‘Architecture is inseparable from the social and economic values of the individuals who practice it and the society which sustains it.’”