More Than 200 Projects are included in the Archigram Archival Project. The AAP uses the group’s mainly chronological numbering system and includes everything given an Archigram project number. This comprises projects done by members before they met, the Archigram magazines (grouped together at no. 100), the projects done by Archigram as a group between 1961 and 1974, and some later projects.
Speculative project which acts as an analogy of real suburban life, in which users' personal fantasy settings are constructed behind conventional façades. Includes the Queen Sets designed for the British Royal Family.
The Sets projects started in the early 1970s with an element in the programme for the Monte Carlo Casino. The idea was to make an architecture which serviced the space and covered it in the event of rain, but at the same time was continually transformed by movie-sets. So the space could be Elizabethan, or Modern, or Art Deco, or whatever suited the event, as was illustrated in a series of collages at the time.
The notion of the Suburban Sets came from talking to my son Andrew, who was then at school and writing a paper about the architecture of Suburbia. We invented a suburb based on Woodford, where we live. The architecture was paper-thin scenery reflecting the public face that people chose to present to others. The facade windows served as Sets: the design and decoration would change according to what the occupants wanted the outside world to believe about their life-styles. Most importantly, there was behind the Sets a private world, a place where people could make their own environments. We chose three families to illustrate the idea: an architect who could use the notion intelligently, a camping enthusiast who had a trailer home behind his facade (a really high-living camper), and a former bomber pilot whose private Set was the fuselage of an old B-24 Liberator. The idea was that they could choose the environment that they wanted to live in – they could be in Hawaii, or India, or on a bombing mission. From my observation, this is exactly what happens in the suburbs: people build their own myth and reality into their houses.
The ‘Sets Fit for the Queen’ of 1975 started off as an entry to the Shinkenchiku competition to design ‘A House for a Superstar’. I chose the Queen and the Royal Family as Britain’s ultimate superstars and designed a palace which had as its antecedents the studios of Paramount and the great Hollywood production companies, as well as the stage-set facades of the Regent’s Park terraces and Disneyland’s Main Street, USA. The premise was that the Royal Family lived in an essentially theatrical condition, moving from one set to another depending on what role they were expected to play at the time. For state occasions they could call up any kind of setting, be it coffee bar modern or Baroque or medieval or Art Deco. They had at their fingertips a catalogue from which they could choose or invent the new settings, including private settings where they could live out their own dreams at will. A workforce of people would build and change the Sets. The building would twitch and shiver into life, becoming what the family wanted – the ultimate dream palace.
The most recent Sets project was a house for Gary Withers of Imagination. We started off by talking about the house that we’d seen in one of the Beatles movies, where they all go through different doors in a terrace and end up in a single space, a huge shed. The proposition was to buy a series of terrace houses in London, so you could enter through a number of front doors ... and find yourself in a shell. The whole space would be contained by the frontage, with an adaptable frame behind it to carry variable floors and an adjustable roof. Gary’s house would become sets that he could change at will. A space that was a vestibule and dining room one day could be a totally different vestibule and library or living room the next. It could be dressed up in a Baroque or a Modernist manner, just as Gary wished. In other words, the Sets would be Fit for Gary.
The ‘Sets Fit for the Queen’ project dates from the late 1970s. Gary Withers house came many years later