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.
This project was designed in 1957-8 at the Regent Street Polytechnic as part of the fourth-year work.
As a prestige building programme the designer was allowed considerable licence.
The building can be divided into three parts: the block of main accommodation, the vertical circulation tubes, and the auditorium. The clubrooms, showrooms and offices for the FMA are situated on the lower floors of the main block. Above these are two floors of lettable offices. At either end are the clusters of vertical circulation. The auditorium is poised on the main axis above the entrance ramp.
Space enclosure is effected by means of pre-cast and in-situ Ferro-Cimento (a technique pioneered by Luigi Nervi, whereby various types of concrete are applied to layers of steel mesh). All the vertical parts of the fabric are of double skin construction. The outer, waterproof, membrane is 1.5 inches thick and the inner one is 4 inches of heat-insulating vermiculite concrete. On the roof sections the outer layer is thickened. The concrete is applied by trowel and spray-gun to the mesh of reinforcement.
Research into site management and erection showed that it would be most economical to use pre-cast Ferro-Cimento floor trays. However, even with the rigidity that was gained by the use of curved forms, it was considered necessary to construct a supplementary frame. This frame, of pre-cast concrete, supports the floor trays at each level and facilitates easy erection.
Aesthetic and Execution
Mike Webb warned others of the formalistic trap that he fell into. He said at the time about his building:
"At the sketch stage I adopted this form for the building before the exact technique by which it was to be made had been decided upon. Thus it was conceived primarily from an aesthetic point of view without any definite structural idea. In this lies the basic fault of the building and although the effect of taking the design through to the working-drawing stage has altered its appearance almost beyond recognition, it still retains much of the original artiness.
"When considering the economics of this building it should be remembered that with Ferro-Cimento a great saving is brought about by the lack of form-work (an item which accounts for up to 40 per cent of the cost in orthodox concrete work). Furthermore, such components as the metal window and door frames are easily screwed onto the mesh reinforcement before concreting.
"I am sure that such a building technique could be practical given some serious research. Nervi has shown us its potentialities in such buildings as the Gatti Wool Factory and the Turin Exhibition Hall. It now remains for us to continue his work."
Archigram Concerning Archigram, edited by Dennis Crompton (London: Archigram Archives, 1998)