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 (also known as the Entertainment Palace) became a cause célèbre from several points of view: a daring concept whereby the normally separated elements of showtime audience and parked cars are brought together on the inclined plates that develop from the winding ramp system. The ductwork sprouts like magic from the cores (you can see the result of this device in the interior of of Gunther Domenig’s ‘Z’ Bank in Vienna). The Polytechnic failed the scheme and continued to do so several times even after its prominent display at MOMA and published status as an epoch-making and original technic icon.
The scheme is for an entertainments palace on the site of the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square (that is, close enough to Piccadilly Circus to attract large crowds). A large department store at street level and 10, 000 square feet of office space is placed above. The entertainments palace includes a bowling alley, cinema, theatre, dance area, coffee bars, pubs, etc. In a scheme of this nature where large crowds are present the circulatory systems become very important in order to maintain an easy flow through the various spaces. The circulatory systems, vehicular and pedestrian, are specially designed units, the juxtaposition of which generates the overall form of the building. Of the three main types of car parking -- customer, attendant and mechanical parking (autosilo) -- customer parking was found to be the most suitable for this scheme. The building is conceived as a drive-in galleria, that is, an extension of the street inside the building (cf. [Albert] Kahn's circular parking towers for Philadelphia). After considering many car ramp layouts, a system of two separate ramps was chosen, taking cars up and down respectively. Cross-over ramps enable cars to switch from the up to the down ramp. The total capacity is 350 cars. Pedestrian access to the platforms is by travelators and escalators. There is a visual and structural similarity between these two systems of access, the latter being a rectangular version of the former.
The entertainments palace decks are dependent for their form on the possible permutations arising out of their position in relation to the two fixed circulatory systems (vehicular and pedestrian). The accompanying illustrations show the component basic parts into which the scheme breaks down. The relationship between the vehicle and pedestrian access systems is fixed; the decks, however, are interchangeable and the formal layout is only one of many possible permutations.
The two access systems are designed to act as vast springs -- one circular, the other rectangular -- which are prevented from deflection by concentric, strutted transverse springs in the form of escape staircases. The decks are composed of aluminium units prestressed together so that the whole building may become live (i.e. giving an inherent understanding of the forces present in the structure). The unit joints would be covered by the floor finish.
The curved glass roof filled with advertising signs is formed from steel cables anchored to the structure. The cladding is of transparent plastic panels connected to each other with flexible joints. The cable network binds the whole structure together inducing automatic prestressing of the aluminium deck units.
The floor of the circular office block on top of the building are hung by means of tension cables from heavy cantilever beams supported off the top of the staircase towers. The services of the building have been laid out to emphasize the focal points of the structure (i.e. the staircase towers). Thus drawings produced by structural engineers, heating and ventilating engineers, lighting consultants and drainage contractors all have the same points of visual emphasis.
Archigram, Edited by Peter Cook, Warren Chalk, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron & Mike Webb, 1972 [reprinted New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999].