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.
Warren Chalk started to use the word `capsule’ in 1964. The Archigram Group at that time formed a part of the Taylor Woodrow Design Group, under Theo Crosby, and it was the habit of the company to feed the Group with experimental projects. The notion of a completely new prefabricated dwelling was one of these: the only constraint was that it should stack up into a tower structure.
From every point of view the space capsule was an inspiration: how different in concept and in efficiency from the tradition of buildings! The statement was a capsule dwelling, with the ergonomy and sophistication of a space capsule. The parts would be tailored and able to be updated as technology moved forward, and as the dweller changed his needs. Simultaneously, the Plug-in city was being developed, and whilst both projects remained quite separate it soon became obvious that the capsule dwelling would be a preferred type within a Plug-in city. It also became obvious that the wedge-shaped unit sitting into a tower was a limitation of the concept.
The capsule dwelling was a set of components: whilst snugly and efficiently locked together they were capable of total inter-changeability. To use the automobile as an analogy: the Ford floor tray could be traded in for a Chrysler floor tray. There would be a continual exchange taking place, with constantly changing and evolving parts. Perhaps a dream-machine as well as a mere house? The whole tower would be organised to allow the larger elements to be replaced by crane and the smaller elements manoeuvred from within: as a result all parts could be capable of being opened-out or clipped-in. The main parts were conceived as pressed – metal or GRP, though later the possibility of pressed paper started to interest the Group.
Conceptually, the `capsule’ serves to describe an approach to housing by presenting a series of very sophisticated and highly designed elements locked together within a `box’ which is itself highly tailored. It is an industrial design approach. It implies a deliberate – even a preferred – lifestyle. It suggests that the city might contain a defined conglomeration of such a lifestyle, rather like a hotel. At the same time it is definitive, and would by-pass many of the myths of urban design which depend upon hierarchies of incident and the treatment of housing as folk-art.
Peter Cook Archigram, Edited by Peter Cook, Warren Chalk, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron & Mike Webb, 1972 [reprinted New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999]