press release

Peter Cook Cities

18 July—16 September 2023 London

Richard Saltoun Gallery is honoured to present the visionary work of British architect Sir Peter Cook. Drawing on his work over the past 60 years, the exhibition features a site-specific architectural environment produced especially for the gallery, together with a selection of drawings and paintings that trace the radical conceptual vision underpinning the artist’s oeuvre. Visitors are invited to have a ‘visual discussion’ about cities: cities reimagined and dismembered, and cities climbing over themselves to become new forms.

The exhibition coincides with the 60-year anniversary of the exhibition Living City at the ICA, at that time on the same street as Richard Saltoun Gallery. In Living City Peter Cook, together with Warren Chalk, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron and Michael Webb – who were shortly after to become formally known as the celebrated neo-futurist architectural group, Archigram - extolled the transience and serendipity of cities with hot images collaged into a three-dimensional triangulated framework. Archigram brought forward radical ideas that have continued to serve as inspiration around the world, including pioneers of high-tech architecture such as Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas.

Since the 1960s, Cook has maintained an interest in the theoretical field of architecture and examining the future through the medium of drawing. By lifting the limitations of the physical world, drawing has freed him from the constraints of sites and economics, reinventing the look and function of cities through a range of unique, innovative designs. This becomes apparent in his ongoing series of works titled Arcadia, which he has produced continuously throughout his career, as well as one of his most notable projects, Plug-in City (also exhibited in ICA’s Living City). Developed between 1963 and 1966, these plans showed various iterations of prefabricated modular residences or ‘capsules’, modes of transportation, and other essential services that “plug in” to one central hyper structure. In the 1970s these designs softened and started to involve layers and vegetation. A tendency to mix and discover hybrids of natural conditions mixed with the mechanical and artificial accelerated through the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, the extension of the inherited architectural vocabulary has become a major preoccupation, exemplified by the artist’s series of ongoing architectural projects with the Cook Haffner Architecture Platform (CHAP).

As Cook writes, he is not concerned with whole cities nor whole projects, but with accumulated fragments and scrambled bits of inspiration. Yet the ‘City’ has consistently remained central to his explorations: it is the essence of conglomeration, of confrontation of the unlike with the unlike, of the potential of unexpected mixtures. Cities at Richard Saltoun Gallery marks the artist’s return to a private gallery, celebrating the breadth and revolutionary impact of his work on the architectural canon and beyond.

Cities is designed by Cook Haffner Architecture Platform, a multidisciplinary and experimental architecture office with a focus on culture, the city, and how space functions.

CHAP Design team:

Curatorial and exhibition design: Sir Peter Cook and Cong Ding

Media and VR: Louis Peralta

Special thanks to Myy Tran and Mert Ozbolat for the sculpture