UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture honours its former head by staging a colourful exhibition just in time for his 80th birthday
One of the main problems with the Sir Peter Cook: 80 Years – 80 Ideas exhibition at the Bartlett, is that it runs until 21 March, having been open to public for only a month. The show, organised to celebrate the 80th birthday of one of the most influential British architects alive today, will therefore most be only seen by students, and a lucky few in the know.
What a shame, and yet at the same time what a refreshing ensemble of drawings, cutouts, models and, very occasionally, photographs of Cook’s finished buildings – a feat he only realised relatively late into his career. The exhibition is presented as a non-linear narrative, which explores the recurring and evolving themes in the dreamy schemes of the former Archigrammer. This means that projects from various eras are grouped according to loose association, and it is rather difficult to ascertain where certain projects end and others begin. This is not helped by the frequently misspelled labels, nor by the fact that Cook has remained surprisingly consistent in his visual presentation throughout the decades. Nevertheless, the whole show is infused with his colourful, pop sensibilities, and Cook himself is in on the act: small speech bubbles littered throughout the presentation boards include mischievous anecdotes and miscellaneous annotations hand-written by the architect.
If there is one other let-down, it is that the work of a man who dedicated his life to bringing a sense of fun into dry academic discourse is now displayed at a school that has just recently received a very vanilla makeover by Hawkins\Brown. If anything, all the more reason to make it a permanent fixture.