Tribute and Memory. Richard Rogers, 1933-2021

Norman Foster 

Norman Foster and Richard Rogers at Yale, 1961

I am so deeply saddened by the loss of my oldest and closest friend, Richard Rogers. Over the time since we met, almost exactly sixty years ago as students at Yale University, Richard has been a kindred spirit.

In a first of its kind, we collaborated on projects in the Yale Masters Class, and in every break, we travelled together across the United States to be inspired by the works of past and modern masters. Our rapport on everything architectural amounted to a privately shared language that could encompass criticism and appreciation.

With the briefest of breaks, we continued our unique blend of friendship and collaboration into private practice with two architect sisters as Team 4, before eventually going our own ways as separate practices in 1967. Since then, we have come full circle to be closer than ever as families. If a tribute is about a life and not a departure, because Richard’s legacy will live on, then how do I start to define the life and work of my dear departed friend? Do I start with the person and move onto the architecture or vice versa? Either way will work because the one is a manifestation of the other.

Richard was gregarious, outgoing, generous, and possessed an infectious zest for life. His buildings are a social mirror of that personality – open, welcoming and, like his wardrobe, elegantly colourful.

The Rogers signature is an architecture that makes manifest and celebrates the role of the structure. Technology comes to mind in my reference to his architecture, but it is always as a means to the social agenda. Given Richard’s passion for the community spirit of a building, it is perhaps no surprise that he was a lover of cities and championed their cause as a committed urbanist.

Whether as an advisor to mayors and government or as a writer on the subject, he was a tireless supporter of the compact, sustainable, pedestrian-friendly city and a passionate opponent of mindless suburban sprawl. These convictions were embedded in our private language when we came together in our twenties, and there was the same fire in his belly (an expression he would love) up to the very end. On the subject of love, Richard’s life as an architect is inseparable from that of his family and any tribute to him is one to his wife, Ruthie, and their devotedly caring family.

Richard Rogers was a great pioneering architect of the modern age, socially committed and an influential protagonist for the best of city life – such a legacy. I will miss you dearly.

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