He’s one of the world’s greatest architects and has designed some of its most iconic buildings. But what’s really going on in Lord Rogers’ head? Forty years after the break-up of Team 4, Thomas Lane went to find out, armed with a list of questions from an expert panel.

It’s four decades since the members of Team 4, the seminal practice that briefly united Lords Rogers and Foster, went their separate ways. And it’s 30 since Rogers turned the world of architecture inside out with the opening of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. To mark this double anniversary and the launch of an exhibition of Rogers’ work at the Pompidou Centre, Building went to visit the older (by two years) of British architecture’s two grand old men, armed with 10 questions that friends, well-wishers, collaborators, rivals, clients and family have always wanted to ask him. The questions range from the inquiring to the downright impertinent and start by drawing on three themes close to Rogers’ heart …

Richard, you once said that food, sex and architecture were very important to you, but not necessarily in that order … Since leaving the Richard Rogers Partnership, I have built a successful practice and had my fourth child, but, frustratingly, have not yet managed to build a restaurant. Do you think an architect can ever really say he or she has succeeded in making a serious contribution to the public realm without building at least one restaurant? Perhaps you can explain this to me over a grilled squid and a bottle of Montepulciano?

James Finestone, director of architect FLACQ and former employee of Rogers

Food is extremely important and so is the public realm, but whether you have to have a restaurant is open to question. There are a lot of great public realms without restaurants, and restaurants without great public realms. It’s nice, of course, to have both together …

These days, only large corporate architectural practices win big jobs. How would a young architect win the next Pompidou Centre?

Peter Rogers, technical director of Stanhope and Richard’s brother

Competitions are the way in, as they open things up. The good news is that there are now a vast number of them, whereas there were practically none when we did the Pompidou Centre. The bad news is, if you are trying to win a large, corporate job without a competition, the only way is to go in with someone else. Renzo Piano and I could never have got a big corporate job such as a major city bank if there had not been a competition. Luckily, Lloyd’s, the next building that we did, was a competition too.

What do you think is the best form of procurement?

Gus Alexander, architect and Building columnist

From the point of the building, if you can get it, the old process where the architect is the leader of the team, and responsible for all the drawings and putting it out to tender. But it gives you less financial security.

Is there is a public space designed since 1900 that you really, really like?

Ricky Burdett, chief adviser on architecture and urbanism, Olympic Delivery Authority

On the basis that streets are the heart of any city, Verona has the most beautiful. They have been laid in the past decade, with the most amazing, beautiful paving. It’s so smooth and every detail has been considered – the way the rainwater is managed, the way doors open out onto it or off it, the way cars are stopped, the signage, everything. It’s considered to a point I have never seen anywhere else in the world.

Also, there is a beautiful square in front of the cathedral in Palma, Majorca. It’s fantastic – beautifully landscaped, there’s a wonderful lake in it and there is the great juxtaposition with one of Europe’s most beautiful cathedrals. It is totally modern but fits brilliantly into its historic environment.

Do you think the Olympics will really regenerate east London?

Hanif Kara, director of structural engineer Adams Kara Taylor and member of the Design for London advisory group

I think the Olympics will be a success for the 17 days it’s there, but the important part is going to be the legacy, which will be there for more than a century. I think the Olympics will help focus political and economic minds on the need to regenerate one of the poorest parts of western Europe, and I’m optimistic.

Were you hurt by the jibes and cruel cartoons in the press about the Dome and did you enjoy the exhibition?

Tanya Ross, associate director at Buro Happold and design manager on the Millennium Dome

Every building we have done has gone through difficult media relations – the Pompidou, Lloyd’s and the Dome, to name the three big ones. One would love to have good media, but it doesn’t make one change one’s mind. It would be nice if the media got their facts right, though. It’s worth saying the Dome is probably the cheapest building we ever built, in the fastest time for the amount of area we enclosed. I went to the opening day of the exhibition, and that was terrible.

Lloyd’s has a constantly changing underwriting room and office space needs. How do you think that the design of 1 Lime Street has helped Lloyd’s meet its business accommodation strategy?


The brief called for flexibility for growth and change. It is very much built around the idea of a market place that could extend up or down the building, but could be changed into an office building or a university – there is flexibility inherent in the building.

The mechanical services were taken outside so the floor of Lloyd’s has no interruptions. This also meant they were not included in the gross area, so we could get more area on that site than any other site in the postwar era. We gained something like 20%, which was worth millions of pounds, and they were very happy about that.

Why have you finished all of your lectures over the past 15 years with a slide of a clown sitting on the Pompidou centre?

Sophie Campbell, architect with Sheppard Robson and member of Building’s graduate advisory board

It combines a number of different aspects: the idea of enjoyment, the idea of public participation with a building and a piazza, the concept of a fun palace, which is what the Pompidou really is. It’s colourful and I love colour and it is also fun and joyful. It says that architecture is about society and the built environment and those two can’t be separated.

What is the relationship between sex and architecture?

Renzo Piano, architect and founder of Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Rogers’ partner on the Pompidou Centre

I should know this one as Renzo asks me this every time. I think architecture has to have some sex appeal, as it is to do with the senses …

Is the National Assembly for Wales the worst client you ever had?

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, presiding officer, National Assembly for Wales

It certainly was not a good client. It was indecisive and badly advised. We’ll leave it at that.

Do you ever wish you had the talent of another living architect and who is it? Steve McGuckin, development director at Land Securities

No, I’m not very jealous. Obviously I would love to combine the talents of lots of architects and engineers. By learning from them you are trying to combine their talents.

Do you ever wish you had the talent of another living architect and who is it?

Steve McGuckin, development director at Land Securities

No, I’m not very jealous. Obviously I would love to combine the talents of lots of architects and engineers. By learning from them you are trying to combine their talents.