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Cedric Price (1934-2003)
Grožnjan, 10 August 2005
Nigel Whiteley
Cedric Price is possibly best known for his Fun Palace scheme (1961-1970) and its major influence on Piano and Rogers’s Centre Pompidou. One of his most-quoted sayings (from a tape-slide lecture) is “Technology is the answer. What is the question?” but this has tended to result in him being simply categorised as a typical 1960s technological determinist along with the experimental group Archigram, and the theorist and critic Reyner Banham.
Price was a radical who challenged architectural conventions and lore. The architect must question priorities so that he or she “…takes his place in the ongoing process as a provider of opportunities for experience and change not as a master builder or immitable (and rapidly outdated, in terms of use) monumental structures.” This would be likely to result in “well-serviced anonymity” but the role of architecture was to affect life: “Architecture and planning attention should primarily increase the range of choice of activities and not merely increase the amenity value of existing situations.” Price talked in terms of a “philosophy of enabling”: the architect empowered citizens to make them more active and participatory.
A wholehearted acceptance of change was central to Price’s thinking, and he upheld the idea that “the only real constant is change” by constantly proposing change throughout his 40-odd years of practice, and thus becoming a guru – like Bucky Fuller - to generations of young architects.
Parallels are frequently drawn between the radical thinking of the 1960s and the potentialities of our contemporary digital reality in terms of technological progress-ivism, de-monumentalisation of architectural form and living environment, responsive-ness, flexibility, change, and personal choice. Price’s work is cited as both a precursor for today’s situation and a response that is still relevant.
Price talked about something being “almost alright” by which he generally meant a “superb success on the very border of banal failure.” In his view he was “often mistaken but seldom wrong”!
Cedric’s relationship to Grožnjan dates back to the architecture Symposium in 1990 organised by Vinko Penezic and Krešimir Rogina when he and I were the visiting professors. One of Cedric’s memorable, informal and spontaneous contributions to the Symposium was, on stumbling across the “Street of the 1st May” (following his habitual session in the bar), to fall to his knees in homage to this international day of Socialism. To commemorate the enduring memory of Cedric in Grožnjan, we respectfully marked the sad anniversary of August 10th by installing a modest plaque on the wall of a building in the “Street of the 1st May” last year. We are gathered here this evening to mark the 15th anniversary of Cedric’s act of devotion.

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