founder of Rogers Stirk+Harbour
graduated from AA Diploma School in 1959
Richard George Rogers, Baron Rogers of Riverside, CH, FRIBA, FCSD, FREng, RA (23 July 1933 – 18 December 2021) was an Italian-born British architect noted for his modernist and functionalist designs in high-tech architecture. He was a Senior Partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, previously known as the Richard Rogers Partnership, until June 2020.
Rogers was perhaps best known for his work on the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Lloyd’s building and Millennium Dome, both in London, the Senedd building, in Cardiff, and the European Court of Human Rights building, in Strasbourg. He was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal, the Thomas Jefferson Medal, the RIBA Stirling Prize, the Minerva Medal, and the Pritzker Prize.
Early life and career
The Lloyd’s Building in London at night
Richard Rogers was born in Florence, Tuscany, in 1933 into an Anglo-Italian family. His father, William Nino Rogers (1906–1993), was the cousin of Italian architect Ernesto Nathan Rogers. His ancestors moved from Sunderland to Venice in about 1800, later settling in Trieste, Milan and Florence. In October 1938, William Nino Rogers came back to England.
Upon moving to England, Richard Rogers went to St John’s School, Leatherhead. Rogers did not excel academically, which made him believe that he was “stupid because he could not read or memorise his school work” and as a consequence, he said, he became “very depressed”. He couldn’t read until he was 11, and it was not until after he had his first child that Rogers realised he was dyslexic. After leaving St Johns School, he undertook a foundation course at Epsom School of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts) before going into National Service between 1951 and 1953.
He then attended the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, where he gained the Architectural Association’s Diploma (AA Dipl) from 1954 until 1959, subsequently graduating with a master’s degree (M Arch) from the Yale School of Architecture in 1962 on a Fulbright Scholarship. While studying at Yale, Rogers met fellow architecture student Norman Foster and planning student Su Brumwell.
After leaving Yale he joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York. On returning to England in 1963, he, Norman Foster and Brumwell set up architectural practice as Team 4 with Wendy Cheesman (Brumwell later married Rogers, Cheesman married Foster). Rogers and Foster earned a reputation for what was later termed by the media high-tech architecture.
By 1967, Team 4 had split up, but Rogers continued to collaborate with Su Rogers, along with John Young and Laurie Abbott. In early 1968 he was commissioned to design a house and studio for Humphrey Spender near Maldon, Essex, a glass cube framed with I-beams. He continued to develop his ideas of prefabrication and structural simplicity to design a Wimbledon house for his parents. This was based on ideas from his conceptual Zip-Up House.
Rogers subsequently joined forces with Italian architect Renzo Piano, a partnership that was to prove fruitful. His career leapt forward when he, Piano and Gianfranco Franchini won the design competition for the Pompidou Centre in July 1971, alongside a team from Ove Arup that included Irish engineer Peter Rice.
After working with Piano, Rogers established the Richard Rogers Partnership along with Marco Goldschmied, Mike Davies, and John Young in 1977. This became Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in 2007. The firm maintains offices in London, Shanghai, and Sydney.
Rogers devoted much of his later career to wider issues surrounding architecture, urbanism, sustainability, and the ways in which cities are used. One early illustration of his thinking was an exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1986, entitled “London As It Could Be”, which also featured the work of James Stirling and Rogers’ former partner Norman Foster. This exhibition made public a series of proposals for transforming a large area of central London, subsequently dismissed as impractical by the city’s authorities.
The Pompidou Centre in Paris
In 1995, he became the first architect to deliver the BBC’s annual Reith Lectures. This series of five talks, titled Sustainable City, were later adapted into the book Cities for a Small Planet (Faber and Faber: London 1997, ISBN 0-571-17993-2). The BBC made these lectures available to the public for download in July 2011.
In 1998, he set up the Urban Task Force at the invitation of the British government, to help identify causes of urban decline and establish a vision of safety, vitality, and beauty for Britain’s cities. This work resulted in a white paper, Towards an Urban Renaissance, outlining recommendations for future city designers. Rogers also served for several years as chair of the Greater London Authority panel for Architecture and Urbanism. He was chair of the board of Trustees of The Architecture Foundation.
From 2001 to 2008, he was chief advisor on architecture and urbanism to the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone. In 2008, he was asked to continue on in his role as an advisor by the then new mayor Boris Johnson. He stood down from the post in October 2009. Rogers also served as an advisor to two mayors of Barcelona on urban strategies.
The Senedd building
Rogers (left) with Queen Elizabeth II and Sue Essex AM (right), at the opening of the Senedd building
The steps leading up to the Senedd
Amidst this extra-curricular activity, Rogers continued to create controversial and iconic works. Perhaps the most famous of these, the Millennium Dome, was designed by the Rogers practice in conjunction with engineering firm Buro Happold and completed in 1999. It was the subject of fierce political and public debate over the cost and contents of the exhibition it contained; the building itself cost £43 million.
In May 2006, Rogers’ practice was chosen as the architect of Tower 3 of the new World Trade Center in New York City, replacing the old World Trade Center which was destroyed in the September 11 attacks.
Rogers resigned his directorship of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners on 30 June 2020. The Rogers name will be removed from the practice by 2022 as the founding constitution requires.
Main article: Team 4
Creek Vean, Cornwall, UK (1963–1966)
Reliance Controls factory, Swindon, UK (1967)
Jaffe House (also known as Skybreak House), Humphrey Spender’s house, Maldon, UK (1965–1966)
Wates Housing, Coulsdon, Surrey (1965)
Richard and Su Rogers Architects (with John Young and Laurie Abbott)
22 Parkside (Dr. Nino and Dada Rogers’ house), Wimbledon, London, UK (1967)
Zip-Up House (1967–69)
Piano + Rogers
Universal Oil Products, Tadworth, UK (1969–1974)
B&B Italia headquarters, Como, Italy (1972–1973)
Pompidou Centre, Paris, France (1971–77)
IRCAM, Paris, France (1971–1977)
Patscentre Research Laboratory, Melbourn, UK (1976–1983)
The Richard Rogers Partnership
Main article: Richard Rogers Partnership
- Madrid-Barajas Airport terminal 4
- Lloyd’s building, London, UK (1978–84)
- Inmos microprocessor factory, Newport, Wales, UK (1980–1982)
- Old Billingsgate Market, London, UK (1985–1988)
- Paternoster Square, London, UK (1987)
- The River Café, London, UK (1987)
- Reuters Data Centre, London, UK (1987–1992)
- Kabuki-cho Tower, Tokyo, Japan (1987–1993)
- Linn Products, Waterfoot, Glasgow (1988)
- Antwerp Law Courts, Belgium (2000–2006)
- Marseille Provence Airport, Marignane, France (1989–1992)
- Channel 4 Headquarters, London, UK (1990–1994)
- European Court of Human Rights building, Strasbourg, France, 1995
- 88 Wood Street, London, UK (1990–1999) 
- Palais de Justice de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France (1993–1999)
- Lloyd’s Register building, London, UK (1995–1999)
- Millennium Dome, London, UK (1996–1999)
- Broadwick House, London, UK (1996–2000) 
- Paddington Waterside, London, UK (1999–2004)
- Mossbourne Community Academy, London, UK (2002–2004)
- Senedd building, Cardiff, Wales (1999–2005)
- Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas Airport terminals 4 and 4S, Madrid, Spain (2004)
- Hesperia Tower, Barcelona, Spain (2005)
- Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
- Main article: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
- London Heathrow Terminal 5, London, UK (1989–2008)
- Las Arenas, Barcelona, Spain (1999–2011)
- Maggie’s Centre, London, UK (2001–2008)
- Central Park Station (R9), Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit system, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (2003–2007)
- Three World Trade Center, New York City (2006–2018)
- British Museum, World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, London, UK (2007–2014)
- One Hyde Park, London (2007–2010)
- Atrio Towers, Bogotá (2008–)
- Santa Maria del Pianto Underground Station, Naples, Italy (2006–)
- NEO Bankside, London, UK (2012)
- 33 Park Row, New York, USA (2021) “A rare feat”. –>
- 122 Leadenhall Street, also known as the Cheesegrater, London (2000–2014)
- Greater Paris / Grand Paris, France (2008–2013)
- Oxley Woods, Milton Keynes, UK (2004–2010)
- St. Lawrence Market North Revitalization, Toronto, Canada (2010–) with Adamson Associates
- Y:Cube, London (2013–2015)
- International Quarter London, London (2014-ongoing)
- Taoyuan International Airport T3, Taipei, Taiwan (2015-ongoing)
- International Towers Sydney, Barangaroo, Sydney, Australia (2010–2016)
- 8 Chifly, Sydney, Australia (2005–2013)
- PLACE / Ladywell, London, UK (2014–2016)
- Parc1 Tower, Seoul, South Korea (2008–2020)
- London Heathrow Terminal 5
- Maggie’s Centre, London
- Central Park Station (R9), Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.
- Las Arenas, Barcelona
- One Hyde Park, London
- International Towers Sydney
- Parc1 Tower
In February 2006, Rogers hosted the inaugural meeting of the campaigning organisation Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) in his London offices. At that time his practice had secured a number of projects in New York, including the redevelopment of the Silvercup Studios site, a masterplan for the East River Waterfront and a commission for a $1.7 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre in Manhattan. Rogers however publicly dissociated himself from the group within weeks, following an outcry from generally pro-Israeli New York voters and politicians, which threatened him with the loss of prestigious commissions including projects in New York and abroad. He announced his withdrawal with the statement, “I unequivocally renounce Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine and have withdrawn my relationship with them.”
Rogers was married to Ruth Rogers, chef and owner of The River Café restaurant in west London. They had two sons together, Roo and Bo (deceased 2011). Rogers also had three sons, Ben, Zad and Ab, from his first marriage to Su Brumwell. Ben is the Director of Centre for London, the capital’s dedicated think tank. He had thirteen grandchildren and a younger brother, Peter William Rogers, a property developer and co-founder of Stanhope. In 2015, he was named one of the “50 best-dressed British men” by GQ magazine.
He died in London on 18 December 2021, at the age of 88.
Honours and awards
Rogers was knighted in 1991 by Queen Elizabeth II. He was created Baron Rogers of Riverside, of Chelsea in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on 17 October 1996. He sat as a Labour peer in the House of Lords; having not attended a proceeding in the 2019–21 session, his membership expired on 11 May 2021. Rogers was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2008 Birthday Honours list.
Rogers was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1985. He was twice honoured by France, first as a Chevalier, L’Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur in 1986, and later as an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1995. He received a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 10th Mostra di Architettura di Venezia. In 2006, the Richard Rogers Partnership was awarded the Stirling Prize for Terminal 4 of Barajas Airport, and again in 2009 for Maggie’s Centre in London. Rogers won the Gold Medal for Architecture at the National Eisteddfod of Wales of 2006 for his work on the Senedd building of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament). He was also appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2005. In 2007 Rogers was made Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize – architecture’s highest honour. He was awarded the Minerva Medal by the Chartered Society of Designers in the same year. In 2012, Rogers was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of the last six decades.
Rogers was awarded honorary degrees from several universities, including Alfonso X El Sabio University in Madrid, Oxford Brookes University, the University of Kent, the Czech Technical University in Prague and the Open University. In 1994, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) by the University of Bath.
In popular culture
Rogers is mentioned (along with fellow architect Philip Johnson) in the song “Thru These Architect’s Eyes” on the album Outside (1995) by David Bowie.
Rogers is mentioned in the song “Anti-Everything” by British band Mansun, from the album Six (1998).
Rogers wrote several books during his career, including:
Architecture: A Modern View, Thames & Hudson (1991) ISBN 978-0-500-27651-8
A New London (co-author Mark Fisher and the Labour Party), Penguin (1992) ISBN 978-0-14-015794-9
Cities for a Small Planet, Faber and Faber (1997) ISBN 978-0-571-17993-0
Towards an Urban Renaissance, Urban Task Force (1999) ISBN 978-1-85112-165-6
Cities for a Small Country, Faber and Faber (2000) ISBN 978-0-571-20652-0
Richard Rogers and Architects: From the House to the City, Fiell Publishing (2010) ISBN 978-1-906863-11-1
Architecture: A Modern View, Thames & Hudson (2013) ISBN 978-0-500-34293-0