In the fourth episode of the ‘Inside the Archive’ series Su Rogers recalls her first meeting with Norman Foster, a deeply influential sojourn in the United States and the formation of Team 4.
In 1961, Su Rogers joined a group of young architects attending the Masters course at Yale School of Architecture. With Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, she encountered the rigorous tutoring of Paul Rudolph, who pushed his students to develop projects at lightning speed. This was balanced by lengthy journeys to visit celebrated works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan; every day saw the friends sketching and experiencing as many buildings as possible.
The following year saw the creation of Team 4, and the first direct experiences of managing a commission. That for Creek Vean House, Cornwall (1964-1966) saw the fledgling practice balancing between the sympathetic and supportive client, Marcus Brumwell, severe delays, and questionable builders. This early project simply “had to be right”. Respect for the surrounding landscape went on to inspire a housing development scheme which was unobtrusive and challenged the pattern of piecemeal development.
Though as Rogers explains, the latter scheme remained unrealised, Norman Foster’s interest in lightweight structures found expression in Team 4’s factory for Reliance Controls, Swindon (1965-1966). The innovative solutions reached here rejected archetypes in favour of an open interior with maximum flexibility. All staff used the same entrance and administration was wholly integrated with other departments. Such social and architectural ideals were complemented by the rapid speed of construction; factors which would become acknowledged hallmarks of Norman Foster design.