Why Don’t Umbrellas Grow in the Rain? 12 Proclamations by Architect CEDRIC PRICE

Cedric Price’s body of work is massive and slippery to pin down. Many of Price’s most radical projects – like the ultra-hybrid “Fun Palace,” which later became the model for the Centre Georges Pompidou – were never realized and live mostly in legend. In addition, many of his contributions to the field took place through criticism and public appearances, wherein he pioneered the role of architect-as-public-intellectual. For these reasons and more, the mammoth two-volume publication Cedric Price Works 1952– 2003: A Forward-Minded Retrospective, which contains his compiled writings and projects, reads like two stone tablets on radical design. Price was a Socrates figure in twentieth century architecture, both in the sense that much of his work was not written down, but also in that he held an extreme skepticism toward his own profession. In a context where architects seemed to be blindly churning out buildings in the same mold, he went so far as to question the very idea of housing itself. This point of view goes beyond the “less is more” architecture cliché, undermining every assumption to the point of suggesting that the best designers should aim to delete themselves.

Below are 12 design maxims written by Price for a 1972 article in Pegasus.

Cedric Price and students at the Rice Design Fete, Rice University, Texas, 1967.

ON SAFEFY PINS AND OTHER
GOOD DESIGNS

1.
 Design is concerned with the conscious distortion of time, distance, and size. If it achieves none of these distortions, it is unlikely to be more than the elaboration of the “status quo.”

2. The apparent but unreal inevitability of the design of the safety pin is my definition of “good” design. It is the recognition, in time, of the usefulness and delight of the object (or system) that really establishes a consensus of the quality of the design.

3. It does not matter who designed the safety pin – we should just be delighted that they did.

4. The value of permanence must be proven, 
not merely assumed.

5. Why don’t umbrellas disintegrate in sunshine – or at least grow in the rain?

6. The house is no longer acceptable as a pre-set ordering mechanism for family life. Housing is rapidly becoming a consumable commodity. This is a major motivational force in the individual’s and family’s use of the house.

7. While increasing the world’s food supply or developing automation can be seen to be beneficial, there is little evidence to support the view that new houses or new towns, as we now know them, would increase human happiness.

8. Central to the activital shortfall is the inability of architects and planners to concentrate with sufficient expertise on the environmental servicing of people.

9. “How little need be done?” should be the designer’s first question. Then perhaps we would no longer have to pay people to paint TURN LEFT underneath arrows on the roadway.

10. The second question might be, “For how long is this successful?” The acceptance of the redundancy of design by the designer is essential. At present it is left to the rest of the community to do this. However, until the designer becomes concerned with determining the rate of redundancy of his design – not merely the life of the product – we will continue to electrify the grandfather clock rather than hand out wristwatches.

11. Shortage of time is likely to become an increasingly large element in the conscious design process: not merely in achieving a particular means but even in deciding whether there is time to bother designing such a means.

12. No one should be interested in the design of bridges – they should be concerned with how to get to the other side.

Cedric Price Works 1952–2003:
A Forward-Minded Retrospective is published by 
the Canadian Centre for Architecture and AA Bookshop (London, 2016).

Cedric Price in the White Room of his offices in Alfred Place, Bloomsbury, ca. 1995.

Text THOM BETTRIDGE
Images Courtesy of CEDRIC PRICE ESTATE and the CCA

Deeper

  • TERRITORIAL SIGNALS: A portrait of TOLIA TITAEV

    For 032c Issue 35, we photographed the young Russian skateboarder and designer wearing our COSMIC WORKSHOP collection. “If I didn’t have skateboarding in my life, I have no idea what I’d be doing," he told us. "I owe all my achievements to skating.”More
  • 032c Cosmic Workshop Collection

    032c COSMIC WORKSHOP "Rock Bottom" Vest Black

    €190
    Buy Now
  • 032c Cosmic Workshop Collection

    032c Cosmic Workshop Belt

    €170
    Buy Now
  • 032c Cosmic Workshop Collection

    032c COSMIC WORKSHOP "Maria" Longsleeve Grey

    €90
    Buy Now
  • Life Exists: Theaster Gates’ Black Image Corporation

    Theaster Gates' “The Black Image Corporation” presents photographs from the holdings of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company, a sprawling archive that shaped “the aesthetic and cultural languages of contemporary African American identity.” Gates approached the project as a celebration and activation of the black image in Milan through photographs of women photographed by Moneta Sleet Jr. and Isaac Sutton – of black entrepreneurship and legacy-making. “Life exists” in the Johnson archive, he says, just as it exists and should be honored in other places of black creativity.More
  • FRIDA ESCOBEDO: The Era of the Starchitect is Over

    Rising Mexican architect Frida Escobedo is relentlessly inquisitive, eschewing stylistic constants in favour of an overriding preoccupation with shifting dynamics. Personal curiosity is the driving force behind her practice, which makes he an outlier in a profession dominated by extroverted personalities keen on making bold assertions. "I think it really is a generational shift," Escobedo says. "The idea of the starchitect making grand gestures with huge commissions is over."More
  • “I live a hope despite my knowing better”: James Baldwin in Conversation With Fritz J. Raddatz (1978)

    Born in Berlin in 1931, editor and writer Fritz J. Raddatz relied on food delivered by African American GIs after the death of his parents. To Baldwin he was an “anti-Nazi German who has the scars to prove it.” Debating his return to the USA after 25 years, Baldwin explores the political climate in America at the end of the 1970s in a conversation at home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.More
  • House as Archive: James Baldwin’s Provençal Home

    For her new book, Magdalena J. Zaborowska visited the house Baldwin occupied from 1971 to 1987 “to expand his biography and explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity”. Here, she narrates her early journeys to Baldwin’s home and proposes a salve for its recent loss: a virtual presentation of Baldwin’s home and effects.More