Piers Gough once famously and not entirely fairly described himself as a “B movie architect”. His work certainly has a sense of playfulness that serious modernists eschewed, though if anything this characteristic broadens its ability to engage with sophisticated social and intellectual agendas. He designed the RA’s exhibition on Sir John Soane, one of British architecture’s most intellectually demanding figures, while his Green Bridge in London’s East End links two halves of a long linear park across a main road and creates commercial opportunities in its undercroft.
Early on Gough’s natural playfulness found two creative stimuli. One was the atmosphere around Peter Cook and the Archigram Group at the Architectural Association, where he studied; the other an appreciation of decorative detailing which owed much to late 19th century eclecticism. Unusually, the firm Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson and Gough was set up while the partners were still at college, and clients included Allen Jones RA. As the 1970s moved into the 1980s, CZWG brought a breath of fresh air to a changing architectural scene. In 1981 Gough designed the hugely successful exhibition on Sir Edwin Lutyens at the Hayward Gallery, which lent respectability to his trademark flamboyance and whimsy.
Those qualities proved themselves in both commercial and urban terms with projects on China Wharf, The Circle in Bermondsey, and Cascades, one of the most successful early Docklands buildings. The prevalent post modernism of the time licensed eclectic decoration, but Gough’s was more controlled, wittier and had deeper roots in tradition, context and function than most. A house for Gough’s friend and fellow AA student Janet Street Porter followed, and its clever subversion of the conventions of a London terraced house, and its inventive use of “found” materials like metal mesh showed an affinity with Pop Art. Since then, the scale of projects has increased. Recently, Gough oversaw a major masterplan development around the Arsenal Stadium.
Gough was awarded a CBE in 1998. From 2013 to 2017 he was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy Schools.
Born: 1946 in Brighton, Sussex, England, United Kingdom
Elected RA: 5 December 2001
Elected Senior RA: 1 October 2021
Professor of Architecture: 2013 - 2017
Preferred media: Architecture
Piers Gough RA