With essays by Jeremy Melvin, Nicolai Ouroussoff, Anne Power, and Ricky Burdett and an interview by Michael Craig-Martin. London: Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Abrams, 2013, 112 pages, $20.

Outsize Impact of an Inside Man

This colorful little book—published in connection with last year's exhibition at the Royal Academy, Richard Rogers: Inside Out—explains how the architect, known for some sensational urban buildings, exemplifies the ideals with which Modern architecture was founded. His best-known works, such as the Pompidou Center, Lloyd's of London, the Bordeaux Law Courts, Madrid-Barajas Airport Terminal 4, and the Millennium Dome, may be more expressionistic and colorful than anything Mies or Gropius did, but his dedication to social change builds on the beliefs of the Modern masters—and, indeed, goes beyond what any of them accomplished.

Richard Rogers Inside Out

Rogers was born in Florence in 1933. His parents moved the family to the U.K. six years later to avoid the Fascists. He was educated in England, at the Architectural Association, and in America, at Yale, where he met his first wife, Su, as well as Norman Foster and his first wife, Wendy. The four traveled together in the U.S. after graduation in 1962 and then practiced together in England as Team 4. In 1967, the Fosters started their own firm, and Rogers teamed up with Renzo Piano to win the competition to design the Pompidou Center in Paris. After that project opened in 1977, he set up the Richard Rogers Partnership and designed the quintessentially British institution Lloyd's of London for the city's financial district. Then came a series of buildings around the world.

As the authors of this book point out, however, Rogers's most important project has been London itself, because that is where he has been able to implement the ideas and fulfill the ideals of the Modern movement. As a trustee and chairman of the Tate Gallery, a knight and Labour peer in the House of Lords, and chief advisor on architecture and urbanism to former mayor Ken Livingston, he fostered a congestion charge on automobiles to reduce traffic in the city center, encouraged the pedestrianization of Trafalgar Square, helped revitalize the banks of the Thames, and contributed to the redevelopment of the East End in planning for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

In his essay, Burdett describes this work in detail. Melvin, who organized the Royal Academy show, notes that Rogers “often reminds people that architecture is a social and political art.” And Power explains how Rogers's interest in cities relates to the empowerment of citizens. Together, they paint a three-dimensional picture of one of the most provocative architects of our time.

Contributing editor Jayne Merkel is the author of Eero Saarinen and contributes to Architectural Design/AD in London.