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Humanities Assignment | Issues In Contemporary Architecture ARC204 Sheffield School of Architecture Year 2 | 2012-2013 Evgenia Vlachaki 110175500


Contents

Context Project Information Architecture and Delight Technology The Architectural Profession Conclusion Bibliography Illustrations

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With the following audit I will examine the Fun Palace (1961) designed by Cedric Price discussing it through the themes of Architecture and Delight, Technology, and the Architectural Profession. Context The Fun Palace was conceived and designed in Britain of the 1960’s. At the time architecture was constrained not only by post-war office practices but also by a Functionalism that had become dependant on the forms of the pre-war International style.1 However, the Situationist movement was already “challenging rules of urbanity”2 by taking into account emotional effects and designing situations and ambiances rather than definite forms and structures. During that time, technology and science were flourishing thus providing more and more tools and expertise to architects and designers of radical visions. It was only natural that technology was about to become one of the main sources of architectural inspiration.

Fig.1 Proposed site, Lea Valley, London

Project information A result of collaboration between Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood, the Fun Palace was a visionary and radical proposal, which clearly challenged the traditional notions of conformed environment and built form. It proposed an architecture that was “no longer merely static, but instead comprised of spaces in time that both informed and were informed by the complex social, economic and cultural changes of dynamic societies”3. Architecture and Delight Delight in architecture is an entirely subjective notion. In order to ignite discussion, delight will be firstly defined as leisure; the “use of free time for enjoyment”4. Secondly, delight will be interpreted as the element of uncertainty , which in the Fun Palace is represented through the ever-changing nature of an educative entertainment centre, which offers unlimited choices of space and activities to its users. In the early sixties, Cedric Price translated Joan Littlewood’s idea of ‘a people’s theatre’ and expanded it to design the Fun

Fig.2 The Fun Palace, a ‘university of the streets’

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Crompton, Dennis. A Guide to Archigram 1961-74. p. 418, New York: Princeton Architectural, 2012. Print. Spiller, Neil. Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination. p.44. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2007. Print. 3 "Cedric Price and the Fun Palace." Citymovement., 24 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 May 2013. 4 "leisure." Definition of in Oxford Dictionaries (British & World English). Web. 12 May 2013. <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/leisure>. 2

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Palace. Joan wanted to create a place, which would encompass an entire list of delights she felt their century owed to them. The activities suggested for the Palace where therefore revolving around the notions of pleasure and gaiety. In Post-war Britain, shorter working hours and automation of jobs due to the evolution of technology were leading to a leisure-based economy. Thus, “leisure became a major political, economic, social and architectural issue” 5. Politics revolved around controlling the working class away from illegal or revolutionary activities and closer to new recreational, educational or consumerist diversions. Cedric Price was one of the first people who actively recognized that the division between work and leisure was no longer relevant. His Fun Palace would offer leisure to the working classes as a constructive use of time by combining new forms of ‘learning’ with pleasure through a wide range of ‘fun’ activities, which were addressing individual needs. The large kit of parts with which people could entertain themselves, forgetting their monotonous routine for a few hours, was designed as “an exciting journey of creativity, learning and personal development”6. Learning seized to be synonymous to education and was based on the premise that people chose what they wanted to learn about without being controlled by institutions. These notions were clearly supported in the Promotional Leaflet for the Fun Palace: “Those who at present work in factories, mines and offices will quite soon be able to live as only a few people now can: choosing their own congenial work, doing as little of it as they like, and filling their leisure with whatever delights them. Those people who like fiddling with machinery and pressing buttons can service and press buttons in the robot-manned factories”.7

Fig.3 The Fun Palace, proposed activities

Joan Littlewood, co-designer of the Fun Palace, worked on defining a open-ended list of possible spaces and activities that could possible take place in the “laboratory of fun”8 and ‘learning’. The flexible centre would accommodate spaces for various pass times (Fig.3). Proposed spaces included the “fun arcade”, the “music room”, the “science playground” and the “plastic area”9 all of which aimed at offering alternative

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Mathews, Stanley. From Agit-prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price. p.69, London: Black Dog Pub., ,2007. Print. 6 Stanley Mathews (2006): The Fun Palace as Virtual Architecture, Journal of Architectural Education, 59:3, p.39 7 Joan Littlewood, ‘Non-Program: A Laboratory of Fun’, Promotional Leaflet for the Fun Palace published in The Drama Review: tdr, Vol. 12, No. 3, Spring, 1968, p. 128. 8 "Cedric Price & the Fun Palace." Citymovement., 24 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 May 2013. 9 The Fun Palace, Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 12, No. 3, Architecture/Environment (Spring, 1968), p. 129

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occupations to a society of leisure. The people could then choose to spend their time on ‘jobs’ they actually enjoyed, and instead of thinking of work as a burden, the concepts of delight and work could merge into one. Combining leisure with learning in the Fun Palace introduced a completely unforeseen approach to living. The more relaxed approach to work advocated by Price could possibly lead to a rise in productivity since individuals would be more likely to accomplish a task they have chosen for themselves rather than a mundane occupation imposed by society’s norms. In one of his interviews with Hans Ulrich Obrist Price commented: “It wasn’t designed as a mecca or as a getaway from living in London. It ways a launch pad for realizing how marvelous life is”10 The designer’s philosophy behind the Fun Palace was not one of Escapism. The alternative experience would give the visitors hope and a good feeling about themselves and their families. The sense of delight would hopefully extend from the leisure time in the Palace to the incidents of everyday life, like a chain reaction. Realistically, however noble Price’s intentions were, they did not eliminate the danger of people perceiving a space like the Fun Palace as a getaway from responsibilities and chores. Such an interpretation could eventually create chaos instead of delight in a society where distribution of labor would rely completely on people’s moods and appetites. Further on, in the Fun Palace delight is not merely expressed as a product of leisure but also of uncertainty. Uncertainty was represented by the adaptable and flexible nature of the ‘antibuilding’, which allowed people to “develop new experiences for themselves”11 and through the multitude of choices offered to the users. In order to allow this flexibility, the ‘device’ had no designated function; anything could happen within. Technology, a topic I will address in the second section of the audit, played a major role in creating the sense of adaptability and randomness, which Price believed could induce delight. The elements of flexibility and adaptability were well illustrated through Price’s unconventional plans (Fig.6,7). Plans included “a high-level suspension grid, that would be the only fixed component of the structure, everything else was capable of

Fig.4 Helicopter view of the Fun Palace

Fig.5 The Fun Palace, drawing by Cedric Price

Fig.6 Preliminary sketch of the Fun Palace floor plan, showing areas of variable activity

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"Fun Palace as a Key to Society." Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice / University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe. 10 May 2013, <http://szenografie.hfg-karlsruhe.de/huo/archive.html>. 11 Mathews, Stanley. From Agit-prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price. p. 68. London: Black Dog Pub., 2007. Print.

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movement”12. The absence of doors and basic threshold conditions would allow the visitors to experience delight through the opportunity of unlimited choices of routes. A series of cranes would allow operators to change spatial arrangements according to the variable needs of visitors. The undefined structure of the palace was the mean, which would empower peoples’ rights of choice and self-direction. Despite the efforts of Price and his collaborators to realize his concepts of enhancing human life and human potential, the post-war society proved reluctant and unwilling towards radical change. The unlimited options of activities and spatial arrangements could possibly confuse rather than amuse its target audience. Instead of delight and joy, the uncertainty and openness of the Fun Palace could result to anxiety and fear. This would oppose Price’s and Littlewoods aspirations for a pleasant leisure and learning environment for the British. The mass production culture of the time, on the other hand, presented clear choices to the people and was therefore a safe and acceptable approach to living. This adherence to traditional ways of thinking and reluctance towards change was one of the reasons the Fun Palace was never completed. In addition, the name given to the project was another problematic area. Although Price and Littlewood did define their design as a space for constructive recreation, the world ‘fun’ was still linked with negative connotations of “idleness”13 and guilty pleasures. Nowadays, the exact same notions are more than accepted by society and architects still derive concepts and ideas from the design of the Fun Palace.

Fig.7 The Fun Palace floor plan, final version, showing moveable walkways and escalators

Due to the fact that the palace never got built, it is hard to evaluate its successfulness. The creation of emotions of joy and delight, which Cedric Price felt architecture should provide to the British society cannot really be evaluated or tested. The Fun Palace was designed as a social experiment and I thus believe that tangible results of this experiment would only be possible to attain if the structure was actually ‘concretized’ and inhabited by its target audience. Nevertheless, it can be argued that Price’s accomplishment is reflected in his clear influence on the visionary and socially provocative architecture that was produced alongside and after the closure of this project. As the American writer and futurologist A. Toffler had commented on Price’s architecture of the 1960’s, “whether or

Fig.8 The interior of the Fun Palace, drawing by Cedric Price,1965

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"Cedric Price & the Fun Palace." Citymovement., 24 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 May 2013. Mathews, Stanley. From Agit-prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price. London: Black Dog Pub., p.69, 2007. Print. 13

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not precisely these visions become reality, the fact is that society is moving in this direction”14.

Technology The cutting edge technology of the 1960’s inspired and supported the radical design of the Fun Palace. Without the advances of engineering and computer technology, Price would have never been capable of even conceiving his idea of the self-regulating and interactive “spatial shipyard”15. Contrary to the philosophy of mass production and uniformity that was shaping the socio-economic scene in Britain, the architect employed the advances of technology to device a system that would recognize individual user needs and literally reshape and adapt itself in order to address them.

Fig.9 Access diagram

Unlike other emerging visionary architects of the era, like Archigram and Superstudio (Fig.10), who manipulated technology with a certain naivety to create artful imagery for their proposals, Cedric Price employed science and technology to propose visionary but realistic schemes. He did not seem to care about the ‘image’ of his drawings but rather their substance. Unmoved by the Pop iconography that was so influential to young architects in the sixties, Price preferred to present his complex machine, the Fun Palace, in an “accurate and descriptive manner”16. He felt that was the best way to convey the structure and technology within his scheme and he never followed trends. Unlike Price, the Archigram group clearly influenced by ideas of flexibility, and adaptable plug-in elements created proposals, which were much less realistic in terms of substance but used technology as “aesthetic and symbolic imagery”17 targeting an audience responsive to colourful imagery and Pop culture (Fig.11). Price, being a firm supporter of new technologies, did not rest on his own knowledge but often consulted and collaborated with experts on different fields of technology and science to fully resolve his ambitious designs. He was the first architect to experiment with the emerging field of Cybernetics, which gave

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Mathews, Stanley. From Agit-prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price. Dog Pub., p.14, 2007. Print. 15 Spiller, Neil. Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination. p.49. New Hudson, 2007. Print. 16 Spiller, Neil. Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination. p.49. New Hudson, 2007. Print. 17 Mathews, Stanley. From Agit-prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price. Black Dog Pub., 2007. Print.

Fig.10 Design by Superstudio

Fig.11 Peter Cook (Archizoom) Maimum Pressure Area, Plug-In City, 1962-64, section

London: Black York: Thames & York: Thames & p. 242. London:

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birth to devices and systems that could create ‘conversation’ between the user and the machine through ‘feed-backing’ of information. The Cybernetic Theatre designed for the Fun Palace in collaboration with cybernetician Gordon Pask serves as an example of how the system could “self-regulate its actions”. Wires would link the seats into a feedback loop connected through computers to the performers18 and interaction would thus be achieved. Finally, the temporary nature of the project allowed for use of techniques and materials, which were not used in traditional design. The Fun Palace resorted to ‘environmental controls generating charged static vapor zones, optical barriers, warmair curtains and fog dispersal’19 in order to provide user control over the elements. Cedric Price managed to design the promise of a personalized ‘bubble’ where each individual could choose his/her own atmosphere. In that sense, use of technology in Price’s architecture was clearly a means of providing tailor made comfort to the user.

Fig.12 Cybernetic diagram of the Fun Palace program by Gordon Pask

The Architectural Profession Cedric Price had a very clear philosophy regarding the architect’s role and what architecture should strive to achieve. Before the 1960’s, architecture was exploited as “a way of imposing order or establishing a belief that everything will be okey if everyone behaves”20. Price wanted to redefine architecture as a principle that did not create law and order through fear and misery but through achieving a continuous dialogue. His approach to the profession revolved around issues of architecture for the people, the issue of time in architecture and the necessity of building. All the aforementioned topics were addressed in his design of the Fun Palace. Throughout his career Cedric Price had always tried to create architecture that was anticipatory of the needs of people. In his interview with Stanley Mathews he comments: “The Fun Palace wasn’t about technology. It was about the people.”21 User centered design was enabled through new technologies

Fig. 13 Isometric drawing of The Fun Palace by AA

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Spiller, Neil. Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination. p.49-50. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2007. Print. 19 Iles, Anthony. "Legislating for Enthusiasm: From Fun Palace to Creative Prison."Http://www.arcade-project.com/. Arts Council England, 2009. p.2, Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.arcadeproject.com/sacrifice/Legislating%20for%20Enthusiasm.pdf>. 20 "Fun Palace as a Key to Society." Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice / University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe. 10 May 2013, <http://szenografie.hfg-karlsruhe.de/huo/archive.html>. 21 Cedric Price, interview with Stanley Mathews, transcribed tape recording, London, April 13, 2000.

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such as Cybernetics which analyze trends in order to provide space and activities according to individual needs of visitors. In that sense, architecture became a conjoined collaboration of the designer and the user (co-designer). In contrast with most architects of his time and of the present, Price did not try to impose any specific type of living for his audience. He, in turn, tried to minimize the restrictions most buildings establish for their users thus empowering freedom of choice and improving quality of life. Price thought of architecture more as a sequence of events in time and less as defined objects. His adaptable and flexible (Fig.13) designs are the proof of his preoccupation with the issue of time. In the Fun Palace, movable units, walls and partitions allowed for a variety of uses over a predetermined life span. In addition, Price suggested that the scheme would be viable for just 10-20 years due to the rapidly changing needs of a technologically advanced society. After that period the building would be dismantled to allow room for something new and relevant to its socio-economic context. According to the architect “the ages of a building are five –use, re-use, misuse, dis-use and ref-use- and its removal should be seen as such an intellectual exercise demanding all types of social and mechanical skills, as is its construction”22.

Fig.14 Fun Palace notes and drawings on flexibility of form

Finally, Price questioned the necessity of building by stating “architecture is not always the solution to every problem”23. He was opposed to standard notions of solid architecture and was more interested in its “elusive, enticing and open-ended nature”24. The Fun Palace he proposed a framework that dispensed traditional notions of utility and stability. All of his views on the architectural profession seemed radical and controversial at that time and although most of his projects did

Fig. 15 Centre Pompidou by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano

not get built they did serve as a starting point of architectural dialogue. The Fun Palace particularly, was one of the most influential projects of the 1960’s that clearly acted as a stimulus for a number of architects such as Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano (Fig.14) and the Archigram group.

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“Cedric Price Talks at the AA”, AA Files No. 19 (Spring 1990), p. 34 Stanley Mathews (2006): The Fun Palace as Virtual Architecture, Journal of Architectural Education, 59:3, p.42. 24 Melvin, Jeremy. "Cedric Price." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Aug. 2003. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/aug/15/urbandesign.artsobituaries>. 23

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Conclusion Cedric Priceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s contribution to the architectural profession was of great significance. It raised issues of relevance of building and the importance of considering social, political and economic aspects to address specific needs as a means of enhance peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quality of life. Although most of his work was not realized or tested, his analytical, user-centered approach to design and his visionary thinking ignited conversation, which seems relevant to this day. In a sense, the Fun Palace acted

Fig.16 Drawing of the Fun Palace

as a toolbox for producing the future of architecture.

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Bibliography Part of the bibliography is used in the audit to help me support my arguments while the rest served as background reading.

Lectures of The University of Sheffield Meagher, Mark. "Technology and Art." Technology and Art. United Kingdom, Sheffield. 1 Mar. 2013. Lecture. Parvin, Alastair. "Architecture and Delight." United Kingdom, Sheffield. 12 Apr. 2013. Lecture. Schneider, Tatjana. "The Futures of the Profession." United Kingdom, Sheffield. 26 Apr. 2013. Lecture.

Print “Cedric Price Talks at the AA”, AA Files No. 19, Spring 1990 Crompton, Dennis. A Guide to Archigram 1961-74., New York: Princeton Architectural, 2012. Print. Joan Littlewood, ‘Non-Program: A Laboratory of Fun’, Promotional Leaflet for the Fun Palace published in The Drama Review: tdr, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.127-134, Spring 1968. Mathews, Stanley. From Agit-prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price., London: Black Dog Pub. ,2007. Print. “Obituary: Cedric Price 1934-2003”, Architectural Research Quarterly vol. 7 is. 2, June 2003, p 113-118. Price, Cedric, “The Fun Palace” Cedric Price, Architectural Association works 2, Architectural Association, London, 1984. p. 60. Spiller, Neil. Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2007. Print. Stanley Mathews (2006): “The Fun Palace as Virtual Architecture”, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol.59, Is.3. “The Fun Palace, Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood”, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 12, No. 3,p,127-134 Architecture/Environment, Spring, 1968

Online "Cedric Price Archive." CCA RSS. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.cca.qc.ca/en/collection/540-cedric-price-archive>. "Cedric Price Architect (1934-2003)." Web. 10 May 2013. <http://designmuseum.org/design/cedric-price>. “Cedric Price, interview with Stanley Mathews”, transcribed tape recording, London, April 13, 2000. "Cedric Price and the Fun Palace." Citymovement., 24 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 May 2013. "leisure." Definition of in Oxford Dictionaries (British & World English). Web. 12 May 2013. <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/leisure>. "Fun Palace as a Key to Society." Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice / University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe. 10 May 201., <http://szenografie.hfg-karlsruhe.de/huo/archive.html>.

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Iles, Anthony. "Legislating for Enthusiasm: From Fun Palace to Creative Prison."Http://www.arcade-project.com/. Arts Council England, 2009. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.arcade-project.com/sacrifice/Legislating%20for%20Enthusiasm.pdf>. Melvin, Jeremy. "Cedric Price." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Aug. 2003. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/aug/15/urbandesign.artsobituaries>. Obrist, Hans Ulrich. "Hans Ulrich Obrist: Fun Palace by Cedric Price." Speech. Critic's Choice: London's Most Important Building. Geological Society, London. 9 May 2013. RSS. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/events/talks/hans-ulrich-obrist-fun-palace-by-cedric-price,1106,EV.html>. Shubert, Howard. "Cedric Priceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fun Palace as Public Space." Society of Architecture Historians., 30 Mar. 2005. Web. 9 May 2013. <http://howardshubert.com/Architecture_Curator/Cedric_Price_files/Cedric%20Price%20Fun%20Palace%20as %20Public%20Space.pdf>.

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Illustrations Cover page “The Fun Palace, Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood”, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 12, No. 3,p,127 Architecture/Environment, Spring, 1968 Fig.1 “Cedric Price Archives”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal Fig.2 <http://www.archaid.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/fun-palace-2.jpg> Fig. 3 “The Fun Palace, Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood”, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 12, No. 3, p.128 Architecture/Environment, Spring, 1968 Fig. 4 “The Fun Palace, Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood”, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 12, No. 3, p.134, Architecture/Environment, Spring, 1968 Fig.5 "Cedric Price Architect (1934-2003)." Web. 10 May 2013. <http://designmuseum.org/design/cedric-price>. Fig. 6 “Cedric Price Archives”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal Fig. 7 “Cedric Price Archives”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal Fig. 8 “Cedric Price Archives”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal Fig. 9 “The Fun Palace, Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood”, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 12, No. 3, p.132 Architecture/Environment, Spring, 1968 Fig. 10 http://www.aadip9.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?blog_id=59&tag=Plug-in%20City&limit=20 Fig. Digital image. Artistsspace. Web. 13 May 2013. <http://artistsspace.org/exhibitions/superstudio-life-withoutobjects/>. Fig.11 Peter Cook (Archizoom) Maimum Pressure Area, Plug-In City, 1962-64, Section. Digital image. Relationalthought. Web. 13 May 2013. <http://relationalthought.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/1100/>. Fig.12 “Cedric Price Archives”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal Fig.13 AD magazine 2006 vol. 76 is.1 p. 90 Fig.14 “Cedric Price Archives”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal Fig.15 “Centre Pompidou drawing”, <http://architecture.about.com/od/greatbuildings/ig/Richard-Rogers-Partnership-/Centre-Pompidou-Drawing.htm> Fig.16 “Cedric Price Archives”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal

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Profile for Evgenia Vlachaki

The Fun Palace of Cedric Price  

The following audit will examine the Fun Palace (1961) designed by Cedric Price discussing it through the themes of Architecture and Delight...

The Fun Palace of Cedric Price  

The following audit will examine the Fun Palace (1961) designed by Cedric Price discussing it through the themes of Architecture and Delight...

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