Nigel Coates

‘I go for architecture that overlays and enhances. By blending observation and wit with reason, I want my work to generate a sense of the unexpected, and the seemingly spontaneous.’

Born in 1949, and trained at University of Nottingham and the Architectural Association. Coates is one of Britain’s consistently original thinkers in architecture, interior and product design having led a parallel career in teaching, design practice and artistically driven, internationally recognised work. His subversive spirit first came to public attention in 1984 with the publication of NATO (Narrative Architecture Today) magazine. A manifesto for a socio-culturally engaged and popular, narrative driven architecture, it advised readers to be the architects of their own lives, and in doing so, to radically adapt the buildings around them. Certain themes, in particular the notion of narrative, have continued in Coates’ designs and research ever since. Narrative, he asserts, can overlay the real or original function of design with associative triggers. The hybrid conditions of his designs typically result in the sensation of being in two situations simultaneously, as if each narrates the other.

He has continued to explore the communicative and experiential potential of architecture as a language drawn from the commonplace. He believes that the city is best understood if explored as a living organism, and that popular experience and culture are central to the experience of architecture. His work plays on psycho-geographic association between the built environment and desire. Time and motion, he says, is the dynamic partner to the fixed, physical world.

Art and literary strategies, including the curation of others, find their way into many of his projects. Coates has designed and built interiors, exhibitions and buildings around the world. His buildings in Japan include the Wall, Noa’s Ark and the Art Silo, and in Britain, the National Centre for Popular Music, Powerhouse::uk and the Geffrye Museum.

Throughout his career as a practitioner, he has pursued experimental work that has been shown in an art and design context, including such exhibits as ArkAlbion shown at the Architectural Association in 1984, Ecstacity at the same venue, and Mixtacity at Tate Modern in 2007.

He is also a prolific designer of lighting and furniture, with links to Alessi, AVMazzega, Ceramica Bardelli, Frag, Fratelli Boffi, Poltronova, Slamp and Varaschin. Examples of his work are held in museum collections around the world including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Cooper Hewitt and FRAC. He has been Professor of Architecture at the Royal College of Art since 1995.

Biography taken from

Portrait of Nigel Coates
Picture By:  Steve Double / Retna Pictures

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