Architect Nigel Coates: ‘I like spaces that made you wonder. I was trying to softly seduce people’

His singular works, once considered unbuildable, now seem boldly intelligent. The architect says his struggles as a gay man armed him with a courage to break all the rules “At a certain point,” says the architect and designer Nigel Coates, “you have to ask yourself what makes a city worth living in.” It’s a question he’s been pursuing for half a century and more, with designs ranging in scale from stools and vases to sweeping visions for vast swaths of London, with bars and restaurants fertilised by Japan’s 1980s bubble economy somewhere in between. Also, constructional expressions of the Cool Britannia moment of the early Blair years, all realised in a riotous, polyglot, louche, fluid style, which, as he puts it, “is not how you’re supposed to do architecture”. Now he has written a book, titled simply Nigel Coates, published by the Royal Institute of British Architects in a series called Lives in Architecture. It’s a somewhat institutional frame for a publication that is anything but, combining, as it does, projects and products with the loves, friendships and struggles of a gay man who reached adulthood just as homosexuality ceased to be a crime in Britain. He credits his singular approach to architecture to the experience of “having to try extra hard to accept who I was. It was a fight from the start, which arms you with a certain courage.” Continue reading...

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