Nigel Coates graduated from Bernard Tschumi's unit at the Architectural Association in 1974, before joining him in 1977 to develop a new unit together. These were formative years for Coates, a period that shaped his architectural preoccupations for the following decades – yet they remain relatively unexplored. Between 1974 and 1977, Coates produced a number of installation and performance works with the artist Antonio Lagarto and fellow AA graduate Jenny Lowe, influenced by Tschumi's own explorations with the curator RoseLee Goldberg, and their exhibition at the Royal College of Art, A Space: A Thousand Words (1975). The works considered the potential for space to be amplified by the introduction of markers, representations of other spaces and the movement of the body. This article exposes these works for the first time, tracing the changes in Coates's thinking during this period and how it was reflected in the Unit 10 briefs that he and Tschumi developed in the period 1977–80. It chronicles Coates's pivotal trips to New York during 1980–81 to teach at Bennington College, where his exposure to a dynamic club-scene and influential new art would mark a step change in the young architect's trajectory. Charting Coates's development through his own work and his teaching at the AA, the article constructs the background from which the radical architectural group NATØ emerged in 1983.
- Nigel Coates