Adrift after school, he joined the British Army and served two years in Trieste, during which he spent time with a cousin, Ernesto Rogers, a celebrated architect and urbanist, and worked in his Milan office. Ernesto’s work — the civic promise of modernism and his own warm version of it — inspired Richard to join the profession. After a year of art school, he enrolled at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, at the time the only such school in Britain.
In his third year, he met Su Brumwell, a sociology student whose father was a founder of the Design Research Unit, a British design consultancy; they married in 1960. The couple spent their honeymoon on a kibbutz in Israel, then moved to New Haven, Conn., to attend Yale — Mr. Rogers on a Fulbright scholarship to study architecture and Ms. Rogers to study city planning. There they met Norman Foster, a fellow student, with whom they became fast friends and, later, collaborators.
A road trip to Southern California after graduation introduced Su and Richard to the bright Mondrian colors of the Case Study houses, prototypes for economical housing designed by Modernist architects like Richard Neutra and Charles and Ray Eames. When they returned to Britain, Mr. Rogers formed an architectural practice with Mr. Foster and two architect sisters, Wendy and Georgie Cheeseman. They built houses for all their parents, inspired by those the couple had seen in Los Angeles.
These houses in turn inspired the work that followed, igniting in Mr. Rogers an enthusiasm for the efficiencies of technology, modular construction and a commitment to the more humane side of architecture.
The members of the practice soon went their separate ways. Through an introduction by his doctor, Mr. Rogers met Mr. Piano, and with Ms. Rogers and others, they established a firm just before the Paris competition. Decades later, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Foster and Mr. Piano would be among the most successful and well-known modernist architects in the world — Les Starchitects, as the French called them.