1980s

1980 - James Stirling 1926-1992

Staatsgalerie extension, Stuttgart

Designer: James Stirling Michael Wilford & Associates
Copyright: Alastair Hunter/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1983)

Sir James Stirling is one of those architects whose influence and importance is far greater than the built work. Often a ‘prophet without honour in his own country’, he did not live long enough to achieve the public recognition and success his peers achieved after his untimely death. As a result some of his best work was done abroad, particularly in Germany. His career falls into two distinct phases and there were clear signs in his posthumously completed buildings and in the never-to-built designs, that he was beginning to move into a third and much more interesting phase in the early 1990s.

 

Working in partnership with James Gowan he produced in the Leicester Engineering Building, one of the seminal buildings of the century. With its complex geometries and revolutionary use of materials the building pre-figured some very 21st century approaches. The red-brick experiments, as he termed them, continued with the History Faculty Building for the University of Cambridge and the Florey Building for Oxford University. He then, quite deliberately, changed tack and began to explore pre-fabrication with the Olivetti Training School and the housing at Runcorn New Town.

 

In the late 70s and 80s he led, though he never took entirely seriously, the Post Modern movement with the Staatsgallerie Stuttgart, the Clore Gallery, London and No. 1 Poultry, London.

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Designer: James Stirling Michael Wilford & Associates
Copyright: Janet Hall/RIBA Library Photographs Collection (2000)

Won the Royal Gold Medal 'in recognition of past achievements which exist in their own right, as well as the potential of unbuilt projects, both past and future, which are an inseperable part of the Stirling vocabulary'.

 

Although this second distinct trio of projects made him world famous, it was the Braun building in Melsungen, Germany and the many unrealized competition entries that pointed the way forward to what would have undoubtedly have been superstardom in the 21st century.