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Circling the Square
Francis Ware / RIBA Collections

Mies van der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square

​Comparing the design methods of two of the most highly recognised architects of the 20th century this exhibition offers a renewed examination of their iconic architectural schemes proposed for the same site in the city of London. Exhibition extended until Sunday 20 August.

The Guardian ****
'The battle of styles, the capricious cycle of heritage preservation, the sluggish pace of building that makes it impossible for architecture to keep up with its own trends – all are vividly shown [in this] exhibition at RIBA.’

‘The RIBA does well to stay above the fray and let its fascinating exhibits tell the story’

The Upcoming ****
‘Whether a fan of postmodernist style or not, this show offers an unmissable opportunity to explore the minds of some of the most iconic architects of the past century, giving a glimpse into the machinations behind genius. Go for the models, stay for the history lesson.’

In 2017 we explore Mies van der Rohe's unrealised Mansion House Square project, alongside its built successor James Stirling Michael Wilford & Associates' Number One Poultry. The exhibition sees the projects presented together for the first time, offering a unique opportunity to trace the continuity in purpose and approach that unites two seemingly dissimilar architectural creations.

Commissioned by architectural patron and developer Lord Peter Palumbo, Mies van der Rohe designed his proposal for Mansion House Square at the very end of his career, between 1962 and his death in 1969. The classic Miesian glass tower of 19 storeys, accompanying public square and underground shopping centre would have been Mies's first and only project in the UK. After a protracted planning process, the scheme was finally rejected in 1985.

Lord Palumbo then approached James Stirling, to conceive an alternative vision for the site. James Stirling, Michael Wilford & Associates' Number One Poultry was completed in 1997, five years after Stirling’s untimely death. It is often cited as a masterpiece of the post-international style and has recently been awarded Grade II* listed status; while it still divides opinion, the building was designed with an acute understanding of both its historic surroundings and Mies's earlier design.

The exhibition will features newly restored models and materials about the Mies' scheme on loan to the RIBA by Lord Palumbo, along with significant items from the Number One Poultry archive that provide an intimate insight into the workings of the Stirling office, from initial sketch ideas to Stirling's famous 'worm-eye' axonometric views.

Exhibition opening hours
Monday - Sunday 10am-5pm and every Tuesday 10am-8pm