James Stirling : architect biography

famous architect : James Stirling

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James Stirling architect
James Stirling architect
James Stirling architect

James Stirling

James Stirling architect The British architect, James Stirling, was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1926. He received his architectural degree from the University of Liverpool School of Architecture in 1950. James Stirling undertook postgraduate study at the School of Town Planning and Regional Research, London, 1950-1952. Early experience was obtained in the firm of Lyons, Israel and Ellis, where James Stirling was Senior Assistant (1950-1956). In 1956, James Stirling entered into a partnership with James Gowan based on a commission for development of private flats at Ham Common, on the outskirts of London. The design of this project was based on James Stirling's close study of Le Corbusier's Jaoul houses in Paris (1954-1956). The firm of James Stirling and James Gowan lasted until 1963. after which James Stirling practiced alone (1964-1970). In 1971, James Stirling formed a partnership with Michael Wilford. The firm is currently James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates.

Although not free of controversy. James Stirling's work has brought him many awards, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1980) and the Pritzker Prize (1981). James Stirling has written extensively and his work has been widely published. This attention has contributed to James Stirling's receiving commissions for a large series of important projects outside of the United Kingdom. A number of James Stirling's projects for unbuilt buildings have also been published, partly because of the high quality of James Stirling's presentation drawings. James Stirling has taught throughout his career, both in the UK (Architectural Association. London. Regent Street Polytechnic, London. Cambridge University School of Architecture) and abroad. James Stirling is the Charles Davenport Visiting Professor at Yale University School of Architecture from 1967, and Guest professor at the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie since 1977.

James Stirling's fame is based on the long series of important post-modern buildings. The early buildings were "hightech" and later buildings, particularly additions to older buildings, have shown an interest in reinterpreting the past in a decidedly original manner. The ambiguity inherent in these historic references is a feature of James Stirling's recent work. A brief description of the more famous buildings follows.

This project was done with James Gowan. The building has large areas of glazing contrasted with heavy masonry forms. The auditoriums are cantilevered structures of great power. Although of all of the materials look made of stock parts, the aesthetic power is stirking. The balance of parts creates a memorable image. The buildings cannot be understood from any one viewpoint, and can by best understood on the basis of an isometric drawing. The Engineering Building was a strong contrast to earlier British post World War II work, and was the origin of James Stirling's international reputation.

Selected on the basis of a competition, James Stirling's most controversial work consists of a great double-glazed sloping roof over the reading room contrasted with the multistoried structure containing enclosed spaces, which in turn are stepped to accommodate larger spaces on the lower floors. The stair tower is articulated as a separate element. The powerful image caused an ambivalent response from critics and the public. The building design was violently attacked in the British press, although defended by the history faculty. In 1985 consideration was given as to whether the building should be destroyed. The building has suffered from lack of maintenance and deterioration, but has since been repaired.

This project pioneered in the use of glass-reinforced polyester panels. The building is in two wings with a much-photographed glass corridor connecting it to the Edwardian country house, which was converted for use as residential space for Olivetti employees. The divisible lecture hall inserted into the plan is used by James Stirling to good dramatic effect at the juncture of the glazed link and the lecture rooms. All James Stirling's work shows this interest in spatial complexity. A long period of little building followed this project, until the firm won the competition for the Stuttgart project in 1977.

This building was an addition to the existing Staatsgalerie. It consisted of a new gallery extension, chamber theater and music school. A feature of the site was a pedestrian walk diagonally across the property to be incorporated in the plan without jeopardizing building security. The design was not well-received in the German press. It was disturbing because it was not a classically modernist design. As it developed, it was recognized that James Stirling had brought off a project which reinterpreted the past in a brilliant new way. It has become a great public success. The complexity of the project, and its references to existing buildings both old and new reward close study. For instance, not far away from the site is the Weissenhofsiedlung, with buildings by Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and J. J. P. Oud. A hint of this may be found in one elevation of the building, at the rear of the chamber theater. The more obvious source is the reinterpretation of the classical museum such as Shinkel's Altes Museum in Berlin (1824), but in the Stuttgart building, the central domed rotunda is replaced with the open air circular court, a true public space.

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This project is known as the Clore Gallery in honor of the Clore Foundation that funded the construction 136 years after the Turner bequest (Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775-1851), and represents the first phase of a planned expansion of the Tate Gallery. This is James Stirling's first important project in London. In addition to the Clore Gallery, the firm has prepared a master plan for future enlargement of the Tate Gallery. The main Clore galleries are top-lit by filtered sunlight supplemented with electric lighting. The reserve galleries are possibly less successful, with the paintings stacked on red walls in the manner of Turner's own studio. From the exterior, the heightened colors and relation to the landscaped areas is a striking but effective contrast with the older 1897 Portland stone Tate buildings.

An addition to the Fogg Museum, the L-shaped site is directly across the street from the original building. The master plan includes a gallery bridge connector which has not been built. The dramatic feature of the building is the stairway rising through the building, lit from a continuous overhead skylight. The exterior striped facade of the building is largely closed, in response to the adjoining heavily trafficked streets. The program includes galleries and offices.
This has been another controversial building The exterior, with its horizontally striped walls and irregularly spaced windows does not reflect the major interior experience the stairwell rising in a continuous, skylighted run through several stories. Without the bridge connection, which requires community acceptance, the project seems incomplete. The building is not appealing in the ordinary sense, including the monumental entrance with its curious primitive stone form. The collections housed here are oriental, ancient and Islamic art, which may have been the inspiration for the entrance. The galleries greatly increase the exhibition space of the Fogg, adding some 11,000 square feet.
Of equal interest are the designs for projects which have not been built such as the addition to the National Gallery. London. (1985) and the Thyssen Museum at Lugano in Switzerland (1986). James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates have won the competition for the Thyssen Museum addition to the existing villa and gallery.
James Stirling's work is powerful although criticized. The interest in James Stirling's recent work relates to James Stirling's ability to reinterpret the past in new evocative ways-a kind of collage of references. Much of James Stirling's recent work has been outside of the UK. James Stirling sees himself as living in a transitional period of design, more interesting than more settled times.

Major works:

Engineering building, Leicester University (1959)
Training center for Olivetti in Haslemere
History Faculty, Cambridge University (1968)
Expansion of Rice University in Texas
Several low cost housing projects and residences
Andrew Melville Hall (Residence) for the University of St Andrews (1968)
Performing Arts Center for Cornell University
Clore Gallery expansion, Tate Gallery, London
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University
Addition to Harvard's Fogg Art Museum
Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart (1977-1983)
Science Library, University of California, Irvine (1995) (with Michael Wilford)
No 1 Poultry, City of London (1998)


1. D. Sudjic, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, James Stirling, New Direction in British Architecture, Thames and Hudson, New York, 1987, pp. 69-70.

General References

1. P. Arnell and T Bickford, eds. James Stirling: Buildings and Projects 1950-1980, with an essay by Colin Rowe, Rizolli, New York, 1984.
2. R. Banham, "Leicester University Department of Engineering", Architectural Forum 121(2), 118-125 (Aug./Sept. 1964).
3. The Clore Gallery, The Tate Gallery, London", Architectural Record 175(8), 104-113 (July 1987).
4. M Filler, "Neue Staatsgalerie", Progressive Architecture 65(10), 67-85 (Oct. 1984).
5. D. Greenway, "Neue Staatsgalerie", Architecture 74(9), 94-101 (Sept. 1985).
6. C. Jencks, "Olivetti Training Centre, Haslemere", Architecture Plus 2(2), 96-103 (Mar./Apr. 1974).
7. C. Jencks, "St Andrews' University in Scotland. James Stirling", Architectural Forum 133(2), 50-57 (Sept. 1970).
8. K.Kikutake, ed., James Stirling, Leicester University Engineering Department, Leicester, Great Britain, 1959-1963, Cambridge University History Faculty, Cambridge, Great Britain, 1964-1968, A.D.A. Edita Tokyo, Global Architecture No. 9, 1971.
9. "Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart," Anhitcctural Record 172(10), 140-149 (Sept. 1984).
10. "Sackler Museum at Harvard," Architectural Record 174(3), 112-123 (March 1986).
11. James Stirling, Architectural Design Profile, Academy Editions, London, and St. Martin's Press, New York, 1982.

other books about James Stirling

Recent Work for James Stirling Michael Wilford & Associates (Architecture & Urbanism Extra Edition Series)
James Stirling: Buildings and Projects
James Stirling and Michael Wilford (Architectural Monographs No. 32)
James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates (Architectural Design Profile)
Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, James Stirling: New directions in British architecture
The Pritzker Architecture Prize 1981, Presented to James Stirling
Neo-classicism: Schinkel, Johnson, Stirling (AD profile) (AD profile)
James Stirling: A selected bibliography (Architecture series--bibliography)
Inside James Stirling (Issues in architecture)
James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates, La Nuova Galleria DI Stato a Stoccarda (Quaderni Di Casabella)
James Stirling Michael Wilford and Assoc
The architecture of inconsistency in the work of James Frazer Stirling: A selected bibliography (Architecture series : Bibliography) (Architecture series : Bibliography)
James Stirling (Legends of World Architecture)
James Stirling (Architectural design profile) (Architectural design profile)

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