After all the attention that greeted the recent ‘Notes from the Archive’ retrospective exhibition on James Stirling you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing left to say or even for wondering why so much had been said in the first place. But faced with students whose arrival into this world only came after Stirling’s departure, we felt compelled to revisit once again this wonderfully rich and idiosyncratic of architects.
We started in the 1960s and re-surveyed the famous Red Brick Trilogy, reinventing these three defining buildings through a laser-cutter and white card, creating our own Stirling archive in Bedford Square. But while Cambridge, Oxford and Leicester served as the first prompt for our investigations, it was Stirling’s later work – in particular the almost entirely forgotten ‘City of Industry’ in Melsungen, Germany for the pharmaceutical company BBraun – that offered the site for all the student proposals. And while it would seem to be loved and adored by its surrounding Hessians, most of us found it clinical – that’s the architecture as well as the company.
If not the buildings themselves, what did appeal, though, was the way Stirling presented them – we came at Stirling through our fascination for all of his animal views (both bird’s and worm’s), and counter to his monograph covers that go from object to surface, we went from patterned surface to castings and volume.
In a sense you could say that the results have stuck to Stirling’s view of architecture as a play of forms, but at the same time all of the student designs have attempted to deal with the notion, as articulated by one of our guests and a former member of Stirling’s office, that despite certain charms ‘Jim was useless, arriving late and hungover, and that his main method of working was to crib ideas from his best students’.
Special thanks to
Robert Maxwell, Leon Krier, Michael Wilford, Anthony Vidler, Mark Crinson, Brian Hatton, Alan Berman, Joseph Bedford and Toni Cumella
Monia De Marchi
Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido