Riba Stirling Prize shortlist 2012

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JAMES STIRLING

James Stirling. Born in Glasgow in 1924, James Frazer Stirling grew up in Liverpool. From 1946 to 1950 he studied architecture at the Liverpool School of Architecture, where Colin Rowe was among his teachers. After attaining his degree he took a position at the School of Town Planning and Regional Research in London.

From 1953 to 1956 he was on the staff of the influential firm of Lyons, Israel and Ellis. In 1955 he began teaching at the Architectural Association. From 1966 onwards he also taught at the Yale School of Architecture as Davenport Visiting Professor of Design. Later he was appointed to teach the architecture class at the Düsseldorf Academy. He received various distinctions in the course of his career, including the Aalvar Aalto Medal (1978), the Golden Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1980) and the Pritzker Prize (1981). Shortly before his death in 1992 James Stirling was knighted by the Queen.

James Stirling worked with a number of partners, among them James Gowan from 1956 to 1963, and from 1971 onwards Michael Wilford, who carried on the firm James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates after Stirling’s death. A number of his projects such as the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart and the Haus der Geschichte Baden-Württemberg could only be realized posthumously.

Throughout his life, the interpretations and assessments of Stirling’s works varied greatly, and architectural critics assigned them to a range of different styles and currents. Terms such as Brutalism and Post-Modern – which Stirling had rejected for his work – were repeatedly proposed as a means of categorizing his various work phases. Actually, however, the new survey of his oeuvre clearly reveals that James Stirling’s architecture defies unequivocal classification and constantly oscillates between the poles of “abstraction” and “representation” which, according to Stirling himself, can also be defined as the “monumental informel” in his oeuvre.

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