This exhibition provides an opportunity to explore the unexpected everyday life in an architectural office, Stirling Wilford and Associates, through selected documentation from the archives of the firm.
Before Dublin, this exhibition was shown in Liverpool (Victoria Gallery and Museum), Rome (Pantheon) and Milan (Architects’ Board). It will run in the first floor rooms of the Irish Architectural Archive from 1 June to 25 August 2023, and is presented in collaboration with Drawing Matter, the 20th Century Society, the British School at Rome and Sheppard Robson.
While acknowledging his close links to certain educational and working companions, James Stirling’s architectural trajectory has always been considered that of the individual genius. Without diminishing Stirling’s importance and inspirational role, this exhibition shows the practice to have been more varied and collaborative than might have been imagined.
After the so-called ‘red trilogy’ (the University of Leicester Engineering Building with James Gowan, the History Faculty and Library at Cambridge, and the Florey Building at Queen’s College, Oxford), the high-tech experiments, and the German museums, the projects featured here are a clear expression of a ‘monumentally informal’ process of production, to use Stirling’s own words. Fluctuating between doodles and technical drawings, the documentation, reveals the collaborative nature of architecture and the relentless progress from idea to completion. These drawings were created against the backdrop of the advent of the computer as an architectural tool, a development which changed forever a particular way of producing architecture.
In addition to material from the Stirling Wilford and Associates archives, the exhibition includes items from the personal archives of Mark Girouard, author of a 1998 biography of Stirling, and of Richard Bryant, who photographed most of the work of the firm from the completion of the New State Gallery in Stuttgart (1984), one of the masterpieces of the office. Excerpts from Michael Blackwood’s Stirling (1986) and a documentary by Annalisa Sonzogni (Doodles, 2021) complete the exhibition.
James Stirling (1924–1992) was born in Glasgow but raised in Liverpool and studied architecture at the University of Liverpool between 1945 – 1950. In 1950 he moved to London, attending the Association for Planning and Regional Reconstruction without graduating. From 1952 to 1956 he was a member of the Independent Group; in 1953 he worked for the architectural firm Lyons, Israel and Ellis, where he met James Gowan. In 1956, with Gowan, he established an architecture office which dissolved in 1963. He later set up his own firm, joined as partner by Michael Wilford in 1971. In 1980 the practice became James Stirling Michael Wilford and Associates. In 1992 Stirling was awarded a knighthood and the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize for Architecture is named after him.
Michael Wilford (1938–2023) was born in Surbiton, England. He studied at the Kingston Technical School (London) from 1950 to 1955 and at the School of Architecture of the Polytechnic of North London from 1955 to 1963. He joined Stirling and Gowan as a senior assistant in 1960 and in 1971 he became a partner. In 2001 Wilford was granted the award of Commander of the British Empire.
Associates: Russell Bevington (b. 1943) graduated at the Royal College of Art in 1974 and joined the office in 1975; Laurence Bain (b. 1955) graduated at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in 1981 and joined the office in 1985.
The exhibition is curated by Dr Marco Iuliano, University of Liverpool School of Architecture. Projects in the exhibition include the schemes for Tate in the North (Liverpool), Number One Poultry and Carlton Gardens (London), Palazzo Citterio (Milan), Music School and Theatre Academy (Stuttgart), Temasek Polytechnic (Singapore), The Lowry (Salford), and the competition for the Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh).