Exhibits pay homage to architect James Stirling

The career and legacy of internationally renowned architect and former Yale faculty member James Stirling (1924-1992), who is regarded as one of the most important and innovative architects of the 20th century, will be highlighted in concurrent exhibitions opening this month on campus — one at the Yale Center for British Art and the other at the School of Architecture.

‘Notes from the Archive’

More than 300 original architectural drawings, models and photographs that reveal Stirling’s wide-ranging approach to architectural composition and language, as well as the importance of historical and modernist architecture to his work, are featured in “Notes from the Archive: James Frazer Stirling, Architect and Teacher,” which opens on Thursday, Oct. 14, at the Yale Center for British Art. It will run through Jan. 2, 2011.


The exhibition marks the first time that Stirling’s archive will be shown internationally. It is co-produced by the Yale Center for British Art and the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, and is curated by Anthony Vidler, dean and professor of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union.

“This exhibition offers the potential for the re-evaluation of Stirling’s career as an architect, revising the often contradictory assessments of his work from the 1960s on, through the evidence of the notebooks, sketches, presentation drawings, photographs and original models from the office,” says Vidler.

The British-born Stirling, a Pritzker Prize laureate, earned international acclaim through projects such as the Leicester University Engineering building (1959-1963), the History Faculty building at Cambridge University (1964-1967), the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart (1977-1984), the Clore Gallery for the Turner Collection at Tate Britain (1984), and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University (1979-1984). His work often has been interpreted by historians and critics in conflicting ways: some believe it represented eclectic modern styles, while others think the architect was a steadfast Modernist. Still others propose that he made a break with Modernism in the mid-1960s.

Stirling taught at the Yale School of Architecture in 1959 and was the William B. and Charlotte Shepherd Davenport Visiting Professor of Design at the Yale School of Art from 1966 to 1984.

The exhibition, Vidler says, “brings together the heterogeneous materials from the work of the office in such a way as to present the viewer with an inside look at the process of design, the working methods of an architect and a firm whose struggles to define an authentic approach to contemporary architecture in the wake of the heroic figures of the Modern Movement are marked in every sketch.”

Among other topics, “Notes from the Archive” will consider Stirling’s student work at the Liverpool School of Architecture; his invention of new typologies for university buildings in Britain; his development of urban assemblages in his series of museum projects in Germany, leading to the construction of the new Staatsgalerie in Munich (considered his masterpiece); and the design development of selected projects in England, Germany, the United States and France, including the competition for the Bibliothèque de France in Paris. A final section of the exhibition will use audio recordings and lecture notes — written on the back of design studio assignments and jotted on postcards, index cards and hotel stationery — to give a glimpse of Stirling’s theories and methods.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated publication written by Vilder titled “James Frazer Stirling: Notes from the Archive.” It follows the themes of the exhibition and is available in the center’s museum shop.

Following its showing at Yale, “Notes from the Archive” will travel to Tate Britain, Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

The Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St., is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. It is also open until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays from Oct. 13 through Nov. 10. It will remain open until 8 p.m. on Nov. 12, Dec. 2 and 8. For more information, visit http://ycba.yale.edu.

‘An Architect’s Legacy’

The School of Architecture’s exhibition, “An Architect’s Legacy: James Stirling’s Students at Yale, 1959-1983,” offers a glimpse of the architect through the prism of his former students’ work. It opens on Wednesday, Oct. 13, and runs through Feb. 11, 2011.

The exhibition features hundreds of architectural drawings by 70 Yale School of Art alumni who studied with Stirling when he taught at Yale in 1959 and from 1966 to 1984 as the Davenport Visiting Professor of Design. The exhibition is organized into five themes: “Articulated Functionalism,” “The New City,” “Urban Insertions,” “Architectural Places” and “Fragmented Monumentality.”

Among the students whose work is on display are Robert Finkle ‘60, Der Scutt ‘61, Craig Hodgetts ‘67, Steve Heiken ‘71, George Turnbull ‘74, Louise Braverman ‘77, Philip Babb ‘78, Mac Ball ‘78, Reese Owens ‘80, Robert Kahn ‘80, Brian Healy ‘81, Frank Lupo ‘82, Tim Lenahan ‘84 and Marion Weiss ‘84. The students’ studio projects include a commercial hotel for New Haven (1959), the Forth Worth Museum (1960), the Mellon Centre for the Arts (1972, and later realized as the Louis Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art); and many projects that Stirling was engaged in through his London-based professional office. These include the North Rhine-Westphalia Museum in Dusseldorf, the Tuscany Government Center in Florence, the Clore Gallery at Tate Britain and the Performing Arts Center at Cornell University. A video accompanying the show will constitute an oral history of Stirling’s teaching at Yale.

School of Architecture faculty members Emmanuel Petit and Dean Sakamoto are curator and designer/organizer, respectively, of “An Architect’s Legacy.” The exhibition is on view in the gallery of Paul Rudolph Hall, 180 York St. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

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