Main room, James Stirling exhibition

Main room, James Stirling exhibition

Models, James Stirling exhibition

Models, James Stirling exhibition

Tate Britain
Tate Britain’s current exhibition on James Stirling has renewed debate about his work and life, including: the retelling of his sometimes outrageous behaviour by the Guardian’s Rowan Moore; recollections by friends and colleagues in Architecture Today; and a reappraisal by Hugh Pearman of Stirling’s social housing scheme in Southgate, Runcorn.

But whatever this man’s faults, he and his often forgotten partners (James Gowan and Michael Wilford) produced some beautiful axonometric drawings. Three rooms have been given to selected items from the Canadian Centre for Architecture, with the floor space of two rooms given over entirely to large models of Stirling’s completed and unbuilt works. All of this is brought together in the very building he designed, the Clore Gallery extension which was opened in 1987. James Stirling: Notes from the Archive is at Tate Britain until 21 August 2011 and admission is free.

Model of the Staatsgalerie und Kammertheater (Art Gallery and Theatre), Stuttgart. Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection (Image from RIBApix)

Model of the Staatsgalerie und Kammertheater (Art Gallery and Theatre), Stuttgart. Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection (Image from RIBApix)

RIBA Library collections
This exhibition is the result of much careful cataloguing by the CCA, who brought the James Stirling/Michael Wilford Archive a decade ago. Although the material will return to Canada after the exhibition closes, the RIBA Library holds a collection of books and journal articles on Stirling and some original drawings, photographs and documents relating to his designs for No.1 Poultry and the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie und Kammertheater. In the collections is a recording of a talk given by Stirling when he accepted the Royal Gold Medal in 1980; it exists only on cassette tape and will be a part of a new digitisation programme to preserve older analogue material in the RIBA’s Audiovisual Collection. Access to these resources is free.

RIBA Stirling Prize
Links to the RIBA extend to the high-profile award named after him. The Stirling Prize has kept  Stirling in the minds of the public and associated his name with the best of Britain’s modern buildings. Interestingly like Zaha Hadid, the most recent winner of the prize, Stirling was involved in teaching and subsequently influenced many students during his lifetime. The current exhibition includes his papers and notes for his lectures.

Liverpool: Stirling and the North
Stirling had a fascination with Liverpool where he grew up and was educated. The exhibition includes a small display of black and white photographs he took of the warehouses and ships in the city’s docks, and it was through photography he captured ideas and future sources of inspiration. Comparisons have been made between the architecture and urban context of the city with Stirling’s later work and ideas (Architectural Review, April 2011, p.76-79).  To celebrate these links, RIBA North West have organised a talk, ‘Stirling and the North’ on 25 June, in the only building he designed for the city, Tate Liverpool.

About Wilson Yau
I work for the British Architectural Library at the RIBA as part of a team to share news, images and information online about the activities of the Library and the fascinating items we have in our architectural collections – it contains over four million items, so there's plenty to see! If you’re curious about what we do at the Library and with the collections, or want to discover the latest about our education programmes, public events and exhibitions at the RIBA, please visit

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  1. Oxford Architects

    May 20, 2011

    James Stirling was a massive inspiration for me! What a man!

  2. wilson.yau

    May 26, 2011

    It’s great to hear that. You might be interested to know that Stirling designed the geometric Florey Building at Oxford University. A model of this is in the exhibition.

  3. Lucy Mori

    June 13, 2011

    I really enjoyed this exhibition – the sketch books and models are fascinating and reveal the focus and passion of this beginning-to-be-forgotten architect. In an age of computer generated imagery, it is really good to look at the design development of geometrically complex forms drawn with a set square in axonometric. The sketch books include notes for lectures on architectural theory which are amazingly orderly and structured and make you want to turn the page.

    The accompanying books by Tony Vidler and Alan Berman are excellent reminders of why Stirling’s buildings are important in the history of architecture.

    The only disappointment – the small number of visitors (probably caused by the lack of promotion about the exhibiton within the Tate) and the repetitive text on the walls.

    (On your way out don’t miss The Coral Reef by Mike Nelson)

  4. KB

    August 12, 2011

    Just googled Alastair Hunter who was my uncle, feel really proud to seeing how high the quality of his work was. I love his use of lines and colour, what a skill to make a further layer of art from great architecture.

  5. Josiah Antonelli

    January 6, 2012

    Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic post.Really thank you! Really Great.

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