Notes from the Archive: James Frazer Stirling, Architect and Teacher

Thursday, October 14, 2010
Sunday, January 2, 2011

Notes from the Archive: James Frazer Stirling, Architect and Teacher explored the career of James Frazer Stirling (1924–1992) as revealed through the James Stirling/Michael Wilford fonds of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montréal. A Pritzker Prize laureate and the William B. and Charlotte Shepherd Davenport Visiting Professor of Design at the Yale School of Architecture from 1966 to 1984, Stirling earned international renown through such prominent, innovative—and frequently controversial—projects as the University of Leicester Engineering Building (1959–63); the History Faculty Building at the University of Cambridge (1964–67); the Neue Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (1977–84); the Clore Gallery at Tate Britain (1984); and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University (1979–84).

This exhibition brought together architectural drawings, models, and photographs from the archives of the CCA, revealing both the range of Stirling’s approach to architectural languages and the fundamental importance of British architectural antecedents to his work. Through the extensive evidence of his design process, the exhibition demonstrated Stirling’s understanding of architecture in a formal and volumetric sense rather than as stylistic formulae. The final section of the exhibition focused on key aspects of Stirling as teacher, using audio recordings and lecture notes to evoke Stirling’s consistent explanation of a project as a tight formal response to the client’s brief; the continuous exploration of themes from the critique of modernist rationalism; and the acknowledgement of a crisis following the death of the heroes of the Modern movement.

James Stirling and Partner, British Olivetti Headquarters, Milton Keynes: interior perspective (detail), 1970-74, ink, colored pencil and graphite on paper, 16 3/8 x 21 3/4 in., James Stirling/Michael Wilford fonds, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, AP140.S2.SS1.D40.P23.7

The exhibition was jointly organized by the Center and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, and curated by Anthony Vidler, Dean and Professor of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union. The organizing curator at the Center was Eleanor Hughes, Associate Curator and Head of Exhibitions and Publications.

An associated exhibition, An Architect’s Legacy: James Frazer Stirling’s Students at Yale, 1959–1983, was on view from October 13, 2010, through January 28, 2011, at the Yale School of Architecture. It was organized by the Yale School of Architecture and curated by Emmanuel Petit, Associate Professor, Yale School of Architecture.


Yale Center for British Art:
October 14, 2010–January 2, 2011

Tate Britain, London:
April 5–August 31, 2011

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart:
October 1, 2011–January 15, 2012

Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal:
May 16–October 14, 2012