James Stirling - 1981 Pritzker Laureate referat

James Stirling 

1981 Pritzker Laureate 

James Stirling, 1926-1992, of Great Britain was one of that country's best-known architects particularly since his 1963 project at Leicester University, the engineering building. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he took his architecture degree at Liverpool University, but set up his practice in London

In addition to the Leicester project already mentioned, his other major works at the time he was awarded the Pritzker Prize included a training center for Olivetti in Hasselemere; a History Building for Cambridge University; an expansion of Rice University in Texas, and numerous low cost housing projects, and residences. Since 1981, he has completed a major social sciences center in Berlin; a Performing Arts Center for Cornell University; and such major museum projects as the Clore Gallery expansion for the Tate Gallery in London; the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, an addition to Harvard's Fogg Museum; and the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, Germany

In an article written in 1979 for Contemporary Architects, Stirling said, 'I believe that the shapes of a building should indicate—perhaps display—the usage and way of life of its occupants, and it is therefore likely to be rich and varied in appearance, and its expression is unlikely to be simplein a building we did at Oxford some years ago, it was intended that you could recognize the historic elements of courtyard, entrance gate towers, cloisters; also a central object replacing the traditional fountain or statue of the college founder. In this way we hoped that students and public would not be disassociated from their cultural past. The particular way in which functional-symbolic elements are put together may be the 'art' in the architecture.' 

'If the expression of functional-symbolic forms and familiar elements is foremost, the expression of structure will be secondary, and if structure shows, it is not in my opinion, the engineering which counts, but the way in which the building is put together that is important.' 

Udo Kulterman, writing in the same publication, said 'Stirling's concept of contemporary architecture is concerned with the humanization of the environment. Humanistic considerations dominate all technological, economic and aesthetic preconceived ideas and ideologies. Architecture has to re-establish its own criteria for evaluation; for Stirling this obviously means creating in harmony with common sense, tradition, the existing environment, and a concern for people.' 

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Citation from the Pritzker Jury 

We honor James Stirling—a prodigy for so many years—as a leader of the great transition from the Modern Movement to the architecture of the New—an architecture that once more has recognized historical roots, once more has close connections with the buildings surrounding it, once more can be called a new tradition. 

Originality within this tradition is Stirling's distinction: in the old 'modern times,' 45 degree angles in plan and section; today, startling juxtapositions and transpositions of clearly classical and 19th century references. 

In three countries—England, Germany, and the United States—he is influencing the development of architecture through the quality of his work. 

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James Stirling's Acceptance Speech

One of the continuities in the history of Architecture is that every now and again a new patron and benefactor appears, and on behalf of my profession, here and abroad, I would saluteJayPritzker—a most generous friend to Architects. 

Somehow I think it might have been easier for Philip Johnson who, on the first occasion of the Prize giving, talked about the importance of the new Prize to the Profession, and maybe easier for Luis Barragan, reviewing a lifetime's work. Perhaps it's more difficult for me—at any rate I feel it that way. I can't talk about the Prize as a new event and I hope I'm not at the end of my work, though I guess I'm somewhere past the midway. 

It's always been difficult for me to see myself. I work very intuitively, I'm not even sure whether I'm an English Architect, a European or an International Architect. It is embarrassing to talk about myself and therefore I will quote from a recent article written by Robert Maxwell especially about this 3rd Pritzker award. Maxwell was a fellow student at Liverpool School of Architecture in the 1940's and is now Professor of Architecture at London University

'In England in particular there is a peculiar breath of scandal attaching to the pursuit of architecture as Art. Criticism of architecture in the public mind is broadly associated with sociological or material failure, and these spectres haunt the practice of architecture. Yet when such faults occur they are not thought to be really scandalous except when associated with high architectural aspirations.' 

The `high architectural aspirations' achieved in some of our earlier projects were in a sense accidents —the clients were not necessarily expecting a work of art in addition to a well functioning building—but they got buildings which have ever since been overrun with hordes of architectural students pounding through, something the users didn't anticipate or now appreciate. 

However, for me, right from the beginning the `art' of architecture has always been the priority. That's what I trained to do (and incidentally its what students are still trained to do), so it's particularly gratifying to feel that the Pritzker Prize is being awarded anually to Architects who value the art as highest and who have at the same time achieved a consistent sequence of buildings. 

I agree with Maxwell that by and large the UK situation is to rate artistic content as coming rather far down the line of priorities (or as something which, with a bit of luck, might just happen) . So how do fine buildings get built in the UK? Often subversively, I suspect. Certainly in my earlier days it was never discussed that the buildings should also be beautiful. However, I'm pleased to say that this situation has changed and our Patrons in Germany and America and our single client in the UK have commissioned us because they particularly value high quality architecture. 

Historically, the quality of the art in the architecture, both at time of building and in retrospect, is remembered as the significant element. However, with the advent of modern architecture in this century, sociological, functional and real estate values.

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Prizes in Architecture


Cesar Pelli, architect and Pritzker Juror 
address at the Presentation ceremony 

The art of architecture is possible only through the understanding of the limitations and possibilities of building. A prize in architecture lauds that understanding, but more, it celebrates the transformation of building into art. 

Let us focus on the key stages of this process: a clear understanding of the limitations ofa building problem is a necessary base for the healthy development of a wrk of architecture, but by itself it will produce only a building. Architecture starts with the perception of the potentials of the problem and proceeds by selecting a path through the many possible options. The architect finds or creates that path guided by inner convictions, by aesthetic preferences and by the ideological framework of his or her cultural environment. A good architect modifies that framework to some extent with each design that he or she produces. In some artistic periods we can measure the importance of a work by the extent of the change effected on the theoretical basis of design or in our understanding of architecture. In this manner Architecture is kept alive by being continuously transformed. 

A world prize in architecture is given therefore to honor those individuals who have clear minds with which to understand the realities of their building problems, who have the intuition with which to perceive the opportunities inherent in those problems, who have good eyes and hands with which to seize those opportunities and make them art, and who have the knowledge and toughness necessary to carry these intentions into built architecture. In producing this transformation of a building problem into architecture they also transform the Art of Architecture itself. 

It is this dual contribution that we honor: First, the specific contribution of the work of architecture, responsible to its site and neighbors, enjoyed by its users and viewers, making its environment better and enriching our experience and our lives. Second, the contribution to our understanding of architecture, affecting in some degree all architects and all buildings and helping to keep Architecture alive and replenished. 

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