For three decades, Sir James Stirling was the Mr Big of British architecture. Big ideas, big ego and, well, just plain big: his weight ballooned to nearly 20 stones in later life. But no other postwar British architect has been as provocatively interesting as the man known to his friends and enemies (there were more than a few of those) as Big Jim.
If you want a peek into his brilliant and "difficult" mind, pop along to Tate Britain, where Anthony Vidler, having plundered the Stirling archive at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, has a riveting Stirling exhibition.
Stirling's architecture was rarely classifiable, cutting jaggedly across genres such as Modernism, postmodernism, Brutalism, Constructivism and Mannerism. In collaging different styles he produced some of the most strikingly innovative forms in late 20th-century architecture: Cambridge's history library, the swirling multi-coloured blancmange of the Stuttgart Staatsgallerie, Leicester University's faculty of engineering, and his show-stopping exit number, One Poultry, in the City of London.
How fitting that Vidler's exhibition is in the Clore Galleries at Tate Britain. This extension was almost the last of the architect's works, and some might say it is typically bloody-minded. One wonders if Big Jim delivered the design deadpan, or with a shark-like grin.
'James Stirling: Notes from the Archive', Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1 (020-7887 8888) to 21 AugustReuse content