Obituary: Sir James Stirling

WHAT first struck me about Jim Stirling when he arrived in London from Liverpool was his powerful physical presence, writes Professor Joseph Rykwert. With time and age he put on weight - but even in his relatively early years he was 'Big Jim'. There was a gravity and an opacity about him which instantly arrested attention. A self-deprecating laugh softened the impact and masked the ambition and the intelligence without concealing them.

His fame had preceded him. His Liverpool teacher, Colin Rowe, one of the great teachers of architecture of his (and my) generation, had promised a brilliant new architect and Stirling's thesis design - for a university building composed of a mosaic of lecture theatres set sideways on the face of the block - showed his mettle and suggested a novel preoccupation, a quite different 'take' on functionalism from that of his contemporaries. Forms which had been generated and constrained by function so as to become irreducible, atomic, fascinated him. These he wanted to display and to relish in his designs - but also to frame and subdue them: the tension made him a true architect.

In his generation he knew best to resist the seductions of technology: a strong sense of irony kept them at bay, while his obstinacy and integrity preserved him from the soggy options of historicism. Yet he had a great love for the periods on which he drew most: the Twenties of this century, at the origins of modernism - but also the end of the 18th century, when a fascination with antiquity, with archaeology, transformed and enlightened the first industrial era. Unlike most architects, he had a very good eye for drawings, which he collected, as he did for furniture and ceramics. Nor were they just objects to admire; he loved using and handling them - and would himself wash the beautiful cylindrical cups from which his guests had drunk their coffee after dinner.

Maybe that gesture is quintessential 'Big Jim'. It has his love of beautiful objects, his independence and obstinacy - without all which some of the greatest buildings of our time, conceived and built against the indifference and the temper of the age, would never have happened.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories