New York, April 15: British architect James Stirling was named as the winner of the third annual international Pritzker Architecture Prize at a press conference held at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In making the announcement, Jay A. Pritzker, president of the Hyatt Foundation, which administers and funds the prize , presented the 55-year-old Stirling with a check for $100,000. The second award element, a cast of a Henry Moore sculpture created especially for the purpose, will be presented at a Washington banquet next month.
Stirling, a Scottish-born architect whose work includes museums, educational institutions and private residences, was the 1980 recipient of the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, presented by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Among his current and upcoming projects are buildings for the Fogg Museum, Cambridge, and Columbia University, New York, as well as the new Turner Museum at London’s Tate Gallery.
In a development in Fukuoka, Japan, his Nexus Housing is a project consisting of 24 individual houses, each three stories high. Koolhaas also has projects in Portugal, Korea and Germany, the latter being a new embassy for the Netherlands in Berlin, which is currently under construction.
The first Pritzker Architecture Prize was presented in 1979 to Philip Johnson of the United States, and the second, in 1980, was awarded to Mexico’s Luis Barragán. Stirling was chosen to receive the 1981 Prize by a distinguished international jury: J. Carter Brown, Director, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Lord Clark of Saltwood (Kenneth Clark), author and art historian; Arata Isozaki, architect and critic; Philip Johnson, architect and 1979 Pritzker Laureate; J. Irwin Miller, chairman, executive committee, Cumins Engine Company, and architecture patron; and Cesar Pelli, architect and Dean of the School of Architecture, Yale University.
In announcing the Prize, Mr. Pritzker quoted from a statement by 1979 Laureate Philip Johnson: “James Stirling has been the Wunderkind of modern architecture for some twenty years. Today he is a mature leader of world architecture.
“He is probably best known for a series of un built competitive projects culminating today in two great buildings actually under construction in Germany: a Museum in Stuttgart and a Scientific Institute in Berlin, and three in the United States.
“His work began at a time when the Modern Movement was still in ascendance and his variations, angles, details in the style were extraordinarily original. Today he is in the vanguard of the newer movement, which includes historic allusion and contextual consideration.
“1981 is James Stirling’s year.”
James Stirling (1926-1992), of Great Britain is considered by many as the premier architect of his generation, an unparalleled innovator in postwar international architecture. Stirling was born in Glasgow in 1926. He was educated at the University of Liverpool School of Architecture and began his own practice in partnership with James Gowan in London in 1956. Over a seven-year period they designed some of the most significant projects of the time, most notably the garden apartments at Ham Common (1955-58), the seminal Engineering Building at Leicester University (1959-63), and the Cambridge University History Building (1964-67).
In 1971, Stirling began to work in association with Michael Wilford. From this point on, the scale and number of his projects broadened to include museums, galleries, libraries and theaters. Since 1980, 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 competition winning design for the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, Germany.
In an article written in 1979 for the book, 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 simple … in a building we did at Oxford some years ago (the Florey Building, Queen’s College, Oxford, 1971), 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.”
James Stirling was awarded the Alvar Aalto Medal in 1977, the RIBA Gold Medal in 1980 and the Pritzker Prize in 1981. In addition to teaching in Europe, he served as the Charles Davenport Professor at Yale University from 1967.
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 nineteenth century references.
In three countries—England, Germany, and the United States—he is influencing the development of architecture through the quality of his work.
Ceremony 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 salute Jay Pritzker—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 Barragán, 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 third Pritzker award. Maxwell was a fellow student at Liverpool School of Architecture in the 1940s 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 specters 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 annually 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.