Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Less than sterling architecture

Catching up with the weekend papers: I confess to not having been aware that the Stirling Prize for Architecture, the shortlist for which was announced last week even existed.

No doubt Sir James Stirling was an important architect, a great man etc., but my own close encounter with his architecture - walking past the internationally-renowned engineering building at Leicester University during my time as an undergraduate there - left me as rather less than a fan.

None of the engineering students had a good word for the building as a space to work in, and it didn't strike me as more obviously distinguished than the other two rather nasty towers on the Leicester campus.

Perhaps Stirling's best-known British building is the History Faculty Library at Cambridge University, which Wikipedia describes thus:

Although the building was admired by students of architecture it is less well regarded by those who have to work in it. Expensive modifications were necessary to render to usable, and in 1984 the university came close to pulling the whole thing down.[4]

I seem to remember it being parodied in Tom Sharpe's book Ancestral Vices as requiring the heating to remain on right through the summer and the air conditioning through the winter to keep it at a reasonable temperature - although I can't find my copy of the book to check.

Let's hope that the buildings shortlisted for the Stirling Prize are more practical and less brilliant than those of Stirling himself.

1 comment:

James D said...

At least one of the other two ugly towers at Leicester has one of those nice paternoster lifts in it. Now if architects would start including those again, I could admire that...