Mies Van Der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square
Architecture is often described as works of art we live in and the looming presence of the buildings in London especially influence the way we feel, work and socialise.
With this being such a historic city, the decision to redevelop certain regions is ordinarily a controversial process, none more so than the battle for Number One Poultry, a scheme that spanned three decades in the late 20th century. The focus of the Royal Institute of British Architecture’s latest exhibition, it’s anchored in a highly changeable era for design, revolving around post-modernist architects Mies Van Der Rohe and James Stirling, and the hotly contested demolition of the neo-gothic listed Mappin and Webb pile.
Showcasing some beautifully detailed scale models, the striking amber tower Van Der Rohe envisioned is a colossal monument to the tinted brown glass many of us associate with the 70s. The concept art for it is stunning, and it’s an exciting way of seeing an unrealised version of London. Even those sworn off post-modernist architecture will, begrudgingly, be able to see the beauty in creations like this. Some rather optimistic mockups, for example, demonstrate the character the building would have had in Britain’s infrequent golden sunshine, and while it would most likely have looked a muddy brown day-to-day, it’s none the less a striking sight.
The winning design by Stirling was equally contended, but Number One Poultry reserves it’s most eye-popping features for less exposed areas like the roof. It is widely considered amongst the greatest pieces of postmodernist architecture in London, an unusual structure resembling a child’s idea of what offices made out of spam might look like, and it’s presence is mostly noted now for the string of City Broker suicides committed from it’s rooftop restaurant. Despite this, the building has become an integral part of the London landscape, and this exhibition is a brilliant commentary on all the unseen work that goes on behind the scenes in an architectural firm.
Whether a fan of postmodernist style or not, this show offers an unmissable opportunity to explore the minds of some of the most iconic architects of the past century, giving a glimpse into the machinations behind genius. Go for the models, stay for the history lesson.
Mies Van Der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square is at the Royal Institute of British Architects from 8th March until 25th June 2017, for further information visit here.