The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) unveils a major new exhibition, Mies van der Rohe & James Stirling: Circling the Square (8 March 2017 – 25 June 2017) offering a renewed examination of two iconic architectural schemes proposed for the same site in the City of London. Commissioned by architectural patron and developer Lord Peter Palumbo, Mies van der Rohe’s unrealised Mansion House Square project will be explored alongside its built successor, James Stirling Michael Wilford & Associates’ newly listed Number One Poultry.
“Mies van der Rohe & James Stirling: Circling the Square”
March 8 – June 25, 2017
The Architecture Gallery, RIBA
66 Portland Place, London
The design history of the two schemes spans three decades of the mid-20th century, a highly transitional period in the history of architecture where the movements and influences of pop art, high modernism and postmodernism co-existed and collided. Intended to replace an eclectic block of listed buildings, both schemes became subjects of passionate debate, and high-profile inquiries. This debate distracted attention from the architectural ideas and ambitions of both architects and patron.
As part of the exhibition the RIBA is organising a series of public events including; talks, curator tours, film screenings, courses, workshops and a ‘Late’ evening event. Highlights include a rare opportunity to see a film by Georgia van der Rohe about her father, Mies van der Rohe. The screening, on 20 March, will be introduced with a short talk by Dirk Lohan, Mies van der Rohe’s grandson, who will also participate in a panel discussion, Mies + Stirling: Contemporary Reflections, on 21 March.
Marie Bak Mortensen, Head of Exhibitions, said: “Through the display of rarely-seen working drawings and newly-restored presentation models, this exhibition returns the focus from the controversy back to the buildings themselves. With the distance of time, it encourages reflection on each project’s contribution to its own epoch, as well as their place in the continuum of architectural change and history in the City.”
The exhibition, designed by Carmody Groarke Architects, features models and materials, on loan to the RIBA by Lord Palumbo from his private collection, along with significant items from the No. 1 Poultry archive that provide an intimate insight into the workings of the Stirling office, from initial sketch ideas to his famous ‘worm-eye’ axonometric views.
Additional highlights in the exhibition include:
- Detailed site model of the Mies scheme – one of the most impressive architectural models ever made, on display for the first time in over 30 years
- Items from the archive of Lord Holford, on loan from Liverpool Archives, consultant architect to Mansion House Square
- Photomontages by architectural photographer John Donat – whose archive is held in the RIBA Collections
- Items from seminal architectural figures such as Philip Johnson, Berthold Lubetkin and Peter Carter
Mies van der Rohe, one of the most prominent architects of the 20th century, designed his proposal for Mansion House Square at the very end of his career, between 1962 and his death in 1969. The classic Miesian glass tower of 19 storeys and accompanying public square and underground shopping centre would have been Mies’ first and only project in the UK. After a protracted planning process, the scheme was finally rejected in 1985. Lord Palumbo then approached James Stirling, fresh from his success at Stuttgart with the Neue Staatsgalerie in 1984, to conceive an alternative vision for the site. James Stirling, Michael Wilford & Associates’ Number One Poultry was completed in 1997, two years after Stirling’s untimely death. It is often cited as a masterpiece of the post-international style and has recently been awarded Grade II* listed status; while it still divides opinion, the building was designed with an acute consciousness of both its historic surroundings and Mies’ earlier design.
The exhibition is co-curated by Marie Bak Mortensen, Head of Exhibitions and Vicky Wilson, Assistant Curator, RIBA.