Postmodern Architecture: No 1 Poultry, London, By James Stirling

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Pomo summertime: the final task in our Postmodernism season is by a single of Britain’s greatest architects. With its distinctive stripy facade, rounded clock tower and colourful courtyard, No one Poultry was James Stirling’s final completed creating, but is presently the focus of a preservations battle involving some of the world’s greatest-known architects .

Built on a wedge-shaped web site in the heart of the City of London, No 1 Poultry consists of stores at ground and basement amounts, with 5 floors of offices, and a roof backyard and restaurant over. The building’s ship-like prow and clock tower with projecting balconies dominate the junction at Bank Underground Station. Its exterior is clad in stripes of pink and yellow limestone, and its two prolonged facades are characterised by the layering of angular and curved varieties.

Photograph by Richard Bryant Photograph by Richard Bryant

Designed by Stirling in 1985 but not completed until finally 1997 – five many years right after his death – No one Poultry was 1 of the British architect’s last tasks. He was knighted in recognition of his contribution to architecture just days prior to his death and in 1996, the RIBA even renamed their prestigious Constructing of the 12 months Award the Stirling Prize after him.

Born in Glasgow in 1926, Stirling studied architecture at the University of Liverpool, and later on became as assistant at the company of Lyons, Israel and Ellis. More than the 1950s and 1960s, a new generation of influential British architects would pass via the London-based company prior to going on to become nicely recognized in their personal correct, including Neave Brown, Richard MacCormac and Rick Mather, as properly as James Gowan, Stirling’s long term enterprise companion. The duo founded Stirling and Gowan in 1956, and rapidly acquired nationwide recognition.

No-1_Poultry_James-Stirling_Alastair–Rae_dezeen_sqa Photograph by Alistair Rae

Gowan was frequently overshadowed by Stirling’s occasionally outrageous behaviour and public persona. The duo split after the completion of their Engineering Creating at the University of Leicester in 1963 – generally regarded the UK’s 1st Postmodern building – and Stirling continued with new companion Michael Wilford.


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Regardless of currently being some of the most critically acclaimed Modern day structures in the Uk inside architecture circles, Stirling’s buildings were plagued with troubles and had been frequently less appreciated by the British establishment and wider public.

Stirling and Gowan’s history faculty and library at Cambridge University leaked and featured wildly various internal temperatures.

Photograph by Steve Cadman Photograph by Steve Cadman

“As properly as being an unique and internationally admired talent, who is at times stated to be the Francis Bacon of British architecture, he also made some of the most notoriously malfunctioning buildings of modern day times,” wrote Guardian architecture critic Rowan Moore in 2011.

“Stirling was seen as the extremely variety of the award-winning architect whose buildings never perform. He was, to boot, arrogant, lecherous and often boorish. At a party in the apartment of the New York architect Paul Rudolph, he chose to express himself by urinating against its huge window, from the terrace outside, facing into the crowd of guests.”

Some time in the early 1970s, Stirling’s architectural type appeared to shift. “Seemingly overnight Stirling became Postmodernism’s unsuspecting and unwitting poster youngster,” wrote critic Martin Filler. In accordance to Andrew Saint: “his architecture stopped currently being clipped and wiry and grew monumental and body fat.”

Photograph by Richard Bryant Photograph by Richard Bryant

Architect and theorist Charles Jencks, in his seminal book The Language of Postmodern Architecture, drafted Stirling into the Postmodern trigger, earmarking him as element of the revolt against the “higher tech” Modern architecture of his contemporaries.


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Stirling rejected the Postmodern label. But he did acknowledge that the fashion he was building was in direct opposition to the “grey” architectural mainstream.

“If we do an additional constructing in this nation, it should be colourless, perhaps grey or brown – preferably the latter – or far better nevertheless possibly just invisible,” he joked in a speech at the Clore Gallery in 1987.

Photograph by Robert Moore Photograph by Robert Moore

In this period, humour and surprise grew to become Stirling’s architectural language. Many of the layout aspects of No one Poultry appear to be meant to propose a child’s toy: the cylindrical courtyard, with its triangular lightwell and coloured walls the submarine-like clock tower and the striped facades.

Like several of the ideal Postmodern buildings, No one Poultry also can make some provocative historical quotations and references to its historic neighbours.

“The constructing tends to make people smile, it truly is the slightly naughty child but quite a lot portion of the household of historic listed building around Financial institution Junction – it has the same DNA as Hawksmoor’s Saint Mary Woolnoth, Lutyens Midland Bank and Soane’s Financial institution of England,” Laurence Bain, venture architect and former companion at James Stirling Michael Wilford and Partners, advised Dezeen.

Photograph by Julian Walker Photograph by Julian Walker

The building’s height, symmetrical prepare and divided facade matches the surrounding buildings. Stirling planned it about a longitudinal axis with two equivalent facades. These are divided horizontally in 3 and vertically into five, with the layers alternating among angled and curved varieties. The two facades have a central wedge-shaped entrance that gives entry to the central rotunda, with two arcades on both side.

No one Poultry’s clock tower, with its horn-like projecting balconies, also mimics close by structures, as well as referencing Greek and Roman rostral columns, which had been erected to celebrate naval victories.

Photograph by Richard Bryant Photograph by Richard Bryant

“Amongst its sombre neighbours, No one Poultry is ambiguous in both demanding acceptance but wanting to retain its uniqueness, with its puzzling however unified facade, its bright colouring and Egyptian entry corridor,” explained Geoffrey H Baker in his book The Architecture of James Stirling and his Partners.

Despite Stirling’s impressive reputation, the creating was not widely appreciated when it was completed – it appeared the heyday of Postmodernism had passed. Critic Edwin Heathcote wrote that at the point of completion: “Postmodernism, the architectural type [No 1 Poultry] so completely represents and which reached its apogee in the 1980s, had slipped unceremoniously out of style.”

Photograph by Richard Bryant Photograph by Richard Bryant

Characteristically, Prince Charles described No one Poultry derisively as a “1930s wireless”, although architecture critic Hugh Pearman compared the creating to a hen. “Plenty of people still cluck over Jim’s excess fat hen at No 1 Poultry,” he wrote. “I suspect this is since, deep down, they will not really like the thought of a modern day constructing with the eccentric character of an earlier age. It is not rather. It is not graceful. It does not integrate itself. It is definitely unusual. But it exudes an astonishing sense of electrical power and function. I admire it, but don’t yet like it.”

Stirling’s spouse Michael Wilford took a philosophical technique to the response. “Like it or dislike it is a really common response to our buildings,” he stated. “There are extremely couple of men and women who are ambivalent about them. They confront in such a way as to force individuals to think.”

Photograph by Richard Bryant Photograph by Richard Bryant

No 1 Poultry struggled to uncover followers even before it was completed in 1997, with the web site topic to one particular of the longest battles in Uk organizing background. The land was occupied by a group of a lot-loved Victorian buildings commissioned by silversmith company Mappin &amp Webb and the prospect of their demolition was met with fierce opposition. No 1 Poultry was commissioned by developer Peter Palumbo in 1985, but for in excess of twenty years just before that, Palumbo had been fighting to change the listed buildings with an 18-storey glass tower created by Mies van der Rohe.

More than time even though, the constructing has become part of the material of London, and is recognised as a single of the most crucial examples of commercial Postmodern architecture. But, like the Portland Creating in the USA, its present owners – investment fund Perella Weinberg – are keen to update the construction for the demand of contemporary office and retail use.

Photograph by Steve Cadman Photograph by Steve Cadman

They have commissioned London company Buckley Gray Yeoman to overhaul the structure, with alterations which includes alterations to the facades, entrances and windows.

Buckley Gray Yeoman spouse Matt Yeoman informed United kingdom architecture web site Bdonline, that the alterations had been of a “small nature”.

“There’s a genuine concern that the tenants and occupiers won’t stay and that the consumer will struggle to reoccupy the building if that takes place,” said Yeoman. “We like and respect the developing and the architecture and we are just trying to adapt it to the modifying requirements of society.”

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Architectural preservation group the Twentieth Century Society is campaigning for the building to be protected with Grade II*-listed standing – just like the buildings that stood on the internet site before. It has identified help from a big number of James Stirling Michael Wilford and Partners personnel, including Michael Wilford. Norman Foster and Richard Rogers have the two written to the UK’s heritage physique Historic England objecting to the proposals, even though the original developer, Peter Palumbo, has described the programs as “shallow, empty and of no account”.

Photograph by Richard Bryant Photograph by Richard Bryant

“The proposed alterations dilute the architectural style intent and risk chipping away at the wit and sophistication of this constructing which tends to make it stand out,” said Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society.

“This developing is a playful, contextual masterpiece and a impressive speculative office improvement from the 1990s. It is an excellent instance of Postmodern architecture, a design which is only just starting to be studied and understood in historic terms. The assessment of this creating for listing ought to trigger a re-evaluation of Postmodern architecture.”

One particular of the most significant considerations is that the alterations could destabilise the public nature of the building. Whilst No one Poultry’s function was to offer 5 floors of office space, its public spaces offer a connection missing elsewhere in the City. They include open shopping colonnades on the Poultry and Queen Victoria Street facades, an open light-filled courtyard, a rooftop backyard, and even entry to the underground station beneath.

Photograph by Atelier Joly Photograph by Atelier Joly

“[No one Poultry’s] accomplishment comes from its accessibility, legibility and immense character – a lot of thousands of folks stroll by way of the heart of the building each and every day glimpsing up to the sky or following the rain drops down to the concourse degree some get the lifts which pop out like a cork from a champagne bottle in the middle of the oasis that is the public roof garden and take pleasure in the views proper across the City,” mentioned Bain.

At the starting of this month, Stirling’s widow named on the City of London planners to reject the scheme in United kingdom architecture magazine the Architect’s Journal.

Zaha Hadid has also waded in, creating a letter of objection to the City of London’s planners, refuting suggestions that the constructing is not as its architect meant it to be.

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“Any suggestion that the building is not as James intended are spurious and can very easily be proven untrue by Laurence Bain,” she wrote. “We must definitely all do our utmost to make certain that we do not ruin but an additional lovely illustration of Postmodernist architecture.”

If the constructing is listed, it will be one particular of the youngest ever to be formally protected in the United kingdom. In the meantime, the battle more than its potential has come to represent the battle to protect Postmodern architecture prior to it is also late. No 1 Poultry has grow to be a monument in the rapidly-altering cityscape, and London’s Postmodern flagship.

No-1_Poultry_James-Stirling_dezeen_2Drawing Dezeen

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