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.