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John Allan on Stirling as architecture’s gravedigger

The buildings of the Red Trilogy may be seen to have entrenched a fatal narcissism in British modernism

The buildings of the Red Trilogy may be seen to have entrenched a fatal narcissism in British modernism in the way their obsessive self-absorption in architectural expression supported a value system apparently legitimised not through social reference but by its own systemic grammar. And while solipsistic practice and formal mastery are frequently – perhaps even necessarily – close cousins in the production of memorable buildings, the elevation of this model to such primacy with an underdeveloped technical toolbox surely could not but sow the seeds of its own undoing. The contemporary plaudits of dazzled commentators only compounded a professional stereotype: the architect as celebrity author of signature buildings insouciant of their social and operational consequences. From this it would take decades to recover, and perhaps never fully has.

All text is extracted from Jim Stirling and the Red Trilogy – Three Radical Buildings,  Frances Lincoln, October 2010, £30

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