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Title: James Stirling and architectural colour
Author: Farr, Michael
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2013
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To see built form is to see colour. Alternatively, architecture cannot be colourless. Even glass-clad buildings reflect their surroundings while all-white structures are revealed through various shadows and shades. To what degree, then, should colour be considered an architectural element?James Stirling and Architectural Colour, a PhD thesis by Michael William Farr submitted to the University of Manchester in 2013, explores how, exactly, architect James Stirling (1924-92) used colour and what it might say about the evolution of his design ethos. Going beyond what has been written so far this investigation explores the significance of colour in the eclectic array of strikingly individual buildings Stirling designed throughout his career. But while these structures are presented as often visually arresting and idiosyncratic, their varied colour schemes also reveal significant thematic consistencies across his oeuvre. Initially discussion centres on Stirling’s rather contrary use of relatively muted colours. By simply countering expectations or clashing with established contextual characteristics, Stirling ensured his buildings visually attracted attention, courting comment and controversy. In addition it is proposed that he used colour as a means of enticing and inviting those who saw/used his buildings to explore and investigate the very fabric of his structures. As his palette became bolder, so too did his contextual references. Acquainted with the attention-grabbing benefits of incongruous colours, Stirling also recognized the increasing importance of context. By combining sympathetic forms with ever-brighter colour schemes he paradoxically designed buildings that simultaneously fitted in while standing out. It is also argued that these much brighter colours represent a regard for those using his buildings dating back to his and James Gowan’s Preston Housing Project (1957-61). His exploration of structural candour in some projects left them less than hospitable, but the overt anthropocentricity of his later designs is not presented as entirely new. If his colour schemes, in later years, changed considerably, his motivations did not. Focusing on specific design issues - contrariness, structural explication, contextualism and anthropocentricity – this thesis does not attempt classification. Set against Modernism’s demise and Post-Modernism’s ascendancy, Stirling’s relationship to both is explored; his propensity to draw upon any style he felt appropriate revealing the futility of labelling his work as either one or the other. If his earliest designs contain the eclecticism and metaphoric content normally associated with Post-Modern architecture, his later buildings employed a typically Modernist candour regarding materials and techniques. Throughout his career Stirling consistently sought to design buildings that were visually striking, contextually inspired and inviting to explore. His reliance upon both a multiplicity of styles and the considered use of colour was fundamental to these aims.
Supervisor: Crinson, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: James Stirling ; Architecture