"Certain Old and Lovely Things, Whose Signified Is Abstract, Out of Date": James Stirling and Nostalgia | Mark Crinson

“Certain Old and Lovely Things, Whose Signified Is Abstract, Out of Date”: James Stirling and Nostalgia | Mark Crinson

This article concentrates on the relation between building materials, specifically stone, and nostalgia. Several modern architects have played with the way that stone can evoke nostalgia—Edwin Lutyens and Adolf Loos, most notably—despite the strictures of many modernist critics and theorists against nostalgia. James Stirling is, I suggest, one of the very few modern architects who thought about nostalgia in an open-minded and inquisitive manner, setting his work to explore its architectural possibilities. He invoked nostalgia several times in his writings, partly as a provocation and partly as a poetic resource. Where this came from and what its effect was in his architecture is explored here. Stirling’s attitude toward nostalgia and the design of walls is to thematize nostalgia by abstracting and alienating materials from their expected functions, and by these means to indicate what walls used to be like but also why they can no longer be so. Nostalgia is invoked but not indulged. Architecture is employed in a disabused, realist way, to acknowledge change and loss.

The full article is available at Project Muse

Image: James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates. Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 1977–84. (Mark Crinson)