Doodles: Stirling Wilford and Associates, 1984–2000

By Marco Iuliano

The architectural trajectory of James Stirling has always been considered that of the individual genius, whilst acknowledging his close links to certain educational and working companions: his lifetime maestro Colin Rowe; the partners James Gowan and Michael Wilford, and the Associates, Laurence Bain and Russell Bevington. Without diminishing the importance and the inspirational role of one of the most creative designers of the twentieth century, the everyday practice appears more varied and collaborative than one might imagine. 

Through selected documentation held in the archive of the Associates, the exhibition, Doodles: Drawing and thinking architecture at Stirling Wilford and Associates, 1984–2000, analyses the architectural production of the last fifteen years of the firm, when the practice moved from Gloucester Place to Fitzroy Square. The exploration includes the schemes for Tate Liverpool, Number 1 Poultry, Palazzo Citterio, Carlton Gardens, Singapore Polytechnic and the Lowry, all challenges that were started with ‘Big Jim’, but significantly completed by the office. After the commissions for the red trilogy (Leicester, Cambridge and Oxford), the German museums, the high-tech experiments and the American universities, these late projects are a clear expression of a ‘monumentally informal’ production – to use Stirling’s own words. 

The display is enriched with materials from several other individuals, including documents from the personal archives of Mark Girouard, author of the 1998 biography of Stirling, and of Richard Bryant, who has photographed most of the work of the firm since the Stuttgart New State Gallery. Excerpts from Michael Blackwood’s Stirling (1986) and a new documentary by Annalisa Sonzogni (Doodles, 2021) complete the exhibition. 

The exhibition will run at the Victoria Gallery and Museum, University of Liverpool, 16 October 2021 – 29 January 2022. It is in collaboration with Drawing Matter, the 20th Century Society and the British School at Rome. 

Curator: Marco Iuliano
Assistant Curator: Alicia Tymon-McEwan
Research Associate: Davide Landi                                             
Exhibition Designers: James Jones assisted by Yu Zhan and Zhaoxi Tian 


The following objects, each of which is included in the exhibition, have been selected for Drawing Matter by Marco Iuliano.

An early wage book from the Stirling and Gowan partnership, 31 December 1961. Archive of the Associates.
The office in the mid 1980s. Archive of the Associates.
Preliminary study for Number One Poultry floor plans, 6 October 1985, James Stirling. Pencil on tracing paper with/without a glued addition. Archive of the Associates.
The building site of Number One Poultry, 7 August 1985. Collage of photographic prints with Michael Wilford on the right. Archive of the Associates.
Recto and verso of a postcard from Stirling to Mr and Mrs Girouard, December 1982. Archive of Mark Girouard.
5–7 Carlton Gardens facade annotated by James Stirling, London, c. 1988. Crayon and pencil on paper. Archive of the Associates.
Plan of the Lowry theatre annotated with maintenance information, 25 February 1999. CAD drawing, ink pen, blue and red marker. Archive of the Associates.
Tate Liverpool photographed by Richard Bryant in 1998. Polaroid T55 photoprints. Arcaid Archive.
Excerpt from Annalisa Sonzogni’s Doodles, 2021.