James Sterling, Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 1977-1982.
Here again we are given a piece of architecture with an excerpt from its architect. In this case it is James Stirling’s Neue Staatsgalerie, designed as a competition entry in 1977 and built in Stuttgart between 1979-1984. The excerpt from Stirling is strait forward and, whereas Charles Jencks’s essay explains the hidden nuances of Post-Modern architectural theory, this paragraph summarizes it in the practical language of a practitioner.
To frame this excerpt and this work for you a little bit, in his 2002 book, A New Paradigm in Architecture: the Language of Post-Modernism, Jencks claims this work “epitomized the first stage of Post-Modernism in much the way the Ville Savoye and Barcelona Pavilion summarized early Modernism.” For a review of the ideas below, obviously read the previous Jencks post.
“I hope this building will evoke an association of Museum and I’d like the visitor to feel it ‘looks like a museum.’ In its built details it may combine traditional and new elements though old elements are used in a modern way; for instance, the histrionic coving is not a cornice used throughout, but only defining the sculpture terraces. Similarly, there are assemblages of constructivist canopies which define a hierarchy of entrances… The axiality of the plan is frequently compromised, set piece rooms conjoin with the free plan and the public foot-path meanders either side of a central axis—thus the casually monumental is diminished by the deliberately informal... In addition to Representational and Abstract, this large complex I hope supports the Monumental and informal, also the Traditional and High Tech.”
Some brief noteworthy points:
The building is its idea; it communicates the collectively familiar image of its program. We first encountered the idea of a visual-mimetic collective awareness in Aldo Rossi (in his excerpt about the S. Cataldo Cemetery and in Vidler’s discussion of Rossi’s Trieste Admin Building). The monumentality of such a program is not only general, as we can see nearly specific quotations of Schinkel’s Altes Museum in the plan.
This translation of visual associations to architecture is not only carried out on the large scale but on the scale of single detail elements, all of which work to communicate the purpose of each room and area of the museum. And this extremely literal legibility is carried out regardless of its conflict with other details and parts present. The conflicts make the whole rich, and in the language of Jencks we could say they are “resolved.”
We also see, in this excerpt, how ideas like Vidler’s typologies are acknowledged, broken down, and metabolized to further the composition. Specifically we see that in the play between circulation and axes, which are intentionally set at odds to create a wittier, if messier, architectural statement.