James Stirling’s Andrew Melville Hall: An Archaeology of Fragments

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This article is a close‐reading of James Stirling’s canonical building, Andrew Melville Hall (1968) in St Andrews, Scotland. The aim is to expose the influences on Stirling and the challenges of the period, articulating the intellectual ambition of late Modernist work in Scotland and to theorise Stirling's formal and conceptual approach through the notion of an “archaeology of fragments.” A text situates Andrewand interprets Melville Hall. It is placed in dialogue with a suite of drawings (plans, sections, elevations, axonometric) and archive photographs. On one hand an archaeology of fragments refers to a conceptual framework for the selection and extraction of a fragment – an abstract or representational form – from the history of architecture, but more broadly the history of forms. On the other hand the notion refers to a formal principle for the composition, manipulation and transformation of buildings as distinct parts through operations such as duplication, repetition, rotation, oppositions of scale, form, space, interior and exterior. It is important to recognise in both cases an archaeology of fragments is linked with the historical development of formal knowledge. Furthermore, the category of fragment discussed here does not refer to a romantic vision of architecture as a ruin, nor of material phenomena. Rather the fragment is understood from a conceptual and formal point of view. In the text that follows I first rehearse Stirling’s formative influences then put forward a close reading of his Andrew Melville Hall as a transitional work in Stirling’s oeuvre that points toward the spatial complexity of his museum and gallery projects of later years. My discussion is situated by recalling a selection of significant moments in architectural debate during the 1950s and 1960s from Banham to Eisenman and Ungers then to Rossi and Tafuri.

This article was published as part of the AE Foundation contribution to the Scotland+Venice Project “Building Scotland” curated by Neil Gillespie, director of Reiach and Hall Architects, for the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale by Rem Koolhaas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOutsiders
EditorsSamuel Penn, Cameron McEwan, Penny Lewis
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherScotland+Venice; Reiach & Hall Architects
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2014
EventVenice Architecture Biennale: Fundamentals, Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 - Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Duration: 26 Sept 201424 Oct 2014
Conference number: 14


ExhibitionVenice Architecture Biennale


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