|Title||20th Century Avant-garde and Architecture: Mies van der Rohe’s unbuilt design for the City of London|
A recent exhibition at the RIBA Architecture Gallery staged a comparison between two design proposals, one by Mies van der Rohe the other by James Stirling, for a historic site in London’s financial district known as The City. The exhibition looked back in time to events of the mid 1980s, revealing how Mies’ unbuilt modernist design for an office tower and open plaza had actually paved the way toward realising a design by James Stirling: the building sits on the site today, known as No1 Poultry and has recently been listed by Historic England as an exemplary postmodern monument. The exhibition was interesting for its curatorial bias because, although it appeared to be about a historical subject, it resisted setting that subject in a meaningful narrative, its stated intention being solely to compare the formal propositions of the subject architects (figure 1). As an accompaniment to the exhibition a book was published, One Poultry Speaks imagined Stirling’s building as like a child, curious to know about its origins and identity and innocently asking questions of its progenitors. The answers constructed a myth around the building, one that included Mies’ design but omitted to say anything about the avant-garde attitudes that underpinned it.
Leaving to one side the somewhat doubtful premise that buildings can speak for themselves, in what follows it is tentatively assumed that the founding principles of the Ancient Monuments Society extends to the consideration of unbuilt designs as a species of ancient monument and it is supposed that, had it been built, the Mies would by now be valued for its historic significance and fine old craftsmanship. One reason for pursuing this line of inquiry is because the aspirations of modernist avant-garde architects, like Mies, is a proper subject for study and conservation and the fact London almost had a building by Mies a tantalising feature of recent architectural history.
|Keywords||Mansion House, Mies van der Rohe, James Stirling, Poultry, Avant-garde,|
|Journal||Ancient Monuments Society: Transactions|
|Journal citation||63, pp. 90-106|
|Publisher||Ancient Monuments Society|
|Accepted author manuscript|