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

McEwan, Cameron orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0683-1708 (2014) An Archaeology of Fragments: James Stirling's Andrew Melville Hall. Outsiders: Building Scotland . pp. 4-11.

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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 and reads Andrew Melville Hall and is placed in dialogue with a suite of drawings (plans, sections, elevations, axonometric) and images (scale model, 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 and the city, but more broadly the history of forms in general. 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 evolution of formal knowledge in architecture. Furthermore it is worth pointing out that 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 will first rehearse Stirling’s formative influences and 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 will be 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.

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