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The Last Masterpiece of 20th Century Architecture: James Stirling's 1992 Braun A G Factory in Melsungen, Germany

Part 1 Dissertation 1998
Jess Paul
University of Portsmouth | UK
The architect Sir James Stirling, who died unexpectedly in 1992, left behind a legacy of highly recognised and often criticised pieces of work. This dissertation concerns itself with investigating one piece of Stirling's work in particular; the Braun A. G. factory complex in Melsungen. This was the last piece of work which Stirling saw through to completion and could be seen as the culmination of the ideas and language that he developed throughout his career.

By investigating the ethos of modern industrial architecture and tracing the development of Stirling's principal design objectives, such as the architectural promenade, the expression of form, and the relation of the building to its context, this dissertation aims to place the Braun A.G. complex as the last masterpiece of the 20th century architecture.


Maxwell. Robert, November/December 1992, Casabella No.596, James Stirling:
Extending Modernism, Elemond, Milan

Mendini. Alessandro, June 1984, Domus No.651, James Stirling, Gianni Mazzocchi, Milan

Rowe. Colin, 1994, The Architecture of good intentions, Academy Editions, London

Sudjic. Deyan, 1986, Foster, Rogers, Stirling, Thames and Hudson, London

Jess Paul

The school of Architecture in Portsmouth retains a commitment to the dissertation as a valuable vehicle for postgraduate research with half of the final year of study devoted to this task. The school aims to energise an existing interest in the student, to encourage a focused investigation led by a passion for a subject. The submitted dissertation by Jess Paull had its roots in a modest degree project some three years previously, with a design for a tomb for James Stirling. This develped an interest that led to a year-out in Stirling's office (now Michael Wilford and Partners) culminating in a summer visit to the Braun A.G factory in Melsungen, Germany. Back in the Diploma school, the subject for this dissertation was not in doubt; Stirling- yet the problem was to find something new to say. The visit to the Braun factory left the student trapped in its aura and many discussions around Stirling's work, his museum masterpiece in Stuttgart in particular, kept returning to the power of the Braun complex. This led to the question of what is meant by a 'masterpiece' in architecture, suggesting that a masterpiece is perhaps the first, or last, in a line of architecture or a pivotal work of a great architect or the culture it serves. Equally, perhaps a masterpiece represents the drawing together of many strands of culture into a single whole and in the case of Melsungen, the entire career of Stirling who was tragically destined to never design another building. The dissertation therefore set out to demonstrate that with this factory complex in Germany, Stirling bequeathed to the world the last great masterpiece of the 20th century.

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