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James Gowan
James Gowan FRIBA Fountains Abbey Modernist Architect Leicester Engineering

1973

$5,391.73

About

Post-war architect partner of architect Sir James Stirling, together they created Britain's first post-modernist building, Gowan being the talented shy partner of the larger-than-life Stirling. James Gowan (1923, Glasgow - 2015, London) Fountains Abbey (1973) 62x52cm Signed 'James Gowan' Inscribed to reverse 'Fountains Abbey 1973 James Gowan No 199' To see our other painting by Gowan, Modern British Art and architectural drawings, scroll down to "More from this Seller" and below it click on "See all from this Seller" and search. Gowan studied at Glasgow School of Art and Kingston School of Architecture where he was taught by Philip Powell of Powell & Moya who subsequently employed him on the winning entry to the Skylon Competition for the Festival of Britain in 1951. Following a period working on Stevenage New Town he jointed Lyons Israel Ellis where he met James Stirling. They were quickly established as one of the most radical practices of their generation when they designed Langham House Close on Ham Common (West London) in 1958 - a reaction against all that had gone before them. Gowan and Stirling took equal parts in the design of their early projects, culminating with the 1963 Engineering Building at the University of Leicester, considered the first postmodernist building in Britain. Shortly after the building was completed the two split acrimoniously, Stirling taking the lion's share of the credit. The Engineering Building represented a violemtn shift from the postwar era's functionalist doctrines, bringing in forceful geometries and dynamic structural feats in what was subsequently called the 'engineering style'. Two cantilevered lecture theatres are topped by a pair of glazed towers, clad in red Dutch tiles, monolithic wedges inspired by the superstructure of an aircraft carrier; the workshop building is surmounted by a crystalline roof with rippling waves that let in north-facing light. An almost gothic feel to the design, with concrete columns supporting the building like mediaeval flying buttresses, was later described by Gowan as "the Picasso profile with teh big eye slapped on the front" The visually stunning and highly practical building caused the architects to be awarded the Reynolds Award from the American Institute of Architects and was Grade II* listed in 1993. Stirling had fallen in love with the style and redelpoiyed it in his History Faculty Library at Cambridge University against Gowan's protestations. In his 2008 biography he said "I haven't changed my opinion that [the History Faculty Library] is a most unlikely college library and repeating the aesthetics [from Leicester] was most unwise." It has never been popular, overheating in summer and leaking in winter. Disagreement over this building caused the seven-year long partnership to break up. Stirling got his way in Cambridge, and with the Florey Building in Oxford followed by many more significant projects. Without Stirling's flamboyant personality Gowan's skill was never allowed to flourish. It was as a teacher that Gowan really excelled, influencing Quinlan Terry Richard Rogers, Peter Cook of Archigram and many others. His little-known speculative projects expressed his playful side. In the 1970s he produced ideas for enormous bird buildings, fat pigs, a giraffe-shaped skyscraper for Greenwich Reach with legs in the tidal Thames. The present work exhibits many of the characteristics obvious in his architectural works. There is a very strong architectural composition. The landscape and sky are approached in almost cubist fashion, reminiscent of the Toblerone-shaped roof of the Leicester Building, whilst the figures have a carefree feel to them. And here indeed are the gothic towers and flying butresses that we know inspired Gowan when designing the Leicester Engineering Building, being captured by the brightly-dressed members of an art class, splashes of primary colour in an already colourful landscape.

Details

  • Creator
    James Gowan (1923 - 2015)
  • Creation Year
    1973
  • Dimensions
    Height: 20.48 in. (52 cm)Width: 24.41 in. (62 cm)
  • Medium
  • Movement & Style
  • Period
  • Condition
    Generally excellent condition, relined.
  • Gallery Location
    London, GB
  • Reference Number
    1stDibs: LU79535134692

Shipping & Returns

  • Shipping
    Rates vary by destination and complexity. We recommend this shipping type based on item size, type and fragility.
    Ships From: London, United Kingdom
  • Return Policy

    A return for this item may be initiated within 14 days of delivery.

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About the Seller
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