Beneath the many stylistic variations represented by Leicester and other buildings by Stirling is a similar response, which may be seen initially as a return to what the free plan and the free facade challenged some forty years earlier. However, any building such as Leicester, which may at first seem to summarily dismiss two of the basic canons of modern architecture, must be carefully examined. It will be argued that Leicester implies the potential for presenting the vertical plane as a dominant spatial datum, while using a
vocabulary which runs counter to the by-now-traditional dematerialized cubist aesthetic. Leicester no longer conceives of planes as datum referents, such as the white, tautly stretched surfaces of Poissy or the frontal intensity and peripheral stress of the thin layers of both Garches and the Salvation Army Building. Rather than dismiss this architecture, as might be thought on first impression, Stirling in fact provokes a head-to-head confrontation. He poses an alternative that without literally destroying the volumetric box in the manner, say, of a Van Doesburg, and more recently in the wall decompositions of John Hejduk, destroys it conceptually. Stirling does not begin from a single box, but rather from an essentially multi-volumetric composition. He erodes this conception in such a way that it produces a datum plane, as a fulcrum element that implies not the original multi-volumetric conception but rather a single box. The conception of the resultant box is neither a dematerialized object in the cubist sense nor a series of volumes in the constructivist sense. Rather the actual boxes are conceptually "destroyed," and at the same time the virtual quality of a single box is produced by the way the object itself is eroded.
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