James Stirling, Cowes Residence, Isle of Wight, 1956

James Stirling, Cowes Residence, Isle of Wight, 1956

James Stirling, Cowes Residence, Isle of Wight, 1956 (View in Google maps)

The Isle of Wight house was designed by James Gowan and then brought into the newly formed practice to be published alongside their Stirling’s Ham Common project. It clearly demonstrates many of their shared preoccupations, such as efforts of young architects wanting to break away from the orthodox modernism of Mies.

It’s a single storey house positioned about half way back on the site, occupying almost full width of the long rectangular plot, with  the road to the west and a golf course at the rear to the east. An existing stone wall which marked the former boundary of the substantial estate of Northwood House runs along the west boundary.

The plan is based on a symmetrical shape of a letter H. As a consequence, wings of the building creating a space for two small courtyards, with the sides of the H facing the front and back gardens. The elevational treatment is characterized by simple brick panels alternating with full height windows.  The house was to be built as cheaply as possible –  with the use of very simple constructional elements and a restricted palette of materials. This can be seen for example in the form of elemental fireplace. Internal partitions were of bare fair-faced concrete blockwork. Timber floors, ceilings, windows and doors were all left unpainted and simply treated where necessary with a clear matt varnish. This meant there was no distinction between the internal and external surfaces, creating a strong continuity between the main courtyard and the internal spaces that opened on to it.[1]



J. M. Richards (1958) – ‘Criticism: House near Cowes, Isle of Wight designed by James Stirling and James Gowan’, in ‘Architects’ Journal’, 24. July 1958, pp 119-122.


[1] http://russelldlight.blogspot.it/2011/05/pragmatics-of-ideal-villa_08.html

stirling-1956-isola wight_2

Reviewed March 2017 by:

Yue Shang

Xiaolin Lu

Lizhongyang Zhou

Adelina Muntean