The Queen's College Florey building is the third and last building of “The Red Trilogy” (the Leicester Engineering Faculty building and the Cambridge History Faculty building being the first two) designed by James Stirling, solidifying him as an irreplaceable facet in modern Architecture.
The Florey building was named after provost and 1945 Nobel Laureate Lord Howard Florey, who sat on the committee in charge of choosing an architect for the project. Although Stirling was not the most popular choice for lead architect on the project, Florey was an advocate of his, and Stirling was ultimately agreed upon because of the promise and potential held in his reputation at that time to deliver an iconic, modern building to boost the college’s reputation and enrollment.
All three of Stirling’s university buildings were designed in the decade between 1958 and 1968, but the Florey building did not begin construction until after the end of this time period and was not completed until 1971.
This delayed completion was almost a year and a half later than promised due to logistical issues within Stirling’s office and delayed construction drawings from his office to the contractors on site.
The structure is primarily a concrete frame with exposed, A-frame “feet” at the ground level. As with his previous university buildings, terra cotta tiles make up the majority of the façade, while the inside of the somewhat ‘U’-shape made up of a glazing system that faces North and overlooks the River Cherwell.
The building contains 74 dormitories over four levels, with a top level of double-height gallery rooms for graduates and a ground level equipped with a dining hall and other general rooms.
In the classic book Modern Movements in Architecture, Charles Jencks writes of Stirling’s university buildings and praises him as ‘the best architect of his generation’. This, however, was never particularly the standpoint of the Florey building’s various clients or users. Stirling’s office was inevitably sued by the Queen’s College because of the many problems encountered both during construction and after completion. As a result, Stirling’s office was unable to find work in England for at least a decade after the Florey building, instead finding promise of work in places like Germany, Japan, and the Unites States.