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Architecture 2011

Jonathan Glancey looks ahead to a celebration of the architect James Stirling at Tate Britain, as well as the year's other architecture highlights

James Stirling was a man of large appetites. Not for nothing was this bravura architect, born in Glasgow in 1924, known as Big Jim: before his death in 1992, he designed some of the most charismatic British buildings of the second half of the 20th century.

Tate Britain will this year host James Stirling: Notes From the Archive. Don't let the dry title put you off. There will be more than 300 drawings, models and photographs, as eye-opening today as they were when he made them. In sketches on the back of boarding passes, in photos of old buildings, in crammed notebooks, you will witness the mind of a true original.

Stirling was incapable of designing anything bland. My favourite is the Engineering Building at Leicester University (above). It opened in 1963, but remains a shock to the system, a radical design that went against the grain of the genteel modernism that had seeped into these islands like a white mist from the 1930s. Sadly, many of Stirling's early buildings – including Leicester, the History Library at Cambridge, and the Florey Building for Queen's College, Oxford – were shoddily built. They proved too much of a challenge for British contractors, and have all needed major renovation.

It was only when Big Jim got to work in Germany that form, function and construction coalesced: his Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart is a masterpiece. This unpretentious man brought passion, adventure and energy into an otherwise dull architectural scene.

At Tate Britain, London SW1 (020-7887 8888), 5 April to 21 August.

The year's architecture highlights

The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire

Yorkshire gets a brand new art gallery – or, to be more precise, a cleverly intersecting set of 10 new concrete gallery spaces, designed by David Chipperfield Architects. Set on the banks of the River Calder, this will be home to 40 sculptures by the Wakefield-born sculptor Barbara Hepworth, along with works by her contemporaries, including Ben Nicholson, Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland – and by Brâncusi, Giacometti and Mondrian. Chipperfield is good at knowing how to let art and artists take pride of place, while shaping thoughtful and effective buildings.

Opening in the spring. More details:

Turner Contemporary, Margate

This is shaping up to be Chipperfield's year. Here, the architect's tall and striking galleries, clad in opaque white glass, rise between Margate's Marine Parade and the sea that Turner returned to, time and time again, to paint. The impressive £17.5m gallery replaces an original design, even closer to the sea, by Snøhetta and Spence that was more dramatic, but would have cost a whopping £50m.

Opening in the spring. Details:

Guangzhou Opera House, China

In the 1990s, Zaha Hadid's stirring designs for an opera house on Cardiff Bay were rejected. But now she's seized the chance to build a grand, 1,800-seat opera house overlooking the Pearl River in southern China. It was meant to open in 2009, but was delayed by a fire at the construction site in May that same year.

Opening in February. Details:

Topping out ceremony at the One World Trade Center, New York

One decade after 9/11, the last steel beam in the 1,776ft "Freedom Tower" designed by David Childs of SOM architects, is due to be levered into place just before next Christmas. Although the steel and glass construction won't be ready for occupation until 2013, the topping out ceremony will mark the very visible, and doubtless very emotional, architectural revival of this 16-acre site at the southern tip of Manhattan.

December. Details: © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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