Details about Stark's (or Starke's) early life and architectural
training are scant but most authorities agree that he was born in Dunfermline,
Fife. However, his importance to the development of the Classical revival in
Scotland is without doubt.
His earliest recorded works were all in Glasgow and include the Classical,
domed Hunterian Museum, Old College (1804, dem. c. 1900s), which, when its
demolition was being considered in the late 19th Century, the sculptor
suggested should be moved to Queen's Park as a shelter.
In 1807, he designed St George's Tron Church, Buchanan Street (itself
the subject of demolition threats throughout its history), the tall obelisks
of which were substituted as an alternative to the statues of the four
Evangelists which were originally proposed.
Two years later he won a limited competition for Glasgow's Justiciary
Court and Public Buildings, Jocelyn Square, for which he designed the first
'pure' Doric portico in Scotland. This was retained when the building was
completely rebuilt, 1910-13, by
J H Craigie
, but lost its tympanum group of
the Arms of Glasgow and Scotland which were removed due to their poor
condition (Stark's original interiors were stripped during earlier refittings
in the 1840s and 50s).
His other important Glasgow work was the Lunatic Asylum, 32 Parliamentary
Road (1809, dem. 1910), which was influential in the development of hospital
design and was the first hospital in Britain to be laid out on a saltire
plan with its wings radiating from a central block. The building was
later converted to the City Poorhouse by
Clarke & Bell
Elsewhere, he designed Saline Church, Fife (1810); the interiors of the
Lower Signet Library, Edinburgh (1812); Muirkirk Old Church, Ayrshire (1812),
and restored Dunfermline Abbey, rebuilding its South West tower.
Stark later visited St Petersburgh, Russia.