Thursday, June 27, 2013

Scottish Government's 'Creating Places' Policy Document

A national architecture policy for Scotland which emphasises the importance of 'place' in enriching people's lives has been launched this week.

In the 'Creating Places' policy statement, the Scottish Government vows to achieve positive change for communities and for the architecture profession through collaborative design projects. This involves a commitment to work with Architecture & Design Scotland (A+DS) to publish an annual review of emerging Scottish design practices, a commitment to promote community participation in design and planning, and a commitment to support the RIAS Festival of Architecture in 2016.

The report is significant for its recognition of the important role design plays in shaping the quality of people's environments, and the economic benefits to be gained from good design. Through its publication, the Scottish Government appears to be offering an outstretched arm to the architecture and design sector. The  message is clear: successful architecture and place-making are the necessary mechanics to facilitating prosperous economic, social and environmental change in Scotland.

Read the full report here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Library Outing to St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Last Saturday, a troupe of intrepid ramblers, otherwise known as GSA Library & Learning Resources team, embarked on a self-guided tour of the Kilmahew Estate in Cardross. We had absconded from Garnethill with one simple mission: to find the ruins of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia's masterpiece, St Peter's Seminary. And, of course, to discuss it over lunch! It's fair to say that this had all the hallmarks of a Gillespie, Kidd & Coia pilgrimage being made in the footsteps of early Christian missionaries, Scots nobility and trainee priests as we soon discovered from our appointed tour-guide, Architecture Librarian David Buri!

We set off in the morning under a murky-looking sky and proceeded into the woods at Kilmahew Estate - a moving sea of cagoules and backpacks. Thankfully for us, the weather was on our side, and as we progressed further from the perimeter and through the rhododendrons, the only thing we had to fear was the odd crack of a golf-ball from Cardross Golf Course, in dangerously close proximity to the track! Stepping through the undergrowth, we tried to recreate in our minds the original grandeur of the the estate's ornamental gardens, driveways and parkland. Two exceptionally tall redwood trees flanking the path at the original entrance were a reminder of the estate's historic roots and the status it would have enjoyed, only decades ago. 

At the top of the route we reached our destination: the dramatic ruins of St Peter's Seminary, built in the 1960s and abandoned since 1980. The post-apocalyptic scene we encountered is something to behold: a derelict building, ravished by time, blemished by grafitti, yet still powerfully capable of inducing frissions down the spine. Perhaps it's down to our current fetish for all things Brutalist, but this was similar to experiencing the sublime in nature - achieved through architecture!

The photos we're used to seeing in the GKC Archive in GSA's Archive and Collection Centre are black and white so we were unprepared for Kilmahew Estate's vivid colours. Sienna-cobbled stonework, red tree-bark, green, lilac and pink shrubbery and neon grafitti have created a unique collage: something like a forgotten space-ship crash in medieval times or the set of a science-fiction film! At close range, it's overwhelmingly apparent why the seminary is often given the accolade of being the best example of work by partners Andy MacMillan and Izi Metzstein and is revered by many as the most important piece of twentieth-century modernist architecture in post-war Britain. The contrasting curved and angular walls of the complex envelope the ruins of the once standing Kilmahew House which once stood as the structure's fourth wall. The majestic design and the scale of the concrete build is incredible; as too is the clear level of disrepair. We were thrilled, surprised and dismayed all at once!

As one of the few post-war buildings to be granted A-listed status, there is something melancholic and aesthetically-alluring about the seminary's abandonment, demise and unorthodox appropriation by grafitti artists. While its conservation seems to be something of an architectural frisbee, plans to conserve it as a community space were submitted by landscape architects erz in February of this year. To read more about the proposed rehabilitation of St Peter's, make sure to check for updates on Glasgow Architecture's website.

Reincarnation emerged as a recurrent theme as we followed the tour onwards. The entire Kilmahew Estate has had many incarnations - each new vision and design has been followed by decline and ruin. After the excitement of the seminary, we also discovered the ruins of nearby Kilmahew Castle, and explored the gardens where an ornamental pond, waterfall and rhododendron tunnel can be found. It was then onto a nearby farm-shop and tearoom for a well-deserved lunch and post-tour analysis! We even found time to stop at nearby Geilston Hall on the road back to Glasgow, a drill-house designed by a young Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1889.

The tour is free to download from The Royal Geographical Society's website as part of the Discovering Britain project. You can download written and audio guides from the website. The booklet (available to download here: Kilmahew – walk booklet and in stock in GSA Library) includes the black and white images of St Peter’s Seminary from the GSA Gillespie, Kidd & Coia archive. Check the ACC blog for related GKC posts.

Friday, June 14, 2013

'Ghost of Water Row' is RIAS 2013 Award Winner

Edo Architecture's evanescent art installation 'Ghost of Water Row' is among the dozen winners of the RIAS Awards 2013. The list of the twelve best buildings in Scotland was announced at an awards ceremony on Wednesday night with Edo's zero-budget, Govan-based submission scooping the accolade alongside big-budget projects such as The Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock and Aberdeen University's new £30m library.

Now in its second year, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Awards recognise architectural achievement in Scotland. The award organisers expressed delight with the number and quality of all 75 submissions with the varied award winners representing a vote of confidence for Scottish architecture.

To learn more about 'The Ghost of Water Row' which commemorates the late sculptor George Wylie, read our previous blog post. The full list of RIAS Award winners is here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

RIBA Online Exhibition for Bedford Lemere & Co.

The latest online exhibition from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) provides a comprehensive platform for exploring the architectural photography of Bedford Lemere & Co. 

'Recording the New' is a plotted history of the establishment, rise and reputation of the photography firm between 1870 and 1930, revealing images from the photography firm's vast portfolio and snapshots of the public archive, held by English Heritage. Based on the exhibition of the same name held at the V&A in 2011, it is a glimpse into the ongoing project by English Heritage to conserve, catalogue and scan their archive of photographs and negatives- one of the largest relating to the photography firm. The aim is to make digital copies of all the images accessible online. 8,000 can already be searched through the English Heritage Archives, providing those impressed by the exhibition with a further avenue for research. 

Formed towards the end of the nineteenth century by founders Bedford Lemere and son Harry, the London-based photography company documented changes to Britain as it teetered uncertainly on the brink of the twentieth century and then advanced into the new technological age. Architect clients and designers commissioned the firm to take photographs of new works from large-scale architectural works to domestic interiors and new urban developments. Today these photographs of now historic settings and features provide a visual record of our heritage. They are also key examples of the period's growing interest in the medium of photography as a means of capturing pioneering change.

GSA Library hold two collections of photographs by Bedford Lemere; one taken of Glasgow City Chambers and another of interiors designed by influential designers including Morris & Co. and Grinling Gibbons. These can be consulted in the Mackintosh Library. The Archives & Collection Centre also keep photographs taken of the Art School in 1910. For an appointment to view either item, visit the Librarians' Office on Level 1 of the Library, or see contact details for the School's archive at this link.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Country Life Release Scottish Castle Articles

For the first time, architecture magazine Country Life are releasing a selection of online articles which examine Scottish castles.The featured castles are Balmoral, Culzean, Glamis and Stirling, with articles also written on the regal setting at Holyroodhouse and the Jacobean romance at Traquair House.

The Library hold an extensive back-run of the weekly Country Life magazine from when it first began in 1897. With the Library refurbishment due to start on Monday, access to printed copies will be limited until mid-September to the pre-1985 issues. There is good news however: a high number of the magazine's recent quality articles are freely accessible through a search of the Country Life website.

Some of these articles are illustrated with quality images forming an impressive online photo gallery. The architecture, gardens and interior design of some of the most desirable and stately country homes in Britain and abroad form an impressive bank of images which could come in useful. For example, we discovered this vintage cover of Country Life from August 3rd 2012 on the Scottish Castles home-page.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Cosmogenesis: 1,2,3 for the GFT!

With work in progress to add a third screen to the Glasgow Film Theatre on Rose Street, we thought we'd take the opportunity to take a closer look at the history of Glasgow's much loved, art-house cinema.

The GFT began life in May 1939 as The Cosmo and was the first art-house cinema to be opened outside London. Architect W.J. Anderson II of John McKissick & Son designed the building as a homage to the Curzon in Mayfair, the longest established art-house cinema in the UK.

The brown-brick, windowless facade and towered entrance are inspired by European modernist architecture of the time, notably that of the Dutch designer Willem Dudok best known for the brick Hilversum City Hall near Amsterdam. In the book Architecture of Glasgow held by GSA Library, the authors describe the building as set on a plinth of black Swedish granite and clad in Ayrshire brick with a cream faience trim. Unbeknown to many, Gillespie Kidd & Coia replaced the lighted glass canopy in the mid-1960s and rebuilt the offices which back onto Renfrew Street.

The Cosmo was reincarnated as the Glasgow Film Theatre in 1974. Since then, it has been remodelled to include two screens and Cafe Cosmo which will sadly cease to exist when the new 60-seat cinema is built on top of the existing bar. The cafe with its dimly-lit ambience has been a popular meeting place for conversation between film enthusiasts. Alasdair Gray may be making a thinly-veiled allusion to Cafe Cosmo in Lanark's opening line in his description of The Elite Cafe, "entered by a staircase from the foyer of a cinema." The eponymous hero who spends his time walking and visiting libraries and cinemas, may in Gray's imagination, have been a frequent visitor - especially given the artist's proximity to the cinema as a student of GSA in the 1950s. There are plans to develop a new cafe to the rear of the revamped cinema in addition to an office, kiosk and canopy and it will be exciting to see whether this feature retains its verve!

Today the GFT continues to contribute to the cultural and artistic scene in Glasgow with the £1.6 million development surely enhancing this position. The 1930s design marks it out from the run-of-the-mill entertainment multiplexes which welcome droves of sugar-frenzied cinema-goers through the doors to indulge in the guilty pleasures of the latest multi-million grossing blockbuster. Always the serious older sibling, the GFT is unique for the crowds it attracts to watch its cult screenings, something to which the success of the Glasgow Film Festival is testimony.

Cineworld may have the distinction of being the world's tallest cinema, but given its designated 'Carbunkle' status, it's the art-deco charm of the GFT that more stylishly represents Glasgow's continuing obsession with the pictures!