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Anger as Strathclyde school of architecture leaves Brutalist home

The decision by the University of Strathclyde to move its school of architecture out of its much-loved 1960s home has been slammed by former tutors and students

Completed in 1967, the building by Frank Fielden & Associates was the UK’s first purpose-built architecture school to be built in over three decades. But its life as a school of architecture looks set to be over, as the Glasgow university has proposed to move the architecture department into an engineering hub in the nearby James Weir building.

Paul Stallan, a former student and then tutor at the school, and director of Glasgow-based Stallan Brand said: ‘The decision to relocate the architecture faculty to generic space and leave behind their iconic home is disappointing.

‘I’m at a total loss to understand why the move is being considered. The existing building is infinitely flexible and robust and has the potential to adapt to a wide range of curriculum delivery requirements.

The move is perhaps a reflection on the total lack of leadership at the school

‘The move is perhaps a reflection on the total lack of leadership at the Strathclyde School presently. There are some great people on staff but it is clear that they exist in a vacuum. The school has no voice or cultural role within the Scottish business and design community and now soon to be without their iconic home.’ 

Alan Pert, a former student of the school and director at NORD Architecture Ltd said: ‘We can’t ignore that ways of teaching architecture have changed since 1967. But there is a missed opportunity in not rethinking the existing building. Changing staff to student ratios mean that nearly two floors off staff offices are not properly utilised and these could be turned into further teaching spaces. The building’s success is in its robustness and adaptability. There could have been significant teaching benefits in using its retrofit as a research project. It just needs investment to adapt it to new technologies.

The identity of the architecture department is part of the building

‘The identity of the architecture department is part of the building. It has been an important part of the decisions made by students to study there. I worry that this identity could be lost if the department moves to the James Weir building. This could have been an opportunity to rethink Strathclyde’s architecture department.’

Kieran Gaffney of Edinburgh-based Konishi Gaffney Architects who taught at the school said the proposed relocation was ‘a shame’: ‘The building was a delight to study in. It had amazing studio spaces, well lit with north light and high ceilings and very clear circulation. Although the move to the James Weir building will consolidate the connection to the engineering department, it is disappointing. The new building is a less successful 1960s block, grey, dull and much more like an office than an architecture department.’

Writing on the C20th Society website, current Strathclyde student Ruairidh Campbell Moir said: ‘As a student of the school since 2007, I greatly admire the building and have developed an affinity to it.  Individual identities as students, and the collective identity of the school, are nurtured and shaped by this building more than, perhaps, other departments of the university housed in nondescript buildings.’

Defending the move, executive dean of the faculty of engineering, Scott MacGregor said: ‘The relocation of the Department of Architecture is part of a major £35million investment programme which will bring together four of the Faculty departments, forming part of an integral engineering hub in and around the James Weir building in the northeast area of the campus.’

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Readers' comments (6)

  • And what will happen to/in Freddy Fielden's building?

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  • 'Engineering hub' sounds suspiciously like 'engineering ghetto' - since when has architecture (in the developed world) been classified as engineering, and is it part of a university's function to encourage polarisation of disciplines? What sort of an investment programme actually degrades the quality of accommodation - investment in empire building?

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  • This has happened at the Portsmouth School of Architecture too where we will be moving from a purpose built building to some refurbished art studios and part share the new extension at the Eldon Building. This controversial move between staff and students does have its merits though. Vinesh

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  • @ John McKean

    I would fear the worst, as there are plans to knock down the adjacent Colville Building if they get permission from Glasgow CC to pedestrianise North Portland Street and Rottenrow West. The long term strategy is to join Callanish/Steelhenge with Rottenrow Gardens to create one continuous open landscaped area. This one might well be the Newbery Tower all over again.

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  • Surely a building of said significance could easily be submitted to Historic Scotland for Listed status?

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  • Why not use the currently vacant architecture studios of the Fielden building at Strathclyde University as much needed temporary studios for students of the GSA, while restoration work is undertaken.

    A generous offer of solidarity, respect and friendship from one great institution across the city to another needing help which will be a positive reuse of much respected Fielden building?

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