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Major Scottish competition launched

The contest for the £50 million overhaul of Glasgow School of Art’s Garnethill site, one of the most important Scottish projects in decades, launches today (20 March)

The AJ can reveal that the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) has launched an open international competition tomorrow to find a design team to mastermind the £50 million overhaul of the site opposite the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed school.

The competition is expected to be one of the most popular in Scotland since the competition to design the Burrell Collection building in Glasgow in the late 1970s.

Backed by the Scottish Funding Council, the school is looking for an architect to develop a masterplan for the Garnethill plot, which currently accommodates three buildings, including a 1960s block and a listed 1936 assembly hall. The GSA would consider demolishing all three, as it looks to expand the available space on the plot from 8,500m2 to 11,000m2.

‘Who could not be excited by what lies ahead?’ said Seona Reid, director of the GSA.

‘In terms of money there are much bigger projects in Scotland – but in terms of prestige it must be up there, if not at the top.

‘So many people are fond of the Mac and it would be a thrill to build opposite it.’

The contest, which is being run by Malcolm Reading Consultants, marks the first phase of a programme to develop the school’s ageing campus and create a ‘modern learning and research environment’ for its 1,700 students and 400 staff.

Reid admits that the launch of the competition has come at an ideal moment, with architects hankering for work and construction costs dipping: ‘[We’ve] inadvertently chosen a good time and we expect to get up to 250 entrants – if not more. If we’d had the opportunity to do this before we would have jumped at it.’

The competition judges, which is chaired by David Mackay of MBM Arquitectes, has admitted it is keen to encourage entries from small practices who could work alongside a larger firm to deliver the project.

Mackintosh’s arts and crafts building, completed between 1899 and 1909, recently underwent a £8.6 million refit and renovation by ZM Architecture with Page\Park Architects.

A shortlist will be announced in May and the six finalists’ concept designs will be shown to staff and students before a winner is announced in September.


Candidates have until Friday 1st May to enter their Stage 1 application. Candidates are asked to enter the competition

David Mackay will chair the judging panel, with broadcaster Muriel Gray as deputy chair. The other two external members are still to be advised.

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