Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Michael Laird Architects with Reiach and Hall

  • 1 Comment

This further education college is one of the few Glasgow buildings to address the River Clyde, and embrace the city’s industrial heritage

BRIEF • ARCHITECT’S VIEW ENGINEER’S VIEW CLIENT’S VIEW • PROJECT DATA • PLANS • ELEVATION • AXONOMETRIC SECTION • WORKING DETAIL

At the opening of the new Riverside Campus of the City of Glasgow College, the school’s principal claims, as he surveys the obligatory huge atrium, that the building will ‘really put Glasgow on the map’. This is an outrageously – if inadvertently – insulting statement on multiple levels. The former ‘second city of Empire’, described by John Betjeman as the greatest of all Victorian cities, the city of Greek Thomson, Mackintosh, MacMillan and Metzstein, is now officially ‘on the map’ because of a new sixth form college? But while it certainly doesn’t put Glasgow on the map, because it is already on it, it might help put Glasgow on the Clyde.

The campus is one of exceptionally few buildings in the city that really tries to address the river in any way whatsoever. As in so many cities built around riverside industry, the water has been a strictly utilitarian presence, a conduit, nothing more. Though the attendant silos and sheds had their own sombre appeal, they’ve been swept away rather than re-used.

Post-industrial developments, such as BDP’s achingly dull Broomielaw, RMJM and Gordon Murray and Alan Dunlop’s fussy Glasgow Harbour, and Zaha Hadid’s back-of-an-envelope Transport Museum, seem carelessly dumped on the river, with no real presence. The best of them, Chipperfield’s BBC headquarters in Govan, is cut off from its surrounding area, a photogenic enclave on a useless quay. The Riverside Campus, as its name implies, tries to stamp itself on the river, clearly and confidently. Unusually, the building’s functions are also connected to the Clyde, rather than it being an ornamental backdrop to call centres and luxury flats.

The City of Glasgow College is a further education college formed by the recent merging of Glasgow’s Central College, Metropolitan College and the College of Nautical Studies. These, spread across the city, are to be consolidated in two campuses, one in the city centre and one on the Clyde. Among the buildings being vacated  in the process is Wylie, Shanks & Underwood’s 1958 College of Building and Printing, a handsome late-Corbusien tower just above George Square, which is the only post-war high-rise of serious architectural note in Glasgow’s central grid. The College of Nautical Studies, meanwhile, was housed in a neat, if dilapidated white-tile Modernist mid-rise on the river, between the City Union Bridge and Victoria Bridge. Typically for Glasgow’s treatment of its post-war architecture, rather than the simpler option of just renovating a decent building, it is being removed and replaced, and was being chipped away at by the bulldozers at the time of writing.

However, the new building has a far more impressive presence on the river. It is divided into two towers: one of classrooms and workshops, the other of halls of residence, linked by a (sadly gated) square and a public colonnade. From the north side of the Clyde, the two towers hold the space between the two bridges with some vigour. It’s only when you walk along the riverside that you notice Coleman Ballantine’s 1984 Glasgow Central Mosque is next to one of them, its enjoyable Brutalist-Pomo hybrid turned decisively away from the river.

Engaging with the river is one thing, engaging with the Gorbals is somewhat trickier

Deeper into the southside, you’re in the deeply chaotic remnants of the post-war replanning of the Gorbals, high-rises renovated (RMJM’s excellent, if obsessively gated Hutchesontown B) and derelict (the system-built Norfolk Court), excessive road engineering, scrubland, fragments of tenement townscape, car parks, Pomo hotels, and CZWG’s interesting but insular Queen Elizabeth Court. It’s a mess, and the new buildings prefer to address the river, with the back end a building site, particularly while the old Nautical College is being demolished. Engaging with the river is one thing, engaging with the Gorbals is somewhat trickier.

The facades of the two towers are rational and regular  – a curtain wall of gold anodised aluminium, two laconic, faintly Miesian grids, with a more Classical concrete colonnade running between them, enclosing that annoyingly private square, with a glass walkway passing between the two. It’s a welcome contrast to the ingratiating, confused Blair-era regeneration architecture of Broomielaw and sundry chain hotels on the other side of the river. On top of the college tower is ‘CITY OF GLASGOW COLLEGE’ in large illuminated letters.

The effect is simple, powerful and reticent, and though this sort of rationalism is fast becoming a new cliché, it leaves a lot less room for embarrassment. It is a straightforward language and much more difficult for contractors and PFI to mangle. They’ll try their best, of course: the entrance to the enormous atrium inside the college building has supergraphics on one side and mottled render on the other, a reminder that this is still a Design and Build job. While the design is simple enough to avoid too many of the horrors that come with PFI, the detailing is cheap throughout, with only small delicate touches – the white tiles to the lift lobbies, for instance, an obvious nod to the building being demolished behind us.

In fairness, the fact that this building houses the college’s engineering departments – the ‘nautical’ bit – means a certain roughness makes a degree of sense; the exposed services, wires and pipes can be explained away as pedagogical tools rather than ways around a low budget. Classrooms and workshops are on the eight floors around the atrium. A café on the second level is positioned as a place to see and be seen. Within that, there are surprises, such as the simulator on the fifth floor, where you enter a tiny room and are suddenly at the command of a ship making its way along the Hudson, of all things. The classrooms and the circulation spaces are pleasant and very corporate – spaces that flow into each other, each commanding views of the centre of Glasgow.

The college principal claims that the building will be part of the ‘reindustrialisation’ of Glasgow

But the engineering workshops are another matter. Running along the walkway that connects the college to the halls of residence, they house a huge number of large and complicated machines, mostly as a means of training students in skills connected with shipping. The double-height space is marked out by orange-painted structural steelwork, while just outside is that genteel colonnaded square and the river, and the halls. And expensive as they are, it’s welcome to see these integrated into a college rather than provided by the dubious ‘solutions’ of student housing developers.

Aside from his comments on maps, the principal claims that the building will be part of the ‘reindustrialisation’ of Glasgow, a somewhat emotive remark round here, given the well-publicised endemic poverty in the city’s working-class districts. Whether or not this college can make much dent in the decades of underinvestment and decline Glasgow has faced, it’s refreshing how it tries to reconnect to an industrial waterway. A friend of a friend was once guided by an estate agent around the Glasgow Harbour development a couple of miles downriver, which has a view of the surviving Govan shipyards, now run by BAE. Noticing his clients gazing at the goings-on inside the yard, the agent reassured them: ‘Don’t worry, that’ll be gone soon.’ This building is predicated on places like the Govan shipyards surviving and expanding, and on Glasgow being a city that designs and makes machines and sends them round the world. This is, if nothing else, optimistic.

Ground floor plan

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Third floor plan

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Elevation

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Axonometric section

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Working detail  

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

The atrium forms the heart of the main education building and functions as a key element of the concept design. Two of the brief’s key objectives were to create a civic building with presence that sends a message that the citizens of Glasgow are welcome to come in; and that the design encouraged collaboration and optimised ideal curriculum adjacencies for educational delivery.

The atrium promotes interdepartmental communication and awareness, inside the building, through the extensive use of glass partitioning, displaying the activity inside each room. The atrium’s north elevation is fully glazed to allow views from around the city into the heart of the building and corresponding views from every internal space back out over the city.

The detail design of the atrium’s north facade therefore became vital during the design process to realise the full potential of the concept design. It spans 15m horizontally and 31m vertically and is constructed using a double-glazed, unitised, aluminium curtain walling system.

Lateral restraint is provided by a bespoke fabricated steel beam, which in turn is supported using suspension rods that connect to the primary structure at high level. During the detail design process we worked closely with the specialist curtain walling subcontractor and structural engineer to develop a visually light and refined structure, so as to maximise the views to and from the city.

Michael Laird Architects and Reiach and Hall Architects

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Source: Edmund Sumner

Brief

The City of Glasgow College was formed through the merger of Glasgow’s Central, Metropolitan and Nautical Colleges into a single institution in 2010. This project is the first part of the consolidation of the college from 12 separate legacy sites on to two new campuses, to bring the facilities up to 21st-century standards.

The Riverside Campus contains the Faculty of Nautical Studies and the Faculty of Building, Engineering and Energy. Among the specialist facilities are a working ship’s engine room, cross-discipline project bases to encourage ’blended’ learning, an innovative multidiscipline engineering hall, a ship’s bridge simulation suite, alongside more generic teaching, learning and support spaces.

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Source: Edmund Sumner

Architect’s view

Designed in a joint venture between Michael Laird Architects and Reiach and Hall Architects, the Riverside Campus is the result of a combination of ideas about the city and the student experience.

The new buildings occupy a key gateway in the city, marking a major crossing over the River Clyde, and engage this point with considerable scale to create a memorable landmark.

The buildings are organised around two new civic spaces: a cloistered garden and a grand hall. These convivial, social spaces encourage students to mix and realise opportunities for blended learning across disciplines, while truly engaging in the culture and dynamics of the city.

The cloistered garden has an immediate connection with the city, grouping halls of residence, a teaching block and engineering workshops next to the Clyde. The garden provides a cloistered edge to the river walkway. Arranging the buildings around a courtyard allows all rooms in the campus to have direct or oblique views of river and city.

The teaching block becomes a focus for public access and staff / student life. Its ‘grand hall’ projects the college brand to the city as an open and welcoming institution. Alongside learning and teaching facilities for a maritime college and school of engineering and science, are student-facing services, a learning resource centre, a 170-seat refectory and a public café, all intensifying the idea of community. These spaces are arranged around the grand hall as it elongates vertically through the building, allowing the city to be experienced from all levels, and making orientation simple and intuitive.

Our ambition was to redesign the college’s previous setup – silos for different disciplines spread across the city – into a careful arrangement of spaces that students and staff pass through on a daily basis, with stimulating blended learning and cross discipline opportunities. The specialist teaching needs have been met in a new state-of the-art facility that establishes the college as the UK’s leading further education college.

Michael Laird Architects and Reiach and Hall Architects

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Source: Edmund Sumner

Engineer’s view

The Riverside Campus shows an integrated approach to architectural and services design to realise a landmark learning resource. The mechanical and electrical design was part of this approach, exceeding the college’s requirement for state-of-the-art teaching accommodation and halls of residence.

The college wanted a group of buildings that could be developed and modified to meet its changing educational requirements while adopting a sustainable approach. In response we developed a ‘plug and play’ solution to services distribution alongside the formation of the architectural floor plans. We included vertical distribution routes at key locations to minimise horizontal distribution on floorplates. This allows systems to be altered with minimal disruption to meet new space requirements, and allows inbuilt zoning of services.

To meet the key project policy of sustainability, the design team developed services and design features that reduced energy demand and reliance on main utility services. To minimise energy demand, we developed passive design measures, such as improved air tightness, significantly low building fabric u-values, and use of the atriums to support the ventilation philosophy. Reliance on utilities was further reduced by using on-site combined heat and power (CHP), photovoltaic panels for onsite electricity generation, solar panels for hot water production, and rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing.

FES

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Source: Edmund Sumner

Client’s view

Riverside Campus is the first phase of our super college, and represents a significant investment in maritime education and training, marine engineering and science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Incorporating some 100 learning spaces, it is home to 2,000 marine and engineering students and 250 staff.

It is already an award-winning building, identified by Glasgow Institute of Architects as a memorable civic landmark and described by Scotland’s first minister as world leading.

Its seven-storey atrium provides a beating heart at the centre of this vibrant building, and is the entrance to the most modern, most technologically advanced and most future-proofed maritime campus of all 230 such colleges anywhere in the world.

Riverside’s wonderful learning areas are deliberately open and connected, and my favourite feature – the outstanding seven-storey-high atrium window – offers staggering views from each and every floor.

We are delighted with Riverside. Our students are enjoying the spaces and it is having a positive impression on our industry partners across the globe.

Paul Little, principal and chief executive officer, City of Glasgow College

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Source: Edmund Sumner

Project data

Start on site June 2013
Completion August 2015   
Gross internal floor area 21,403m²  (teaching facilities 15,646m²; halls of residence 5,757m²)
Form of contract Bespoke NPD with halls of residence on a Design and Build basis
Construction cost £66 million
Architect Michael Laird Architects and Reiach and Hall Architects
Client City of Glasgow College
Structural engineer Arup
M&E consultant FES with Hulley & Kirkwood
Quantity surveyor SRM/Sweet Group
Acoustics Arup Acoustics
Fire engineer Jeremy Gardner Associates
Landscape architect Rankinfraser landscape architecture
Interiors Graven
Signage Studio LR
CDM coordinator Kirk & Marsh
Main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine 
CAD software used Revit, AutoCad, Microstation
Estimated annual CO2 emissions 15.36kg CO2/m² (teaching block and workshop combined)

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Riverside Campus, City of Glasgow College by Reiach and Hall

Source: Edmund Sumner

 

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Fussy Owen? FUSSY? Ach, you're right. Right too about Riverside Museum

    Reiach and Hall are the only architects currently working in Scotland that are able to rise above the country's current low fee, low expectations and rediculous contractor led procurement process and make Architecture. No wonder Paul Little is delighted. Congratulations

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.