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Contest held to reinvent Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s Double Villa

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The Alexander Thomson Society has announced an ideas competition for a contemporary tribute to the Glasgow architect’s innovative Double Villa

The anonymous contest seeks proposals for a semi-detached home in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow’s South Side. It has been launched to mark next year’s bicentennial of the birth of Thomson, whose work was famously influenced by Greek, Egyptian and Levantine styles.

The society has specified that ‘accommodation should be equivalent to that of the semi-detached pair of the original design, and comprise arrangements for sleeping, eating, dining, washing and relaxing which reflect upon a 21st-century lifestyle’.

Thomson was born in 1817 and completed an impressive range of villas, terraces, tenements, warehouses and churches during a short career before his death at the age of 57.

His buildings achieved international recognition during the 1950s due to their perceived influence on Frank Lloyd Wright. The Alexander Thomson Society was founded by architectural journalist Gavin Stamp 25 years ago to preserve and promote his work.

The Double Villa, also known as Villa Maria, was constructed in 1857 on a narrow plateau next to Mansionhouse Road in the outlying Glasgow suburb of Langside. The sandstone structure features two identical semi-detached houses, rotated to appear as one single building, and is considered one of Thomson’s most ingenious designs.

The competition seeks proposals for a triangular site at the junction of Nithsdale Road and Darnley Road close to Thomson’s Moray Place terrace. The competition is open to architects and students, and digital submissions should include up to three A2-sized display boards, with architectural models also encouraged.

Applications will be judged on their design, detail, conceptual understanding on the Double Villa and overall quality. Judges include Alexander Thomson Society chair Mark Baines, Glasgow Institute of Architects president Tim Gray and local architect John Gerrard.

The overall winner is set to be announced on 24 February and will receive a £500 prize. There will also be two commendations worth £100 each.

Selected entries will also feature in a special bicentennial exhibition at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture next April.

The registration deadline is 23 December and submissions must be completed by 27 January.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details

The Alexander Thomson Society
7 Walmer Crescent
G51 1AT

Email: info@alexanderthomsonsociety.org.uk


Q&A: Mark Baines, chair Alexander Thomson Society

Why are you hosting an ideas contest to celebrate Alexander Thomson’s bicentenary?

The Double Villa Competition was inspired by Glasgow architect, John Gerrard, and subsequently developed by the Alexander Thomson Society. The project is an ideas competition only and it was conceived as a fitting tribute to the imagination and originality of the architectural work of Alexander Thomson, undoubtedly one of Glasgow’s most prolific and creative architects. It is hoped the competition, which is looking for a 21st-century interpretation of his design for a Double Villa, the Villa Maria, completed in 1856, will help further raise Thomson’s profile his unique architectural contribution to the city and its environs.

What do you hope to achieve by reimagining the Double Villa?

The site is a demanding triangular urban island in Pollokshields on the south side of Glasgow and is surrounded by three Thomson buildings and one clearly informed by his architectural language. A substantial selection of the best entries will be displayed for two weeks in the Lighthouse in April 2017, coinciding with the bicentenary of Thomson’s birth. Historically, houses have always been intriguing projects, often revealing the fundamental architectural preoccupations of their architects and their respective clients. In this context, a design for a Double Villa which reflects ideas for contemporary ways of living adds another provocative twist to the genre.

What sort of competitors are you hoping will apply?

The competition is open to anyone – architects architectural students, school children of any age or lay people alike. Participation is not restricted to individuals, so pairs or collaborative groups may wish to participate. It is to be hoped that it will also attract and encourage international entries, thereby opening up Thomson’s architecture to a worldwide audience.

Have you been impressed by any other interpretations of this typology?

One can think of many interesting later pairings of houses, but no obvious precedents to the Double Villa. Perhaps one may look to Le Corbusier’s houses for Raoul La Roche and Albert Jeanneret in Paris (1923), Alvar Alto’s house and studio in Helsinki (1935-36), or the pair of houses in Van der Venne Park, The Hague, by Alvaro Siza in association with Carlos Castaneira and Architectgroep Meccanoo (1986-88), and although not conjoined, the unbuilt Ocean Retreat 2001 by Steven Holl. There are many others no doubt but perhaps these will suffice to whet architectural appetites.


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