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Holl's Glasgow School of Art set to open


Steven Holl’s £50 million new Glasgow School of Art building is nearing completion

Now known as the Reid Building, the 11,646m² scheme opposite Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s grade A-listed Mackintosh building has been designed with local practice JM Architects. 

Students from the School of Design have already moved into the building which is not officially opened until 9 April.

Previous story (AJ 22.03.11)

Holl’s Glasgow School of Art wins go-ahead

Steven Holl’s contentious £50 million project to build an extension to the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) has been granted planning permission

The competition-winning scheme was backed today by Glasgow City Council’s planning committee having been recommended for approval (click here to read full report).

The scheme, with its opaque glass facade, will sit opposite Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Mackintosh building and has been designed with local practice JM | Architects.

Bailie Liz Cameron, executive member for Development and Regeneration at Glasgow City Council said: ‘Sited opposite a world-renowned architectural landmark of the calibre of the Mackintosh building, Phase 1 of the Garnethill campus demanded a design that respected its situation as well as having qualities that allowed it to stand on its own.

‘We commend the process by which this building has been commissioned and believe it has produced a bold, innovative and contemporary design which will be a worthy addition both to The Glasgow School of Art and the architecture of the City.’

Professor Seona Reid, director of the GSA said: ‘We are delighted that Glasgow City Council has given the green light to a building that we believe addresses all the needs of a 21st century Art School and will create an inspiring environment in which to work, study and visit.’

‘We are particularly pleased that the planning committee has recognised the rigorous process that has informed every aspect of the commissioning and design development process: the choice of materials, the manipulation of light, the sustainability of the design and its relationship to both the Mackintosh building and the Garnethill area as a whole.’

Previous story (21.03.11)

Holl’s Glasgow School of Art set for approval

Steven Holl’s contentious £50 million project to build an extension to the Glasgow School of Art is expected to be approved later today (22 March)

According to a report which will be presented to members of Glasgow City Council’s planning committee, the competition-winning scheme has been recommended for approval (click here to read full report).

The proposals for the site between Scott Street, Renfrew Street and Dalhousie Street have come in for criticism from a number of sources, including architecture critic William JR Curtis (see below and attached) and The Architectural Heritage Society for Scotland which has branded the plans ‘alien’, questioning the ‘use of large unrelieved stretches of grey opaque glass’.

However the local authority’s planning officers believe the extension will ‘make a valuable contribution to the city’s wealth and variety of architectural achievements’, adding: ‘It must be accepted that a project of this nature, proposing a non-traditional object building which in itself is a powerful piece of modern architecture, will attract controversy, discussion and subjective comment.

‘[But] the process by which the building design has been arrived at has been meticulous and uncompromising and has resulted in an architectural solution which exceeds its brief and stands on its own as a worthy addition to the Glasgow School of Art campus and to the architectural resources of the city.’

If approved, the controversial scheme would sit opposite Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Mackintosh building and has been designed with local practice JM Architects.

Previous story (11.03.11)

Decision on Holl’s Glasgow School of Art delayed

A decision on Steven Holl’s £50 million project to build an extension to the Glasgow School of Art has been pushed back.

Glasgow City Council has confirmed the scheme failed to reach committee stage on 8 March and refuted claims the project had been withdrawn.

The revised date for consideration of the proposal is pencilled in for 22 March, a spokesperson for the council revealed.

If approved, the controversial scheme would sit opposite Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Mackintosh building and has been designed with local practice JM Architects.

Previous story (05.03.11)

Debate heats up as Holl’s GSA goes to planning

Architecture critic William JR Curtis has hit out again at Steven Holl’s proposed new £50 million Glasgow School of Art, which is set to go to planning committee in the next few days

The competition-winning scheme, which will sit opposite Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s  Mackintosh building and has been designed with local practice JM Architects, is scheduled to go before Glasgow City councillors next Tuesday (8 March).

The latest attack by Curtis on the scheme is penned in an open letter to the school (see below). Curtis’ attacks recently drew a response from Holl himself, who claimed the writer’s arguments were ‘spurious’. However Curtis’ fears have been echoed by other architects, including Glasgow-based Alan Dunlop who said: ‘On the basis of what I’ve seen so far I’m very concerned. But I want the building to be great – I’m willing to trust Holl and his team.’

Chris Stewart, design director of Collective Architecture said: ‘Holl’s consideration of natural light is what was interesting about the original competition entry.
‘It was a surprise to read that this is now being described as an obsession in the negative and that there is no understanding of a grim winter day in Glasgow. I would prefer to be more positive about this obsession and understand that the Glasgow climate is quick changing both on a daily and seasonal basis.’

AJ: Facing up to Mackintosh

Architectural Record: Commentary, Glasgow neighbors – Mackintosh versus Steven Holl (February, 2011)



To All Concerned,

A year and three score days ago we assembled in the Glasgow School of Art to celebrate the Centennial of Mackintosh’s much-loved masterpiece. People of many nationalities came together to salute a remarkable work that belongs to its city but also to the world. I was honoured to deliver the keynote address, ‘Materials of the Imagination’, which explored the rich form and meaning of the building, and its diverse sources from Scottish castles, to steamships, to Michelangelo. I suggested that a work of a high order is like a constructed myth. While responding to its time, it inspires future generations. Without pretension or show, Mackintosh’s building goes about its daily business but touches all who enter there.

What a disappointment then to contemplate Steven Holl’s proposed addition. It is horrendously out of scale, it dominates Mackintosh, it does not create a decent urban space, it fails to deal with the context near and far, it is clumsy in form and proportion, it lacks finesse in detail, has no relationship to the human figure, and is a still-born diagramme dressed up in Holl clichés such as ‘iceberg’ glass. The light tubes inside would be dim holes, the cliff of green glazing would rise too high and present a blank to the street. Matt glass it may be, but this would still be a bright and brittle object in the day, and a cold neon light at night effacing the Japanese lantern of the old building opposite. Mr Holl tries to tell us that the glass will be like ‘alabaster’, that it will reflect the Scottish sky but somehow not reflect light onto the Mackintosh’s north facade opposite. A miracle glass then, or else a new kind of light. Soon star architects will walk on water.

The Holl project is lacking in urbanity and would not be out of place in a business park in China or the USA, but it is completely alien to Glasgow with its grid, urban grain, and sobre facades in stone and glass. Above all it fails to harmonise with Mackintosh’s marvellous building opposite. To respond to a historical context does not mean copying the existing, but it does mean interacting at several levels from overall volumes, to proportions, to materials. During the Centennial festivities the risky claim was made on the basis of interview sketches that Holl’s project would be a ‘world-class building’. Now it risks becoming a world-class disaster and I am certainly not alone in thinking so. The two articles that I have published, ‘Facing Up To Mackintosh’ (AJ 04.11.10) and ‘Glasgow Neighbors - Mackintosh versus Steven Holl’ (Architectural Record, February, 2011) have caused avalanches of comments, over 90 per cent of them critical of Holl’s project.

Those responsible for the future of the Glasgow School of Art should remember that they are the temporary residents and custodians of a world masterpiece that must be handed on to future generations. The problems of the new project stem from the very anatomy of its design. It opposes itself to Mackintosh so it obviously should not be built.

Yours sincerely,

William JR Curtis

Historian, critic. Author of Modern Architecture Since 1900.
Slade Professor of Fine Art, Cambridge University, 2003-4.



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Readers' comments (2)

  • How right William J.Curtis is in his criticism of Steven Holl's building , I am sure many readers will be familiar with his very unsuccessful Museum of Contemporary Art , Mannerheimintie , Helsinki , apart altogether from its siting , which one can only blame Helsinki City , the building does nothing for the great tradition of building which Helsinki has , Sarrinen, Aalto to mention just two architects whose contribution to that city is outstanding .
    it make me sad constantly to see so many rather inadequate buildings being constructed around the world , does anyone take architecture seriously any longer ? , we seem to get a sort of constructed CGI kind of architecture all the time rather than real serious stuff !
    John Meagher .

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  • Yes it is sad that someone with Stephen Holl's talent has come up with this dubious companion to the iconic Mackintosh School of art, with its acres of glass -so completely anti-thetical to the Glasgow idiom and character.
    A similar situation exists with his winning competition for an extension to Bombay's V&A musem -a proposal that is bombastic and totally alien to the character and setting of the existing building, and no response at all to Bombay's climate -the heat, the humidity and the rain -just as with Gehry, massive sculptural forms to reflect a giant ego.

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