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City of Glasgow College awarded AJ100 Building of the Year

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The college’s City Campus by Reiach and Hall & Michael Laird Architects was deemed a ‘clear and worthy winner’ by judges

The City of Glasgow College City Campus is the ‘sibling’ (not ‘twin’, as the architects are keen point out) of the Riverside campus in the city by the same design team, which was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize last year. Both buildings were designed for the new college, formed in 2010 through the merger of three others spread across 11 sites into one ‘super-college’ on two campuses.

This is, if anything, an even more impressive building than the first – and not just for its considerable floor area, which, at more than 60,000m2, is three times that of Riverside. As one judge observed, it is a building that is Victorian in its scale and ambition. The complexity and size of the brief that was accommodated – and realised dexterously as a great piece of architecture – are extraordinary. The building houses six major faculties and serves 40,000 students with more than 800 distinct learning spaces. These include a full-size aircraft cabin for airline crew training, Scotland’s second-largest TV broadcasting studio, and a row of ‘live’ commercial units including a restaurant, butcher’s shop and hair and beauty studio to teach students the skills needed to engage with the public.

What is particularly impressive is the quality of the building achieved at this scale, with a boldness and deftness in the handling of space, form and detailing. On the exterior, the vertical gridding of the precast concrete screen mediates and gives depth to the larger, tougher grid of the steel frame. Inside is the civic-scaled gesture of a seven-storey atrium, its dynamic, diagonal shape generated by shifts in the city grid and street pattern. This elegantly accommodates a stair-cum-auditorium and the 10m change in level across the site. It joins a green courtyard, a series of generous terrace spaces and a square created to the west, providing collective break-out areas and bringing light deep into the learning and faculty spaces. The architects reference the idea of an acropolis as a metaphor for the site, which captures City Campus’s civic presence and scale. But it is no ivory tower; its design opens up and enriches city life around it, matching its energy and complexity and enhancing the lives of students and of the society it serves. The architects’ claim that this building will ‘transform the student experience’ is no exaggeration. 

Judges’ comments

‘Very few large-scale schemes of any sort achieve great quality at every scale. Reiach and Hall and Michael Laird’s building is masterful in both its macro-configurations of plan and elevations and in its finer details.’ Jay Merrick

‘A beautifully considered project. The completed building is alive, filled with natural light and easy to navigate. The materials are well-chosen and the detailing is pared. Every component has been handled with great skill and flair.’ Alan Dunlop

‘This is a large scheme that manages to bring daylight and energy into its interior, cleverly using the changes in level. The external staircases, courtyards and atrium all provide plenty of places for social interaction. The elevations are beautifully detailed.’ Jane Wernick

Shortlist

  • The Bartlett School of Architecture, London Hawkins\Brown
  • Bedales School Art and Design Building, Hampshire Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
  • Duke University West Campus Union, North Carolina, USA Grimshaw Architects
  • Highgate Junior School, London Architype
  • Kelvin Hall, Phase 1, Glasgow Page\Park Architects
  • Maggie’s at the Robert Parfett Building, Manchester Foster + Partners
  • New Scotland Yard, London Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Judges

  • Alan Dunlop, founding director, Alan Dunlop Architect
  • Beth Broome, managing editor, Architectural Record
  • Crispin Kelly, director, Baylight Properties
  • Jane Wernick, director, engineersHRW
  • Jay Merrick, architecture critic, The Independent
  • Rob Wilson, architecture editor, AJ

 

AJ100 Building of the Year sponsored by 

Graphisoft

 

 

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