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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.



Related files

Readers' comments (6)

  • The wilful imposition of Holl's self-indulgent formalism is yet another example of cultural imperialism masquerading as innovative design. Holl's blatant and arrogant disregard for the context and setting should rightly offend anyone concerned with maintaining the dignified part of our cultural patrimony that is C.R. Mackintosh's extraordinary GSA building.

    We've seen the fiasco that the Scottish parliament building has become. It is already a dated and fatuous expression of ideas that have nothing bto do with Scotland, or indeed the British Isles. Let's not make the same mistake again.

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  • Context and setting is not so important, Koolhaas, Hadid, Gehry and the other 747 crew have made a good living from ignoring it. Neither is having a real sense of a scottish built tradition: Miralles nor, even taking inspiration from Mackintosh's masterpiece across the road.

    Glaswegians and Scots just want one decent building from the many international names dropped in. Sadly, the Holl structure looks like another second rate work and first rate PR disaster for the city and the school of art .

    Next, unfortunately, is Dundee

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  • mmm.........true about recent architecture in Scotland by the "747 crew" and agree about the v&a in dundee....... a pr disaster waiting to happen but not about the regard for context and setting. that is fundemental, surely, with this project and completely missing?

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  • Having attended the Mac I can't believe that the quality of this 'urban' building can be anything other than well considered, this is what the school is renowned for?...Holl should pin up in front of Izi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan and see how he gets on.

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  • The lack of images/ drawings being published for what is potentially one of the most important and sensative sites in Scotland is a major concern. I have yet to see a decent image of the proposed building that will allow me to take an informed view. I cannot imagine consent has been granted purely on these images alone. They tell us very little about the building. What is Holl/ JM affraid of, why are we not getting decent information on this project published. The images we are seeing are the same ones that were published when the competition was won, surely the design has progressed since then? Every time an important building has been designed or competition been won the images published are enough to give us a good insight into what is being proposed, why not here??? These images tell us next to nothing and having studied at the Mac, it is a great disapointment, but unfortunaley typical of Glasgow, do we ever learn? I hope for all our sakes I will be proved wrong.

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  • I completely agree with the earlier comment about pinning up infront of Isi Metzstein - and I think that Holl's response to Curtis' critisms as "spurious" isn't the most comprehensive rebuttle.

    Regarding Holl's design rationale for materiality and light scooping - I would offer a comment one of my tutors at the Mac once made, "So what?".

    I sincerely hope i am wrong but this proposal just looks like it will date in seconds and undergo some kind of value engineering excerise...

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