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Mac graduate wins contest to reinvent Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson icon

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

The winning scheme by Thomas Woodcock – an architect who recently qualified from the Mackintosh School of Architecture and who currently works at Elder & Cannon Architects – was chosen from 52 entries to the international contest, which featured a £500 top prize. 

Two commendations worth £100 were awarded to Ben Weir and to Matt Iliffe with Cameron McCue. Samuel Penn, Gordon David McGregor and Amanda Flockhart also received special mentions.

Commenting on Woodcock’s proposal, the society said: ‘The winning project was simple in its internal arrangements and its rotational contextual dialogue with its surroundings, principally by the disposition of the pair of freestanding chimneys, which were the original inspiration for Woodcock’s design on the extremely challenging triangular site.

‘The project integrated a café and a gallery at ground level which supported private terraces on the upper level. It was considered by all the judges to be a highly liveable and intelligent urban response.’

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

The society 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 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 sought proposals for a triangular site at the junction of Nithsdale Road and Darnley Road close to Thomson’s Moray Place terrace.

The competition was open to architects and students, and applications were judged on their design, detail, conceptual understanding on the Double Villa and overall quality. Judges included Alexander Thomson Society chair Mark Baines; Charlie Hussey of Sutherland Hussey Harris Architects; Evelyn Silber, former Director of the Hunterian Museum; and local architect John Gerrard.

All of the entries are featured in a special bicentennial exhibition on Level 5 of The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, until 26 April.

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