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Page\Park shows off £24m revamp of Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall

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Page\Park has released the first photographs of its £24 million redevelopment of the Category B-listed Kelvin Hall in Glasgow

The refurbishment provides a new entrance pavilion, exhibitions space, two multipurpose sports halls, a new workshop for the restoration of Charles Rennie Mackintosh furniture and interiors, a café, and archives for The Hunterian Museum and the National Library of Scotland.

The new two and three-storey entrance pavilion runs the full length of the ground and first floors. It is comprised of a series of connected wells drawing daylight into the building, and is designed to allow glimpses into the interior, promoting, according to the practice, ‘a cross-pollination of ideas between different building users’. 

The 17,500m² project included the transformation of two vaults with concrete trussed roofs, the larger of which has been used to provide the two sports halls, and the smaller to contain facilities, including a screening room, for the Scottish Screen Archive, the Hunterian Museum and teaching laboratories for the University of Glasgow.

The red sandstone building in Argyle Street, dating from 1927, was originally designed by Thomas Gilchrist Gilmour of the Glasgow Office of Public Works Architectural Department, later called the Glasgow Corporation City Engineer’s Department, which closed in 1962.

Part of an emerging cultural quarter in the Scottish city, it sits opposite the Category A-listed Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, completed in 1901, which is of a similar architectural style. 

Kelvin hall 9

Kelvin hall 9

Architect’s view

Kelvin Hall holds a special place in the memories of all Glaswegians who have entered its vaulted halls. Since the date of its original construction in 1927 it has hosted a range of functions through all eras of the 20th century, from the Glasgow Civic and Empire Exhibition of 1935; a barrage balloon manufacturing facility during the Second World War; the Festival of Britain in 1951; numerous motor shows, modern homes exhibitions, boxing matches, and circuses and carnivals through the 1950s. In the 1960s it was converted into a concert venue and in the 1980s into the Kelvin Hall International Sports Arena and The Museum of Transport. However, with the opening of the Riverside Museum in 2011 and new sports facilities provided elsewhere in the city for the Commonwealth Games in 2014, a new use was required for the Kelvin Hall.

Building on Glasgow City Council’s desire to use strong local and shared cultural history to promote civic pride, engaged citizenship and cultural tourism, our brief was to create a multi-user facility to be shared by Glasgow Sport, The University of Glasgow and The National Libraries of Scotland. It is now widely accepted that public buildings do not succeed in isolation; they need to integrate and contribute to an area, most importantly placing the local community is at its heart in order to thrive.

Initial discussions of the project in Page\Park revealed we all share various memories of the different eras of the building and so, drawing on the rich, layered history of the building, our response was to layer new elements upon the old. Our interventions sit alongside, communicating their era in metal and glass but never trying to distract from the tour-de-force of the Argyle Street elevation and the majestic concrete vaults within.

The challenge in an existing building of this scale (just shy of 150m long) is circulation through the plan from the entrance at Argyle Street through to the National Library of Scotland areas at the rear. This challenge acted as the driver for all aspects of the design, with a concept revolving around movement and connection.

People are drawn into the building up through the ramped entrance hall and along the central avenue deep into the centre of the plan. The avenue is invigorated along its length by three lightwells drawing light deep into the plan, each with a distinct identity: the Collections Showcase for exhibiting the treasures in the Glasgow Museums, Hunterian and Scottish Screen Archive’s stores; the Glasgow Sport lightwell linking to the gym and fitness studios; the Hunterian Lightwell connecting to the teaching, archive and administration areas.

This simple move then acts as the backbone and central organiser for the full length. With glimpses to the sports halls and archives to the east and fitness studios and gym to the west, orientation through the building is clear and simple. While making these connections, the avenue also acts as a space for exhibition and communicating the building’s history.

With no or limited views to the exterior from the sports halls and fitness studios our aim was to celebrate the existing concrete vaults, allowing natural light to flood the spaces. Mechanical servicing is minimised, with spaces naturally ventilated throughout, limiting the number of fixtures and fittings cluttering the vault. It is the gym that has the most outward-facing position overlooking the River Kelvin, offering a departure from the tendency for gyms to be artificially lit interior spaces.

With the brief asking for a building that promotes civic involvement, it has been wonderful seeing the completed building embraced by the local community. With the highest increase of Glasgow Sports memberships seen anywhere in the city; renewed interest in The Hunterian collections and being the first public facing facility for The National Library of Scotland in the west of Scotland, the refurbishment not only provides for, it also breathes the life of the city, adding another chapter to the history of this great Glasgow Institution. 


Argyle Street elevation

Project data

Location Argyle Street, Glasgow
Type of project Cultural
Client Glasgow Life
Architect Page\Park
Structural engineer Woolgar Hunter
M&E consultant Harley Haddow
Quantity surveyor Gardiner & Theobald
Lighting consultant Kevan Shaw Lighting Design
Interior Design Graven Images, Stuco Design
Main contractor McLaughlin and Harvey
Funding Heritage Glasgow City Council, University of Glasgow, Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland Grant
Start on site August 2014
Completion August 2016
Contract duration 24 Months
Gross internal floor area 17,500 m²
Form of contract Design and Build
Total cost £24.5 million

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