Cameron McEwan takes a look at Robert Gordon University’s end-of-year show
For the past 10 years the Robert Gordon University has developed its Garthdee Campus – the current home of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Gray’s School of Art. The former hosts the degree show for the last time before the School of Architecture moves to a new building. The latter, completed in 1967 to a design by Michael Shewan, is influenced by the formal, structural and organisational language of Mies. Gray’s has a hardness that is beautiful and is a rare example of Miesian architecture in Scotland. However, its future is uncertain: in 2009 an appraisal found Gray’s “not fit for purpose” yet Historic Scotland considered listing it at category B.
Gray’s is used as a case study for a Stage 3 studio project on building conservation. Students studied the building and put forward proposals for its adaptive reuse as an exhibition and conference centre. An informative and neatly produced publication celebrated the building and raised questions on how to use our important modernist architectural heritage.
At Part II, there are three Masters Units and a single project is run over Stage 5 and 6. To my knowledge this is unique and it is interesting to see work from both stages thus revealing the extent to which students develop and refine their architectural projects. Gökay Deveci leads a unit on urban regeneration, Alan Dunlop’s unit develops a New Town in China, and Neil Gillespie’s unit focuses on the individual architectural intervention within an urban situation. Dunlop’s unit has designed a dense city with some really refined urban spaces. Gillespie’s unit has produced a number of careful projects. While the overall standard of work is high, the plans often look a little empty and lifeless. Where is the architectural complexity? The quirk? Or the hard edge of Shewan’s Gray’s?
Cameron McEwan teaches architecture at Dundee School of Architecture