Saturday, March 05, 2011

the glasgow school (pt. 2)

I'm finally back to leading a normal life, going to sleep at normal and socially acceptable hours. still all I can offer you is yet another link to a Rowan Moore* piece:

Renfrew Street from the eastI think the article does raise some important questions, especially as to if a new strong architectural statement just across the street from the GSA is what will benefit the existing building and context. the buildings on the site today are no masterpieces, but they're hardly horrible either (well, the GKC staff common room might actually be), they're just that kind of background buildings which make up most of our cities. and to me that seems just about right. of course you can argue that a new building for the school should have as prominent a place in the city as the existing one, but will anyone actually benefit from two buildings having some kind of architectural shoot-out across Renfrew Street? even if it's a fairly low key shoot-out? I dread to think what would have been the result had Zaha Hadid had her chance to build there.

I used to think that the only thing planners should influence when it comes to a new building is the maximum height and volume as materials, massing and expression should be left to each building's architect or their client. but this time the client is the owner of the most important building in the vicinity and for that reason maybe they should reconsider.

having said that, the school seems to have paid great attention when selecting architect: short-listing competent firms that aren't the ones they would have chosen were they only out to make a statement. maybe the problem is in the programme, maybe they're trying to cram too much onto too small a site? it would hardly be the first time that has happened. I was once involved in an extension for a Swedish college where the city had decided the foot-print, height and number of floors after a competition. still the client constantly asked us to try to cram more and more accommodation into the set volume leading to the loss of any decent intermediate spaces so that what was an atrium ended up as mean corridors receiving no natural light.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm so hesitant about Holl's proposal, it might just be the glass. I mean, I love the glass of the Diener & Diener college in Malmö, so it's not glass per se, but something about an all-glass building just seem alien to the site. a little too delicate and crisp. and it won't be glass as a membrane, as on the main elevation of the Mack, but rather glass as a sharp, angled object.

ok, maybe this post amounted to some more than merely posting a link, let's see how long I might be able to keep this up for...

update 21/3: the extension passed the planning committee

* he's become one of my favourite writers of architectural criticism. to paraphrase an old movie: he had me at "If bright colours always cheered you up, then entering the blue-and-yellow cabin of a Ryanair jet would be like swallowing a bottle of happy pills. It isn't." incidentally I read that piece just days after first visiting the Mack.

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