Festival of Architecture: Scotstyle – Building the Century 1936 to 1945

As part of this year’s Festival of Architecture and the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, the nation is being asked to vote for their favourite building from the past 100 years.  The list includes two Glasgow banks, the Bon Accord Baths in Aberdeen and Tongland Power Station in Kirkcudbright. 

Also on the list are a wee concrete bothy in Sutherland (known, ironically, as the Hermit's Castle) and a fashion designer's studio near Galashiels as well as buildings on Bute, Skye, Tiree and Orkney.  More prominent architectural gems include the arches at the City Chambers in Glasgow, the Scottish Parliament and Stirling University.

The shortlist of buildings (ten from each decade 1916 – 2015) is on the Festival website (www.foa2016.com/scotstyle) and voting is open now.  Scotland’s favourite building will be announced at the Festival’s Finale event in November.

There is a touring exhibition by the same name and an accompanying book (Scotstyle: 100 Years of Scottish Architecture) available, which gives some fascinating insights into architectural trends over the past 100 years alongside the story behind some of Scotland’s most beloved buildings.  The book also celebrates the centenary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) who are curating and managing the Festival of Architecture. 

The nationwide touring exhibition will premiere at the Falkirk Wheel then visit venues across the length and breadth of Scotland at venues including; St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, New Lanark Heritage Centre and the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney, with a debate and book signing at the Scottish Parliament during the Festival of Politics in August.

The list was selected from more than 400 nominations put forward by members of the public, with a group of architects, critics and architectural historians whittling it down to 100 properties.

The Festival of Architecture celebrates Scotland’s fantastic built environment and up and coming events include:

The Ideal Hut Show, standard garden sheds which have been transformed by leading architects and designers (Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens until 30 May, Glasgow Botanic Gardens 3 – 26 June)

Out of Their Heads, Peer inside the minds of Scotland’s greatest ever architects, by admiring their portraits and encountering recreations of their most iconic designs. (National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh 11 June 2016 – 5 February 2017)

Go to: www.foa2016.com to keep up to date with the hundreds of events taking place across Scotland

For more on the Scotstyle Festival of Architecture please visit

www.foa2016.com/scotstyle

1936

DAILY EXPRESS BUILDING               

Albion Street, Glasgow                  

Sir E. Owen Williams

Herald Scotland: DAILY EXPRESS BUILDING

Owen Williams had previously designed the Express headquarters in London. The Glasgow building followed this example. Giant concrete cantilevers provided covered access for the trucks that delivered the raw paper and collected the finished product.  Above the very functional ground floor, the whole of the building’s façade was metal-framed ribbon glazing, a sheer striated surface of black Vitrolite concealing floor levels, with clear glazing to flood the building’s floors with light. This is a work of glamorous modernity, a veritable cathedral to the newspaper.

1937

ST. CUTHBERT’S CO-OPERATIVE ASSOCIATION              

Bread Street, Edinburgh                

T. Waller Marwick 

Herald Scotland: ST. CUTHBERT’S CO-OPERATIVE ASSOCIATION

This infill block was a revelation. Inspired by continental modernism, although the frontage at Bread Street is narrow, the plan was deep with the wedge-shaped entrance drawing visitors past a lavish display of the goods that were available within.  Similarly bold was the giant sign stretched across the whole façade. Above the entrance, a patterned wall of glass on a widely-spaced structural frame “hung” clear of the structural concrete beams and floorplates behind.  There had never been a bolder retail building in Edinburgh.

1937

ST. COLUMBA OF IONA R.C. CHURCH               

Hopehill Road, Glasgow   

Gillespie, Kidd and Coia    

Herald Scotland: ST. COLUMBA OF IONA R.C. CHURCH

On approaching the church, it is the giant brick screen of the entrance, flanked by two curved lower wings – on one side the baptistery, on the other enclosing the main staircase – that first impresses.  The overall effect is very much of its era, and not entirely dissimilar to some contemporary cinema architecture. The nave benefits from the full-height drama of the expressed structural frame. Light from the high clerestory windows bathes the interior. Light also floods from the side windows onto the elegant, marble altarpiece.

1937

LUMA LIGHTBULB FACTORY           

Shieldhall Road, Glasgow

Cornelius Armour

Herald Scotland: LUMA LIGHTBULB FACTORY

This building, very Scandinavian in its inspiration, was not unlike contemporary airport buildings, complete with its glazed “conning tower” – in fact, a highly visible testing bay for the product that was manufactured within. The Luma factory is a simple, three-storey, concrete structure with large glazing to draw in as much daylight as possible. Starkly plain, it was a very cost-effective solution. From the very outset, this elegantly plain, white-style, modernist building served as both factory and advertisement.

1938

ROTHESAY PAVILION

Argyle Street, Rothesay, Isle of Bute       

J. & J. A. Carrick

Herald Scotland: ROTHESAY PAVILION

This 1936 competition-winning design gave Glasgow holidaymakers at the end of the 1930s an experience of stylish, modern seaside elegance to rival anything in Europe. The main bulk of the building is the rectangular dancehall and auditorium. Above the huge, glazed, cantilevered, semi-circular buffet.  Is an open-air roof terrace, pragmatically (this is still Scotland’s west coast after all) covered by an over-sailing concrete canopy. In its introduction of continental glamour to Rothesay, Mr Carrick’s superb pavilion created something of truly international style and panache.

1939

ST. ANDREW’S HOUSE             

Regent Road, Edinburgh  

Burnet, Tait and Lorne 

 

Herald Scotland: ST. ANDREW’S HOUSE

The building Thomas Smith Tait designed for Regent Road is powerful and monumental.  Two long wings extend from a square central block, each terminated by elegant, flat-topped, stair towers. The influences on this building are many, Art Deco, German modernism, the Dutch architect, W. M. Dudok, Raymond Hood’s New York giant Rockefeller complex, even Frank Lloyd Wright. Irrespective of its architectural parentage, this is an impressively elegant building, a celebration of Scots internationalism, creativity and nationhood.

1939

GLASGOW FILM THEATRE                

Rose Street, Glasgow        

W. J. Anderson II of John McKissack & Sons

Herald Scotland: GLASGOW FILM THEATRE  

The Cosmo was the “art” cinema in George Singleton’s extensive Glasgow chain.  Glasgow’s appetite for films in the 1930s was voracious, and the fact that the Cosmo was special was recognised from the outset.  It has retained its place in the affections of Glaswegians. The design is made up of linear, long-stepped masses emphasised by long strips of faience (glazed terracotta) culminating in the stepped tower, rising above the entrance. The cinema’s international focus was originally demonstrated by the great globe in the foyer. 

1939

THE McMILLAN READING ROOM, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW         University Avenue, Glasgow   

T. Harold Hughes and D.S.R. Waugh

Herald Scotland: THE McMILLAN READING ROOM, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW

Very little about this building suggests its age.  A concrete rotunda, faced in yellow brick, its form enabling maximum supervision with minimum staff, is set back within a generous site. The reading stations are set on a radial layout with the central enquiries desk at the hub. Hughes and Waugh created a building of rigid symmetry.  The arch within the full-height, rectangular porch straddles a curving staircase.  Vertical strip windows rise through the two-storey height of the building, regularly spaced around its circumference.

1939

ST. MARY’S CHURCH OF SCOTLAND                

King Street, Aberdeen       

A. Marshall Mackenzie and Son 

Herald Scotland: ST. MARY’S CHURCH OF SCOTLAND   

St Mary’s is an extraordinarily plain, supremely refined building.  Although built in the local granite, as was the norm in the city, this is as modern as anything anywhere in Scotland at the time. The tower entrance, nave and the connecting church hall, are a crisp composition of simple, abutted geometric forms. Internally, the building is every bit as geometric and austere as its external form would suggest.  White painted, with elegant blonde wooden pews and furnishings, the whole seems little altered from its 1930s origins.

1940

BON ACCORD BATHS               

Justice Mill Lane, Aberdeen         

City Architects Department

Herald Scotland: BON ACCORD BATHS    

The exterior is a great, buttressed, granite box.  Once inside, the visitor was welcomed by blonde wood linings and shiny metal detailing. Right up to the Second World War, Art Deco continued to declare glamour and international sophistication.  At the Bon Accord Baths, the Deco style says, quite unequivocally, that nothing was too ritzy for the good citizens of Aberdeen. In the pool area the reinforced concrete roof structure followed on from continental industrial buildings of the 1910s. This building is one of Aberdeen’s great hidden gems.

Photo credits:

1936-1945

  • 21 – Daily Express Building © Jon Jardine
  • 22 – St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Association © Crown Copyright: Historic Environment Scotland. Licensor canmore.org.uk
  • 23 – St Columba of Iona RC Church © Jon Jardine
  • 24 – Luma Lightbulb Factory © Keith Hunter
  • 25 – Rothesay Pavilion © Crown Copyright: Historic Environment Scotland. Licensor canmore.org.uk
  • 26 – St Andrew’s House © Grant Bulloch
  • 27 – Glasgow Film Theatre © Dapple Photography
  • 28 – The McMillan Reading Room, University of Glasgow © Keith Hunter
  • 29 – St Mary’s Church of Scotland © James Roy
  • 30 – Bon Accord Baths © Crown Copyright: Historic Environment Scotland. Licensor canmore.org.uk


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