Page C1.1 . 11 May 2005                     
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    Postcard from Glasgow

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    St. Peters Seminary, Cardross College. Photography by Matt Bridgestock.

    Dear ArchitectureWeek,

    St. Peters Seminary, built from 1958 to 1966, at Cardross College, Glasgow, Scotland, seems to resonate more deeply as a modern ruin than it ever would have as an operational building. Designed by Isi Metzstein of Gillespie Kidd & Coia, it now stands as heart-achingly modernist, stripped down and pure. From a distance its brown pebble-clad exterior looks like that of a baronial castle, stately and elusive. Palisade fencing, "Do not Enter" signs, and overgrown paths protect its lofty flanks.

    Step through a discreet hole in the fence and you are transported into the ruin's dark, somber underbelly. Graffiti artists have left their commentaries on the decaying concrete. Light cascades down the curving ramp, guiding and drawing you up. There is a flutter of exhilaration as you navigate the rubble to the main hall. It stretches out in front of you, light filtering in from the side, with a crisp quality achieved by an absence of glass. High galleries run along the space, and vaulted ceilings give shape and rhythm to the composition. Layers of moss and decay give a funereal quality to this weighty hall.

    This building is essentially one volume. The monks' cells were articulated more as part of the walls than as spaces in their own right, and the undercroft feels like a service area. Only the main hall has intrinsic beauty, power, and grace. It is ironic that this monolithic, specialized space is the very reason the building is threatened. Since the departure of the monks, no new use has stepped in. The building has been looted of most its components; barely more than the exquisitely detailed concrete structure remains. Perhaps this intensifies the power of the space. Though it's revered by local architecture students, the building's future is bleak. House builders are circling, threatening to loot Scotland of an architectural treasure.

    On the road in Scotland,
    Matt Bridgestock


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    Matt Bridgestock is a designer and chartered planner, currently studying urban design, having returned from a bicycle trip around the world.


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