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Neglectfulness in the preservation and continuity of late-modern architecture - the case of St Peter's Seminary by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia

McVicar, Mhairi Thomson ORCID: and Suau, Cristian 2008. Neglectfulness in the preservation and continuity of late-modern architecture - the case of St Peter's Seminary by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia. Presented at: 10th International DOCOMOMO Conference, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 17-19 September 2008. Published in: van den Heuvel, Dirk, Mesman, M., Quist, W. and Lemmens, B. eds. The Challenge of Change: Dealing with the Legacy of the Modern Movement: Proceedings of the 10th International DOCOMOMO Conference. Amsterdam: IOS Press, pp. 81-86. 10.3233/978-1-58603-917-2-81

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Manfredo Tafuri’s critiques in the 1960’s challenged perceptions of Modernism as fixed and absolutist. Advocating operative criticism as a tool to differentiate myth from history, Tafuri proposed redefinitions which enabled hybridization and continuity. In today’s culture of congestion, how may Tafuri’s redefinitions offer insights into the fate of a Late Modernist ruin? Such questions are under scrutiny at Gillespie, Kidd & Coia’s St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross, Scotland. Emerging from a collision of visionary forces, shifting ideologies and unprecedented permissiveness, this building constitutes neither an archaeological ruin, nor is it yet an architectural icon. It is, however, attaining an increasingly mythical status. Seemingly uninhabitable, yet passionately defended; variously proposed as archaic ruin, preserved icon, or re-branded hybrid complex, architects, developers, owners, and preservationists engage in furious debates over what should ’appropriately’ be preserved: frame, or function? Should this Modernist ruin be mythologised as an icon, or should the latent frame be consolidated to re-interpret its function and image? Tafuri’s critiques of myth and history offer frameworks to explore such alternatives: this paper reviews the consequences of creating an architectural myth at Cardross. The mythology of Cardross begins with its spectacularly short life as a seminary. Commissioned in 1953 during a post-war building boom, the seminary responded to optimistic projections of growth for Roman Catholic congregations in redeveloping city centres and New Towns. An expansive church building program suggested the need for a facility to train 102 priests at St Peters College in the grounds of Kilmahew House at Cardross, 33 kilometers from the center of Glasgow. To undertake this ambitious proposal, the Archdiocese continued a long-established relationship with Glasgow based architects Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, who had completed numerous acclaimed Modernist churches over the previous twenty years. Their experience, combined with a robust economy and the autonomy of the architect’s role in mid 1950’s Britain, encouraged – demanded- a visionary response from the lead designers, Isi Metzstein and Andy Macmillan . Completed in 1966, Cardross was immediately and overwhelmingly declared an architectural success, winning a RIBA Bronze Regional Award in 1967. Functional success was less conclusive; the complex was never fully occupied, and, after only fourteen years operating as a seminary, was abandoned and de-consecrated. Since 1980, the Archdiocese has adopted a condition of laissez-faire, relinquishing the building as a heavily weather-damaged and vandalized ruin in an overgrown forest. Two decades of continued dereliction have only intensified the allure. Active coalitions of architects and artists have vigorously lobbied for recognition of the project, achieving an ‘A’ category historical listing, inclusion in the World Monument Fund’s 2007 review of endangered buildings, and top ranking in a 2008 Prospect Magazine list of the best 100 modern buildings in Scotland. A significant amount of literature has reviewed various alternatives for the fate of Cardross: Acceptance as heroic ruin, reconstruction as iconic museum, reconfiguration as housing.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Uncontrolled Keywords: Obsolescence, Repair, Reprogramming
Publisher: IOS Press
ISBN: 9781586039172
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 13:43

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