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Report - St Peter's Seminary Cardross May 2012


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St. Peter's Seminary is a disused Roman Catholic seminary near Cardross, Argyll and Bute, Scotland. Designed by the firm of Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, it has been described by the international architecture conservation organisation DOCOMOMO as a modern "building of world significance"[1]. It is one of only 42 post-war buildings in Scotland to be listed at Category A, the highest level of protection for a building of "special architectural or historic interest".[2][3] It has been abandoned since the end of the 1980s, and is currently in a ruinous state. Despite a number of proposals for reuse or renovation of the building, its future remains insecure.

Following a fire in 1946 at St. Peter's Seminary in the Glasgow suburb of Bearsden, a new home was needed for the seminary. Discussions began with Gillespie, Kidd & Coia in 1953, but the plans for a new college in the village of Cardross were not finalised until 1961, when building began. The plan was for a new building at Kilmahew House, which was being used as a temporary home. The 1865 house would become professorial accommodation, and around it would wrap a main block, a convent block, a sanctuary block and a classroom block.

Determinedly modernist, brutalist and owing a huge debt to Le Corbusier, the building is often considered one of the most important modernist buildings in Scotland. "The architecture of Le Corbusier translated well into Scotland in the 1960s. Although the climate of the south of France and west of Scotland could hardly be more different, Corbu's roughcast concrete style, could, in the right hands, be seen as a natural successor or complement to traditional Scottish tower houses with their rugged forms and tough materials", wrote Jonathan Glancey.[4] Filmmaker Murray Grigor made a documentary about the building entitled Space and Light, while Glasgow artist Toby Paterson has painted it.

By the time it was completed in 1966 the number of candidates entering the seminary had decreased. As a result, the building never reached its full capacity of 100 students. From the outset, the building was riddled with problems, including maintenance difficulties with such a unique structure and significant water entry; the architects and owners each blamed the other for these problems.[citation needed]

In 1980 the building closed as a seminary, subsequently becoming a drug rehabilitation centre. However similar maintenance problems remained and it was finally vacated by the end of the 1980s. In 1995 a fire so badly damaged Kilmahew House that it had to be demolished. The building was Category A listed by Historic Scotland in 1992,[3] and in October 2005 was named as Scotland's greatest post-WW2 building by the architecture magazine Prospect.[5]

Nonetheless, the building remains a ruin. Much of the woodwork is now gone although hints of the original design still remain. According to the architecture writer Frank Arneil Walker, "nothing prepares one for the sight of the new grown prematurely old."[6] Attempts to convert and reuse it, or even protect it from further damage, have come to nothing - hampered by the unique design of the building and its remote location. Plans have included building a 28-unit housing development in the building's grounds, and stabilising the structure by stripping it back to its concrete skeleton, possibly fully restoring a small cross-section. This is a source of concern for conservation bodies including the Twentieth Century Society, who have placed it on their Risky Buildings Register, arguing that this would destroy much of the remaining fabric of the building.

In June 2007 it was announced that the building was to be included in the World Monuments Fund's '100 Most Endangered Sites' list for 2008.[7] Also in 2007, developer Urban Splash became involved.[8] Although no firm proposals have been put forward, Urban Splash have continued to work with architect Gareth Hoskins, and in 2009 community arts group NVA were awarded a grant by the Scottish Arts Council to develop temporary and permanent artworks as part of the redevelopment of the building and surrounding woodlands.[9]

Access to this building is fairly easy and at the time we went it was fairly sunny and bright. Nevertheless this is a gloomy skeleton of a building and worth a visit if just to see some of the street art. All the levels are accessible via the concrete staircase but everything on top is pretty much toast. Must go back later in the evening to really appreciate the atmosphere.

This is the front view of the building.

This is the view of the main altar strangely enough there were some discarded clothing around it....maybe some sacrificial virgin :rolleyes:


The upper levels






Some of the Art on display





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