Reflect

/ Kamil Shah / City & Land

As part of an ongoing development of our thinking we spend time looking back at completed buildings and projects. These reviews ‘feed’ our approaches to future projects as well as remind ourselves of how issues were raised and resolved.

Under the spotlight was our work at St. Andrew’s Cathedral on the north bank of the River Clyde. Built in 1814, James Gillespie Graham's St. Andrew's Church (latterly Cathedral) was one of the first serious attempts to construct a New Gothic building in the city. Originally conceived with an associated college building it became a distinctive marker on the edge of the River Clyde by breaking the 4/5 storey line of commercial buildings. The gradual acquisition of sites adjacent to the Cathedral has provided the opportunity to consolidate the Cathedral's estate and setting. The word gradual is important in this context, seen across time, city’s evolve in stumbling steps. In looking at the shorter perspective we need to learn not to read these individual steps in isolation.

Unique about the brief for the site as a whole was the suggestion of that the project might add to the collection of contemplative spaces in the city centre, the best known of which are the Ramshorn Graveyard and Provand's Lordship garden on Castle Street. Such a space adjacent to the Cathedral could therefore balance the more administrative functions to the west. The idea for this had a long gestation and emerged out of an extended sequence of studies that envisaged an enlarged Cathedral setting. Anchoring this vision was a walled cloister building to the east of the Cathedral, the first phase of which has been built in the form of the restoration of the Cathedral and the enclosing wall around a contemplative garden commemorating the sinking of the Andora Star by Maria Giulia Chiarini Testa.

Interestingly the contemplative garden has become the entrance of preference for many coming to the Cathedral, perhaps the provision of a less axial and formal entry is less intimidating. Once entering the Cathedral, the visitor becomes aware of a remarkable interior transformation under the direction of Archbishop Mario Conti, Monseigneur McIlroy, Netta Ewing for the Cathedral, then Jack Sloan, Tim Pomeroy and Peter Howson for the artistic contribution all backed up by the lighting intelligence of FotoMa lighting designers. The collective impression is an interior emphasising strength of vision through powerful colouring and markings.

In conclusion the lessons learned are that the individual contribution of the moment should be seen in the bigger picture of city development. That we should note that a rich perception of the city comes from an aggregation of experience from the extremes of excitement to calmness, and finally the journey from outside to inside, if not always perfect, should be vivid and memorable.

St. Andrew's Cathedral cloister model