The church of St. Paul the Apostle was completed in 1959 for the Archdiocese of Glasgow to designs by Jack Coia of renowned Glasgow architectural practice Gillespie Kidd and Coia. The simple, sombre exterior finished in brown brick contrasts with the bright, airy interior with its generous use of timber, slate floors, white marble features to the walls and simple etched glass windows.
The Archdiocese approached Page \ Park Architects with a brief from the parish priest Father John Campbell. He wanted a building that would link the church’s entrance vestibule directly into the adjoining modern church hall. He was concerned by a passing remark made by a member of his parish that the church, even when full, never appeared busy because of the limited views into it from the street. Father Campbell wanted, he said, a glass box – a big window to the outside that clearly showed the daily activities within.
Designing to extend churches is always challenging, doubly so when the building concerned is a listed design by Gillespie Kidd & Coia. Page \ Park took cues from the existing church’s interior – the bright sharpness of the white marble against the earthy warmth of the timber – and early design proposals explored external white marble cladding and large, unbroken windows revealing a timber clad interior with a monopitch roof and clerestory windows, all supported by a steel frame. Initial budget costs, though, necessitated a rethink – marble became white brick, windows were broken with structural piers, a timber frame replaced the steel structure, the interior was finished in birch-faced plywood and a simple mono-pitched roof partly finished with patent glazing to flood the interior with daylight.
The glass box of Father Campbell’s imagination is now manifest more solid than glass but is still a bright and light space with interior feature lighting to ensure that whatever the time of day or night the hustle and bustle in the church will always be clearly visible from the street.