Sunday, 22 January 2012

St Peter’s Seminary, Cardross

An obituary in the papers last week reminded me of an amazing ’60s building I had seen on TV a while ago. The obituary was for Isi Metzstein, one of the architects of St Peter’s Seminary. Metzstein is credited with having a major influence on postwar ecclesiastical architecture.

St Peter’s was completed in 1966 as a Roman Catholic Seminary. However, it was never fully occupied and was eventually abandoned in the early 1980s. It was the first building in Scotland to receive a Grade A listing – and now it’s a ruin. Even in its present form, it’s possible to see what a striking building it must have been.  I’ve tried to find some images of what it looked like when it was first opened. The best I have found are from the Jan-March 1967 edition of the Concrete Quarterly from the Cement and Concrete Association.

The ’60s saw the use of unconcealed shuttered concrete in buildings. This is still very visible in the National Theatre on the South Bank. It was also used in the new halls of residence at IC – I was never a resident in these but several of my friends were. However, these were demolished a few years ago. All this is very apparent at St Peter’s and may have speeded its demise: it’s not the most popular of finishes and, I think, has just about been abandoned. There’s another example in a shopping arcade in Birmingham which has a very bold design rather spoiled by the very dull finish: They’ve tried to revitalise it by calling in ‘Paradise Circus’

However, look beyond the surfaces and there are some fantastic spaces and shapes in St Peter's. What a shame that, in spite of several attempts to reuse it, it still lies empty.

For more info and pictures today,  look up “St Peter’s Seminary, Cardross” on Wikipedia

The full Concrete Society journal can be downloaded here

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