Frustrating for my teachers, but those of us sitting at the window of the classroom had the great distraction of watching the huge metal ball swing up high and then come crashing down into the sandstone masonry of the old building outside the window. Over and over again, the ball swung into the building, forcing the stonework to crack, crumble and crash down, exposing the remnants of the rooms inside until, eventually, the whole building was rubble.
The year was 1965 and my first experience of secondary school was the newly-built Allan Glen’s School in Glasgow, no doubt smelling of fresh paint, all modern and light, while the adjacent dark old building was being demolished (Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a student at an even older building).
Today, as with much of Glasgow’s twentieth century development, that “new” Allan Glen’s School has now itself been demolished, a victim of changing demographics in the area which meant that the school closed in 1989 and the buildings became an annexe to the Glasgow Central College of Commerce, which then merged into the City of Glasgow College. Today, an educational use continues on the site with the newly opened Cathedral Street campus of the City of Glasgow College, and a connection will remain with Allan Glen, whose endowment enabled the foundation of the original school in 1853, through a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Academy within the City of Glasgow College.
Showing what excellent quality can be achieved through a Private Public Partnership (PPP), the new Cathedral Street Campus – which is the size of a small university – is part of a strategy for a £228 million consolidation of several sites across Glasgow onto two campuses, one here at Cathedral Street and another on the south bank of the River Clyde, this latter being one of the finalists of the Stirling Prize to be announced this week. Overall the College has around 40,000 students, many of them part-time and 1,200 members of staff.
Designed by Michael Laird Architects and Reiach and Hall, the two new campuses have been delivered by the Glasgow Learning Quarter consortium led by Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, with other consultants including FES, Arup Scotland, Hulley and Kirkwood, Rankin Fraser and Graven Images, and must represent one of the largest such investments in Further Education, to the credit of the Scottish Funding Council, Glasgow City Council and the College itself.
This campus building transforms some of the stereotypes of Further Education by creating an environment which would do credit to any university, one of the aims being to encourage students who have the ability to continue into higher education – perhaps to Strathclyde University just across the road. The large central atrium space provides the hub around which the teaching and learning facilities are planned, making wayfinding easy and enabling interaction between students from different disciplines, with many informal learning spaces spread throughout the building. Teaching accommodation runs in a ‘learning ribbon’ connecting specialist areas across the campus.
The campus building is built on steeply-rising ground with two storeys between the Cathedral Street entrance and the upper central reception entrance located at the top of grand landscaped stairs, both leading into the spacious atrium which is the heart of this huge building and will soon to have a new urban park outside. The new campus is thus bringing new life to the area north of Cathedral Street, which has been rather run down, and should act as a catalyst for further redevelopment and urban revitalisation, something which the College aims also to achieve in its Riverside Campus south of the city centre.