Gillespie, Kidd and Coia: 1956–1987
The Lighthouse, Glasgow, until Sun 10 Feb
It’s always difficult to review an architecture exhibition. Do you focus on the realised buildings or the sketches, blueprints and models on show and the way they are presented? At first sight, this exhibition of the work of Scottish Modernist masters Gillespie, Kidd and Coia presents such a difficulty, but this is swiftly resolved due to the generally high quality of its constituent parts.
There are many highlights in the exhibition and in the firm’s career. St Bride’s in East Kilbride, for instance, is a factory for worshipping God, topped with a version of a cathedral’s clerestory (the glass-filled upper storey), that manages to be both brutal and elegant. Yet, among these successes lurk ugly leviathans such as Cumbernauld Technological College with its football stadium-like silhouette, and the municipal monstrosity that is Belshill Maternity Hospital. The architects are at their best when they use the tenets of Modernist architecture alongside a dramatic and lyrical aesthetic. The buildings are most effective when the monotony that Modernist architecture can engender is played off against curvilinear forms. When this breaks down or is unrealised, as in St Paul’s at Glenrothes with its absent circular church hall, the overall concept and final building could be described as failing.
Many visitors who do not reside in Glasgow and its sprawling suburbs will be familiar with the firm’s work due to the clamorous protests and petitions that have taken place over the threatened masterpiece St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross. The building has now rightly been placed on the World Monument Fund’s list of the 100 most endangered sites. This building alone is a wonderful example of how late Modernist ideas, filtered through the International Style, can create a breathtaking and inspired example of religious architecture, while also providing a poignant reminded of how such a building, now useless in the eyes of the Catholic church, can fall into an almost irretrievable state of desolation.