Steven Holl Architects’ Glasgow School of Art Tops Out

The new Glasgow School of Art, designed by Steven Holl Architects in partnership with JM Architects (Glasgow) and Arup Engineering, celebrated its topping out today. The building stands across from Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 1909 Glasgow School of Art in complementary contrast, forging a symbiotic relation in which each structure heightens the integral qualities of the other. The new building will significantly enhance the teaching, learning and research facilities available to GSA students and staff and the access the public will have to their work.

Inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s inventive manipulation of the building section to introduce and deploy light in a tremendous variety of inspiring and successful ways, the new design complements its neighbor, but moves forward using a new language of light. With well-proportioned studio and workshop spaces at the core of teaching and making art, these spaces are arranged in plan and section with natural side and top light for inspiring work environments. An homage to Mackintosh in space, “driven voids of light” allow for the integration of structure, spatial modulation and light. The driven void light shafts penetrate the building’s core and deliver natural light and vertical air circulation through the depth of the building, providing direct connectivity with the outside world through the changing intensity and color of the sky.

“With great enthusiasm we celebrate the topping out of our new building for the Glasgow School of Art. We always felt a silent facade would contrast best with the masterwork of the Mackintosh building, with behind that calm street front, inspiring interior spaces for the students and faculty. It is a joy to see them in real light,” said Steven Holl.

Senior Partner Chris McVoy added “We have reached the moment when one can see how the new building’s exterior profile resonates with the Mackintosh building and the cityscape, while inside the central circuit draws one up though the rhythm of spatial volumes of studios and social spaces in shifting, varying light.”

The design provides much-needed design school studios and offices, technical workshops and digital media labs, lecture facilities, communal staff and student areas, exhibition spaces and a new Mackintosh interpretation center. A “circuit of connection” throughout the new GSA links the studios and communal spaces, encouraging creative abrasion across and between departments that is central to the workings of the school.

Professor Seona Reid, Director of the Glasgow School of Art, said, “Over the last year the building site has been a hive of activity as this wonderful building has risen from the ground and revealed its elegance and originality. Today’s Topping Out ceremony is a landmark occasion for all the many people who have been involved in this exciting development. We are delighted to have Steven Holl and Chris McVoy with us today along with the team from JM Architects and representatives from Sir Robert McAlpine and Arup Engineering. We are looking forward eagerly to the time when we can occupy the building and watch it providing an inspiring new environment for the creative endeavours of our staff and students.”

The new building, rated BREEAM Excellent, integrates several innovative sustainable design features, such as storm water retention, collection and reuse, and green roofs. The driven voids of light provide natural ventilation throughout the building, eliminating the need for air conditioning. A new biomass plant serves the new Glasgow School of Art, the original Mackintosh building and the Bourdon Building.

The new Glasgow School of Art building, which is set to open for the 2013/2014 academic year, is Phase 1 of the Glasgow School of Art’s Estate campus plan. Steven Holl Architects with Glasgow-based JM Architects were unanimously selected in 2009 as the winning team in an international competition for the new Glasgow School of Art.