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New Art School building is a modern classic

Only during Glasgow's reign as UK City of Architecture and Design (15 years ago, it grieves me to note) did we have extra space to devote to those topics in The Herald's arts coverage, but the cultural sector continues to drive some of the most eye-catching developments in our built heritage.

Within blocks of my desk there is Scottish Opera's new foyer extension to the Theatre Royal on one side and the new home for the RSNO bolted on to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to look forward to seeing completed this year.

Before those, and on an altogether grander scale, we have the opening of the Reid Building at Glasgow School of Art, just a hop and skip up Renfrew Street in Garnethill. Like, I imagine, almost everyone who values the architecture of Glasgow - and the city still does not make half enough of its ample assets, despite accolades like the 1999 title - I have watched Steven Holl's new building go up with some trepidation. No-one could lament the demolition of the structures it replaces, either aesthetically or as places to visit, far less work in, but this site at the top of Glasgow is opposite one of the finest buildings in Scotland, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's century-old home for the School of Art. Steven Holl Architects had to be the right people for this job, and their work had to succeed in every way that architecture can be judged.

It is not quite finished yet, but it is near enough to be able to heave a mighty sigh of relief. In keeping with the ethos of art schools everywhere, the only part yet open is where the parties happen. You can buy a beer and have a dance at the West End of the development, but the building has not seen any actual teaching just yet. When I dropped in this week, I picked up a flyer for the annual fashion show, which will go ahead in the students' venue, pithily now called The Art School, on March 4 and 5.

Between Scott Street and Dalhousie Street, Glasgow has acquired a modern classic to sit alongside Mackintosh, and, even better, it has been named after the woman who brought it into being. When Seona Reid took up her post at the head of the Scottish Arts Council back in Glasgow's other annus mirabilis, 1990, she was an unknown quantity in Scotland.

Particularly since the debacle of the creation of Creative Scotland, it is now clear that her decade at the helm of the SAC was one of remarkable, well-directed development in everything from the introduction of lottery funds to the embracing the traditional arts. Dame Seona Reid had played a pivotal role in the creation of arts facilities across Scotland, the remarkable success of Celtic Connections and much else before she began her term of office in charge of Glasgow School of Art. Now chair of the National Theatre of Scotland, she will doubtless achieve much more, but it is entirely fitting that her legacy is already commemorated by this fine new Glasgow landmark.

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