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Design for art school building unveiled

The design for the new £50 million Glasgow School of Art building can be revealed today.

The building, one of the most important architectural projects in Scotland, has been designed by American Steven Holl.

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He says his innovative design for the school does not ape the Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece that is the centrepiece of the school, but was inspired by it.

The international architect said Mackintosh’s design enabled natural light to enter his building, and the new building also has “driven voids of light”, which means natural light will stream into the centre of the building as well as into the all-important studio space for students.

The building, to be finished by 2013, will be coated in a skin of matt glass, giving it a translucent quality but one that will not be overly reflective, he said.

“Some of the modern glass buildings, they are too glassy, they have that ugly ‘oil canning’ effect on the glass, and this will not have that,”he said.

He added: “We could not try to copy or imitate the Mackintosh building; that would be wrong, kitschy and almost disrespectful in some way.

“So what we have instead is a counterpart to that great building. Whereas the Mackintosh has a thick skin and thin bones, our building has a thin skin and thick bones. They are complementary.”

Steven Holl Architects, with JM Architects of Glasgow and Arup, were appointed last September after a competition to design the new building, which will sit atop Garnethill, in the city centre.

The site has two buildings to be demolished: the Newbury Tower from 1972, and the 1968 Foulis Building. The Assembly Building, dating from 1936 and currently a student union, will be retained and refurbished.

A planning application has now been submitted to Glasgow City Council and a business case has been submitted to the Scottish Funding Council.

As well as studio space, the building will also contain the Centre for Advanced Textiles, new digital media spaces, a lecture theatre and seminar rooms, and exhibition space.

Professor Seona Reid, director of the Glasgow School of Art, said: “An intensive design development process has produced a building which not only provides all the specific functionality that we need for our educational and research purpose but also creates an environment which will inspire all who study, work and visit there.

“The inventive use of light, material and section make it a worthy companion to Mackintosh.”

David Dunbar, president of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: “The site opposite Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the original Glasgow School of Art, is one of the most important in Europe.

“It is thoroughly appropriate that an international master architect is working with an excellent local team to create a building which will serve as superb foil for the impressive building opposite.”

Stuart Robertson, director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and Chairman of the Mackintosh Heritage Group, said: “It was reassuring to see the care and attention th at has gone into the whole project, and the sensitive response to the site.”

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