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Sir Basil Spence

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 2:06 pm
by Cyclo2000
Following on from the GKC topic and given that a major exhibition of his work is about to start at the Dean in Edinburgh (and a touring exhibition hits Glasgow in December) lets dicuss the great Basil Spence, born in Scotland in 1907.

Most famous (some would have it infamous) locally for the Hutchiesontown C Developement in the Gorbals, Spence built several structures in Glasgow and environs. The Hutchiesontown C flats were never terribly successful as shoddy building methods and local authority neglect combined to disastrous effect, scuppering Spence's original vision for the broad balconied development; "On a Tuesday, when all the washing's out, they'll look like great ships in full sail!"
Hutchiesontown C.jpg

In Glasgow itself Spence’s most significant (only other?) building is Glasgow Airport and although the site has been extensively developed away from Spence’s 1961 plan, it’s still possible to see “great umbrella of concrete vaults” which make up the roof, a feature which Spence hoped would give the appearance of “a gateway to travel.”
“I wanted a design which helped the traveller to feel the adventure of flying from this particular airport”
This finished design featured zig zag plate glass walls on all four sides but these were thought to be too expensive there having been debates in Parliament as to whether the development of Glasgow Airport should take place at all, given the millions pledged to Prestwick.
spence sketch 2.jpg

There are further buildings in Edinburgh (though not perhaps as radical as the Glasgow developements with the possible exception of Mortonhall Crematorium which is striking) and the Academy in Kilsyth of 1954
Kilsyth academy.jpg

Spence commented “Bricks and mortar can provide a background that is sympathetic to young and energetic minds which are growing and developing apace.”

More here

Re: Sir Basil Spence

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 2:59 pm
by red_kola
Probably worth mentioning the only other thing I can think of in Glasgow then, Spence's extension to the Natural Philosophy Building (now called the Kelvin Building) at the University of Glasgow. Not particularly to my taste, but there you go... It's still there and still visitable.


Gribloch in Kippen

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 9:14 am
by Cyclo2000
From the RCAHMS summary;
Gribloch is located near the village of Kippen in Stirlingshire and was designed in 1937 by Basil Spence in association with Perry Duncan of New York. At this time Spence was a partner with Rowand Anderson Paul & Partners whom he had joined in 1935. Spence wrote of Gribloch that they were striving 'for something more of the Regency Type, freshened up to fit modern conditions'. This reflected the contemporary attitude to architecture, where the pure Functionalism of the Twenties was introduced to the architectural ideas of other historical eras.

Gribloch is laid out to take advantage of its position in the landscape. The front of the house faces North with a panoramic view over the Forth valley to the Grampian mountains. The two South-facing splayed wings, enclosing the swimming pool, look out over a tree-lined avenue, giving views to the Fintry hills. The clients' wish for sun and views informed the design of Gribloch from the start. Spence's ingenious use of the inverted F-shaped plan ensured that every opportunity was used to introduce these features into the reception rooms, staircases, and the principal bedrooms, which later came to be named after the mountains they look out on to.

A house at Kippen.jpg

Front, pencil.jpg


Oh, and stunning post Kitten!

Another View of Queen Elizabeth Flats in Govan

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 9:25 am
by Cyclo2000
Clearly showing the "garden balconies"

Hutchieson view 1.jpg

Re: Sir Basil Spence

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:52 pm
by My Kitten
Queen Elizabeth Square


Re: Sir Basil Spence

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 6:12 pm
by gordon
Wooft! That got a screed of ironic electro-pop bands queuing up to wear it, probably with some luminous accessories.

What im more concerned about is the fact the sun looks to be in the final stages of supernova, in the pic.......

Where did you find it?

Re: Sir Basil Spence

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 9:58 pm
by My Kitten
gordon wrote:Wooft! That got a screed of ironic electro-pop bands queuing up to wear it, probably with some luminous accessories.

What im more concerned about is the fact the sun looks to be in the final stages of supernova, in the pic.......

Where did you find it?

Never been worn since it was handed over. T-shirts for the workers who were assisting on the day, ex bf was one of them. I also couldve got my hand on a queenie sign but declined at the time - hindsight eh!

Article on Spence on BBC Scotland News Website at the moment.

Imagine an era without makeover shows on television, or glossy magazines to peruse at home. When architecture was something the ordinary person didn't dabble in, and a house was simply four walls and a roof to keep the rain out.

Then along came Basil Spence, a flamboyant, enthusiastic designer - who wanted to know what the public thought about his buildings, even if it wasn't always positive.

Born in India in 1907, he arrived in Edinburgh as a schoolboy and later studied at Edinburgh College of Art.

Sir Basil Spence posing for a photographer at the drawing board in his Edinburgh office, c 1950, courtesy RCAHMS

In pictures: Sir Basil Spence

He had a practice in Edinburgh, and raised his family there - which is why they decided after his death to leave his entire archive to the city.

It has taken 11 curators at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland several years to catalogue the collection, and select the exhibition currently on display at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh.

There's a whole room devoted to his break-through project - Coventry Cathedral.

The building, desecrated by German bombs, became a potent symbol of a Britain rebuilding itself post-war.

Modernist lines

Spence's proposal - one of more than 200 - was the only one to fully incorporate the ruins of the old cathedral into the new building.

But it was controversial.

To traditionalists, its simple modernist lines rising in grey concrete above the ruins, were an outrage.

But it won the competition in 1951, and in time, a string of plaudits.

As well as a detailed model of the building, the exhibition includes a section of the original roof, and designs by the artist Graham Sutherland for the massive tapestry which hangs above the cathedral's altar.

Of course, modernist design wasn't everyone's cup of tea - and as its most high profile proponent, Sir Basil Spence had his fair share of critics.

But that didn't stop him appearing on television and radio, and at public events, defending modernist architecture.

Housing block with child in foreground, Hutchestown Area C, Gorbals, Glasgow (Courtesy RCAHMS)
Spence's Hutchesontown C flats were demolished in 1990s

To him, it was simply an extension of the European trend for clean, simple lines using the new practical materials available post war.

When he designed the Hutchesontown C high-rise in the Gorbals area of Glasgow in the 1960s, he envisaged open, airy apartments in the sky.

His sketches - included in the exhibition - show spacious verandahs, and European style piazzas.

For many people, they were a happy contrast to the cramped tenements they'd lived in before.

For others, they were cold, grey rooms, isolating them further from the communities they'd left behind.

Some argued the construction was to blame, others the council for failing to maintain them.

Fresh perspective

Whatever the reason, Spence's dream flats had become a derelict concrete jungle by 1993 when, with local consensus, they were torn down.

As the tide turned against modernism, the public turned against Spence. Increasingly his public appearances saw him under fire from angry consumers.

His final project - the new Home Office building in London - was hardly his most successful, dogged by red tape and public criticism.

He died in 1976, just months short of his 70th birthday.

But his family - who gifted the entire archive to Scotland - hope history will be kinder to Sir Basil Spence.

And that the new exhibition will offer a fresh perspective on the architect's process.

In pictures -

Re: Sir Basil Spence

PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 12:44 pm
by junkcatcher
Having been up close and personal with it during my days as a facilities engineer with (BAA) Glasgow Airport Ltd I can say the roof structure in the original Glasgow Airport main terminal block is a brilliant bit of engineering, I don't want to say too much about the building because of security issues but the roof is an immensely strong but very light structure.

The original building survives largely although engulfed by the later main concourse extension and addition peers and offices, these additions were inevitable as airports have to adapt and change on a daily basis. Many within BAA think on reflection it perhaps would have been wiser for BAA to have built an entirely new terminnal for international traffic where the west pier now stands.

Most of the engineers and architects who have do with the maintenance and alterations to the original MTB have treated it with respect.

Re: Sir Basil Spence

PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 7:22 pm
by Targer
The "Lad" was certainly way ahead in his design for Glasgow airport.

Re: Sir Basil Spence

PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 7:06 pm
by theplumber
Cranhill Secondary school was one of,s long gone now!