Euan McEwan applauds the contextual subtlety of the Glasgow School of Art and decries a brutal misfit in rural Bedfordshire

The Glasgow School of Art is a tremendous art nouveau building that was at the forefront of design in its time. It blends in extremely well with the slope it’s built on. It combines a traditional style with what were at the time modern materials – art nouveau with a Scottish baronial flavour. There was an equal emphasis on the outside and inside, with the innovative style carried into dramatic interiors and lighting.

Glasgow’s a very Victorian city and it must have caused quite a stir to have a building such as this put up amid all that Victoriana. But it still manages to be sympathetic to its surroundings, despite the contrast, and that kind of subtlety is what I like in a building. To me that’s the sign of a good architect. I like a lot of Mackintosh designs, but the School of Art has always struck me as a particularly fantastic building. Others, such as Hill House, stand on their own, but the School of Art manages to sit in context with a busy metropolitan city.

In the middle of the village of Arlesey in Bedfordshire there is a Soviet-style concrete monstrosity, extremely brutal and grey. You can see it for miles around, it’s totally out of context and out of keeping with its surroundings. It’s a wonder it was put there. It has to be the most unsubtle building I know.