Stuart MacDonald loves the 1960s and says we should reclaim its brutalist architecture from ham-fisted embellishments
My wonder is Glasgow College of Building and Printing by Wylie Shanks, which owes a lot to Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, including the ensemble on top, complete with a swimming pool and ventilation chimney. It dominates the city skyline, and I think it’s a very elegant and underrated building. It’s cheek by jowl with Strathclyde University, which has been altering its 1960s buildings with new porticoes and facades, but the college building doesn’t need anything doing to it. We have to learn to love 1960s buildings; they have an aesthetic of their own.
My blunder is what has happened to an interesting parallel development in 1960s brutalist architecture – the Anderston Centre by Richard Seifert, also in Glasgow. It was a mixed-use building, with shopping, residential and a bus station. People started to modify it and soften its brutalism with decorative porticoes, glass canopies and cladding. But all the accretions do is detract from the geometric simplicity of an interesting, homogeneous group of buildings.
People are starting to appreciate 1960s architecture in London, but it hasn’t happened in Glasgow yet, and the Anderston Centre is waiting to be rediscovered. It should have been Glasgow’s Barbican, but it was ahead of its time.
Stuart MacDonald is director of the Lighthouse, Scotland’s centre for architecture, in Glasgow