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Stevenson Building: Fit for Purpose

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22 Apr 2016

The University of Glasgow’s campus master plan may not yet be finalised but work to revitalise the estate is already underway. Its most recent addition, the Stevenson Building, offers something for everyone with a host of bars and a fully equipped gym. Here we see how it worked out. Photography by Mcateer.

The University of Glasgow’s campus master plan may not yet be finalised but work to revitalise the estate is already underway. Its most recent addition, the Stevenson Building, offers something for everyone with a host of bars and a fully equipped gym. Here we see how it worked out. Photography by Mcateer.

For most people already struggling to stay good on their New Year’s resolution to get down to the  local gym the completion of a £13.4m extension to the University of Glasgow’s Stevenson Building promises to make those promises easier to fulfil – even if it also comes complete with three bars.

Built on the site of the original Hive nightclub, a tatty post war extension slumped incongruously next to the grandeur of the B-listed Glasgow University Union (GUU), the new build seeks to serve as a gateway to the rapidly evolving campus environment, subject to an ongoing master plan, whilst physically connecting the union to the university’s sporting facilities – previously confined to the pre-existing Stevenson Building.

ECD, in conjunction with Page\Park, were constrained by an imperative not to overshadow the GUU whilst still squeezing in enough floor space for four bars, a full-size basketball court, studios, cardiovascular and muscle training facilities - no small ask particularly with the need to marry up level differences between the various sections, something that couldn’t be achieved in all areas due to the need to maintain adequate ceiling heights.

To maximise floor space a new ceiling has been installed across a former interior courtyard to create an additional bar and plant room, extending from the outside wall of the GUU to some of the last vestiges of the old Hive building which demarked the former car park which has now been over clad.   ECD director Alistair Cameron told Urban Realm: “This was a light well in the middle of the building, an external space. When I came in and saw the drains I thought this could almost be a back alley, there’s a band and DJ area and the walls are used for graffiti to keep everything industrial. We weren’t going to put down flooring and keep the concrete that was there but health and safety were worried it was too slippy. It’s a bit more grungy in feel with corrugated iron on the bar and stainless steel shelves.”

Taking Urban Realm down into the new nightclub Cameron said: “They got their own sound guys in and you want to hear this thing when it’s going, ridiculous.  When we turned the speakers on I thought ‘no-one’s getting that close’, I think it could have been used at T in the Park.” The spiritual successor to The Hive began life as a blank canvas upon which the students quickly made their mark, as Cameron recalled: “We did a community consultation and got all of the consultants with posters and we got about 10 folk in, all students. All they said was have we have to have a podium.”

Elsewhere a Jack Daniels themed bar has been carved out of the former GUU toilets by interior designers 999. Cameron explained: “The space was there but we didn’t have the budget but because they got Jack Daniels to sponsor it they got money for brick slip walls and timber. We used Jack D bottles for the light fittings so it looks the part.” Rounding out the quartet of new watering holes is a remodelled snooker hall located on the top floor of the original GUU which sees an island bar inserted into the centre of the space.

External elevations contain cantilevered sections and other projecting element, ‘the more the engineer whined about it the more enjoyment I got’ Cameron admitted. These flourishes also serve to break up the mass of the building, which is a good two storeys taller than its historic neighbour, so we’ve set it back and from this angle you don’t really see it.”

Picking out a key element of the design, a series of chimneys marching down the northern elevation, Cameron added: “We were looking at the chimneys on Gibson Street which are integral to the Glasgow streetscape so we tried to work that in with columns between big glass panels. It’s got a function as well because all the service ducts for the air conditioning are running up there to free up the floor plates and its drawing air through the building. The only problem is the contractor didn’t order enough stone and the last three layers are obviously a different part of the quarry. That’s an argument still to be had.”

Soft landscaping work to Gibson Street will entail tree planting, yew hedging boxes together with ornamental grasses to frame new ashlar stone paving and public seating.

Sport facilities are now also massively expanded with an open plan cardiovascular workout area offering students and the wider public an array of state of the art equipment designed to ensure anyone who sets foot inside will soon break into a sweat. This activity is more than apparent to drinkers below as the muffled thuds and bangs of dumbbells hitting the floor which reverberate through the structure.
Teething troubles aside the extended Stevenson Building fits into the surrounding streetscape without breaking a sweat, no mean feat for a building of this scale in the middle of a conservation area.

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