Glasgow tenement scoops building of year award

THE title of Scottish Building of the Year has been won by the transformation of a neglected Edwardian tenement block in Glasgow into a colony of studios for artists.
WASPS South Block has won the RIAS Building of the Year award. Picture: ContributedWASPS South Block has won the RIAS Building of the Year award. Picture: Contributed
WASPS South Block has won the RIAS Building of the Year award. Picture: Contributed

The new Wasps Studios complex, based in a culture quarter near the city’s Clyde waterfront, claimed the nation’s prestigious “Building of the Year” title in a ceremony at the Scottish Parliament.

The new creative hub in the south of the Merchant City area is now fully occupied by almost 100 artists, despite only being launched early last year.

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Judge for the Andrew Doolan Prize, the UK’s richest architectural contest, said the project, overseen by Glasgow-based Nord Architecture, had turned an “unloved” building into a powerhouse for “invention, innovation and creativity.”

The Wasps South Block scheme - hailed for its transformation of a “historic hulk” blighting the landscape in the Merchant City - was named the overall winner from a 12-strong shortlist drawn from 75 entries to the annual contest run by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

The revamped National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish Parliament building and two “Maggie’s” cancer care centres were among the previous winners of the best building in Scotland award.

Other contenders this year had included new multi-million pound arts centres in Shetland and Greenock, a new high school for Dunfermline, in Fife, a major refurbishment for Aberdeen University’s library and new residential homes in Lenzie, in Glasgow, near the Callanish stone circle on the Isle of Lewis, and on the Isle of Skye.

Special award for university Chaplain

A new special award, set up to recognise the “client of the year” and backed by the Scottish Government, was also presented to Father Dermot Morrin, in recognition of another of the 12 shortlisted projects - a new home for the chaplaincy at Edinburgh University.

The £3.5 million regeneration to create the new Wasps Studios complex - originally a textiles warehouse - was described as being a “clear winner” of the £25,000 prize, which was set up by the Scottish architect Andrew Doolan in 2002, two years before he died.

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The building now housing the 50,000 sq ft studio complex - which is also now occupied by a string of creative industries firms and social enterprises - lay virtually unused for the previous 20 years, apart from an occasional charity shop.

Around 220 people are currently working in the revamped five-storey building, which has already been recognised at the Scottish Design Awards.

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Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer of the RIAS, said: “This used to a bit of an unloved corner of the Merchant City, it was pretty down-at-heel, to be honest, and the building was in a semi-derelict condition. Most of it had been lying empty for years. It’s now absolutely buzzing with activity.

“This is a great example of how a neglected and unused building can be refurbished and brought back into use, rather than just knocked down.”

Wasps ‘makes huge contribution’

David Cook, chief executive of Wasps Studios, which was set up more than 30 years ago, said: “South Block is now 100 per cent occupied, a great achievement in this economic climate, and we have received fantastic feedback from the creative community.

“The new venue is also making a huge contribution to the regeneration of the Merchant City.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, who presented the awards, said: “Year upon year, the outstanding quality of Scotland’s new architecture continues to reinforce our international reputation for creativity.

“The winning scheme is a tremendous and inspiring focus for creativity and innovation and, like previous winners of the award, it is a building of which Scotland can be proud.

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“In architecture award ceremonies, the centre spotlight naturally falls on the building

design, for which the architect’s role is rightly celebrated. However, although less often publicly recognised, the role of the client is also vitally important.

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“For this reason, the Scottish Government working in partnership with RIAS, has established a new client award to recognise client support for good architecture. I am delighted that this will become part of the annual RIAS Awards in future years.

“This year’s winner, Father Dermot Morrin, the client for the Chapel of St Albert the Great in Edinburgh, is a very deserving winner of the inaugural award.”