Reid Building, Glasgow School of Art | The Plan
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Reid Building, Glasgow School of Art

Steven Holl Architects

Reid Building, Glasgow School of Art
By Yehuda Safran -
Schueco, Thorn, ERCO, Poltrona Frau have participated in the project

It is both rare and difficult to erect a new building next to a
much-admired, well-known and beloved masterpiece.
Ever since Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed and built the Glasgow School of Art some one hundred years ago, it has never ceased to amaze and attract visitors. Not that it was received with universal acclaim, far from it.
The truly new and original is bound to raise an eyebrow and to provoke outrage and dismay. What was true of Mackintosh then, mutatis mutandis, is true of Holl now. Holl’s restraint and respect for the old edifice is already taken as a sign of weakness, of lack of beauty. On the contrary, one of the major virtues of the new building is that it shows tremendous respect for the grand old dame opposite. As if the young man who is invited to a dance with an old venerable dancer does everything in his power not to overwhelm her with his own dexterity and charm.
Mackintosh and Holl share moreover the love of watercolor, a predilection that is rooted in the ability to respond to the conditions of light and atmosphere and to be inspired by natural forms. The invitation to Steven Holl, following an international competition, to extend the School with an addition of a new wing, the Reid building, parallel to Mackintosh’s original building, must have been a thrill and a challenge. Steven Holl, Chris McVoy and the office understood that none of the conventional methods could suffice: they had to forgo any effect of competing with the existing building. They knew that no mimetic device would match such an invitation. Their response had to be finely calibrated and profound.
Above all, what stood out from the old building was Mackintosh’s inspired approach in the use of natural Northern light, which in Glasgow has a distinct quality. If the old building had a thick stone skin, the new answered with thin glass membrane.
Mackintosh’s fine bone structure was matched by a thick concrete frame. His...

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