Glasgow & West Scotland

Scotland's Festival of Architecture launches at St Peter's Seminary in Cardross

St Peter's Seminary Image copyright Colin Blane
Image caption The Hinterland performances will be staged at the ruin of the former St Peter's Seminary

A derelict building considered by some to be a modernist masterpiece has been chosen to help launch Scotland's Festival of Architecture next year.

St Peter's Seminary in Cardross was designed and built in the 1960s as a training college for priests but has not been used since the 1980s.

The A-listed building, near Helensburgh in Argyll, is now a ruin.

In March, it will host Hinterland - 10 sound and light shows to mark the start of the eight-month long festival.

For the last eight years, Glasgow-based arts organisation NVA has been raising money to make the remnants of St Peter's safe for music and theatre.

NVA creative director Angus Farquhar said the staging of the Hinterland programme would be a significant milestone.


He said: "Almost 50 years on from the day the seminary opened, we are witnessing the first positive steps towards a new purpose, one that accepts loss and ruination as part of the site's history creating an evolving arts programme for local people, all of Scotland and visitors attracted to this iconic site from around the world.

"Hinterland will offer everyone a chance to visit the St Peter's at a key moment in its evolution and it promises to be the must-see arts event of 2016 leading on to the delivery of an important new creative and heritage resource for progressive public art in Scotland and beyond."

Image copyright NVA
Image caption The inside of the ruin will be transformed for the Hinterland programme

St Peter's is one of Scotland's most remarkable ruins, hidden in thick woodland overlooking the Firth of Clyde.

Visitors first glimpse its weird shapes through the trees. It looks like an Inca temple abandoned to the rain forest.

Some 50 years ago, it was regarded as a modernist triumph, a sanctuary of glass and concrete.

The Roman Catholic seminary, which belonged to the Archdiocese of Glasgow, was completed and consecrated in 1966.

Image copyright Colin Blane
Image copyright Colin Blane

Its distinctive zig-zag design and concrete appearance soon brought architectural recognition.

However, when the number of trainee priests fell, the seminary at Cardross was no longer needed.

In was deconsecrated in 1980 and soon became a playground for vandals and graffiti artists.

Even as the interior was slowly degraded by fire and rain, students of architecture continued to come from around the world to view the vaulted ceilings and floating staircases of its creators, Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein.

Formal recognition followed and the seminary was Category A listed by Historic Scotland in 1992.

Image copyright Colin Blane
Image copyright Colin Blane

The World Monuments Fund, which works to preserve endangered cultural landmarks, added St Peter's College to its register in June 2007.

The Hinterland performances in March 2016 will launch Scotland's Festival of Architecture.

Run by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), the festival aims to be an international celebration of the country's design and creativity.

Neil Baxter, from RIAS, said the Hinterland programme would be an unforgettable experience.

"The architectural significance of the former St Peter's Seminary must be measured in European terms," he said.

"It is now on the brink of becoming a quite new type of visitor and a national cultural attraction.

"The impressive spaces and dramatic allure of its contrasting concrete geometries will be a remarkable setting for public art, music and theatre. Those who take up this offer and are among the first visitors to St Peter's new incarnation will have something to tell the grandkids."

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