- 1968-1978 (Creation)
Level of description
Content and Structure
Scope and content
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Name of creator
William Alexander Kidd was born in Greenock in 1879, the son of William Kidd, ironmonger and his wife Margaret Colquhoun Barr. He joined the practice of James Salmon & Son in 1898 as an apprentice and studied at Glasgow School of art from that year until 1902, also attending classes at the Glasgow & West of Scotland Technical College. He became chief draughtsman in the Salmon practice sometime before 1911, by which time the firm had become Salmon Son & Gillespie. He remained with John Gaff Gillespie after the latter took charge of the practice following the death of William Forrest Salmon, and Gillespie took him into partnership in 1918. When Gillespie died on 7 May 1926, leaving estate of £1,950 4s 11d to his wife Agnes, Kidd was his executor and became sole partner.
Jack Antonio Coia (born 1898) had been taken on by Gillespie as an apprentice in October 1915 at a salary of 4 shillings a week with no demand for a premium, and had subsequently worked with Alexander Nisbet Paterson and Alexander Hislop in Glasgow, and with Herbert A Welch and Hollis in London, before returning to Glasgow in 1927. On hearing he was back in Glasgow, Kidd appealed to him to return to assist in the reconstruction of the Smith warehouse as the Ca' d'Oro, for which Gillespie had left only sketch designs. Kidd died in 1928 while the work was in progress and Coia inherited the practice, which now became Gillespie Kidd and Coia, but there was little business apart from the fitting of Leon's shop at 89 St Vincent Street, and Coia joined the teaching staff of Glasgow School of Art.
In 1931 Coia approached Archbishop Donald Mackintosh for work on the programme of church extension then planned. This resulted in a series of important brick-built church commissions of continental inspiration and in about 1938, his senior assistant T Warnett Kennedy was taken into partnership. Kennedy was born c.1913 and articled to Coia in about 1927, after a brief spell with James Austen Laird. He returned to Coia thereafter, and remained with him apart from a short period with Honeyman and Jack. As a student he had been editor of the magazine 'Vista' published quarterly which included articles by Hans Poelzig, Ragnar Ostberg, R H Wilenski and other major names of the 1930s. Coia and Kennedy worked closely together but in Kennedy's words 'Jack thought with his fingers. He sketched at lightning speed. I pontificated on the emergence of abstract art … During the 1938 British Empire Exhibition we slept on the floor of the office an average of three nights a week.'
In 1939 Coia married Eden Bernard. Earlier in the same year he was commissioned to design Knightswood Secondary School and complete Gillespie’s Municipal Buildings at Stirling but both these projects were cancelled. When Italy entered the war in 1940, Coia briefly lost control of his office and practice at 239 St Vincent Street. The Salmon Son & Gillespie records were lost to salvage at that point but he did manage to retain those relating to his own practice from 1927. He quickly re-established himself under the same practice title at 199 Bath Street. Although admitted FRIBA on 20 May 1941, lack of business obliged him to retrench, combining house and office at 7 Hamilton Drive. In the later war years his income came mainly from work in the family café, such free time as he had being spent on obtaining a degree in town planning.
In 1945 Sam Bunton asked Coia to help with repairing war damage in Clydebank, Kennedy having earlier been asked to help at Dumbarton. This enabled him to restart the practice, taking on as apprentice Isi Metzstein, who was a refugee, and for a time his own brother John. In 1948 the practice moved out of Hamilton Drive to 19 Waterloo Street and in 1954 Andrew MacMillan joined the practice from East Kilbride Development Corporation. In 1956 both house and office moved to 20 Park Circus, and in the course of the move a burst water pipe destroyed most of the practice drawings. (At this time John Peter Coia, Jack's much younger brother, was working in the practice, having undertaken his apprenticeship there from 1933 to 1938.) Thereafter Metzstein and MacMillan undertook most of the design work. The last important building in which Coia had a major hand was St Charles, Kelvinside, where his design was developed by Andrew MacMillan and Joe Taylor.
Coia was elected ARSA in 1954 and full academician in 1962. He was appointed CBE in 1967 and awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 1969 followed by honorary degrees from the universities of Glasgow (1970) and Strathclyde (1976). In person he was in Patrick Nuttgens's words 'small, intense, unkempt, angry and bloody-minded', mainly as a result of wartime experiences and the post-war decision not to complete the Stirling Municipal Buildings as Gillespie had designed them. The poverty of contemporary architecture, dissatisfaction with the competition system and the destruction of some of his favourite buildings also coloured his outlook in his later years, his views being trenchantly expressed at the Royal Fine Art Commission of which he was for a time a member. In his retirement he spent much of his time at Glendaruel. He died on 14 August 1981, the funeral homily being preached by his pupil Father Kenneth Nugent SJ.
Metzstein and MacMillan were to carry out most of the practice’s design work from around 1957 onwards, as Coia approached retirement. Metzstein was elected a student member of the RIBA in 1957 though he does not seem to have become an Associate. MacMillan was elected ARIBA in 1963. In 1987 he is listed as being Professor in the Mackintosh School of Architecture.
Working in a bold and highly original Modernist idiom, Metzstein and MacMillan collaborated on a series of notable Roman Catholic churches between that year and 1980, of which St Bride’s in East Kilbride (1963–4) is among the most remarkable. Their masterwork is considered to be St Peter’s Seminary, Cardross, completed in 1966, which was to be the first modern building to be awarded Category-A listed status. They were also responsible for a series of important university buildings, including halls of residence at Hull (1963–7), additions to Wadham College, Oxford (1971–7), and Robinson College, Cambridge (1974–80). Although strongly inspired by Le Corbusier, they drew on sources as diverse as Victorian Glasgow, medieval urbanism and abstraction, and Metzstein always emphasised the importance of designing from first principles. The company was wound up in 1987.
MacMillan and Metzstein were to receive RIBA lifetime achievement awards for teaching in 2007. Metzstein died in 2012, and MacMillan passed away in 2014.
The new Church of St Margaret, Sinclair Street, Clydebank incorporated carefully considered concepts related to both the liturgical and practical aspects of Church planning, and sought to explore the architectural consequences of Vatican II.
Conceived as a simple square building, deliberately kept to a modest height & scale to enhance the idea of community room for mass, the new Church nevertheless accepted the need for an appropriate expression of the sanctity of worship & the presence of the host. This was sought and achieved by exploiting the structural means of the 20th century to decorative effect just as the medieval masons manipulted the stone ribs & vaults of their time. Again, just as the long medieval plan was derived from the preparation of the secular nave from the religious choir, so the square form of the new Church of St Margaret derived from the desire to express the sense of joint participation by clergy & laity in the Sacrament of the Mass.
All seating was placed around the Sanctuary, where in response to the new liturgy, the rail was abolished, and the font, the altar, the ambo and the President's chair were grouped together in full view, a view aided by the stepping down of the floor towards the altar, and the stepping up of the roof above the sanctuary to flood the entire area with hidden light.
The diagonal axis from the Sunday entrance to the altar permitted the provision of generous standing space adjacent to the doors where additional seating could be provided on those special occasions when the Church was more than usually crowded, and a cry room for nursing mothers was provided adjacent to the weekday entrance. Materials were simple but effective, chosen both for appearance and ease of maintenance.
Essentially the Church is a facing brick box, lit around the edge and above the Sanctuary, by hidden rooflights which reflect the light from the varnished pine frieze to simulate sunlight even on dull Scottish days.
A striking feature of the Church was the brightly painted space frame roof whose complex taut members provided an exciting pattern of light and shade and form a canopy over congregation and Sanctuary.
The glazed entrance wall is tinted to provide daytime privacy and avoid glare. The timber seats are upholstered for comfort and the fascia, the entrance doors and the confessionals are lined with lead to harmonise with the splendid sculpted altar, font and sanctuary furniture, designed & made by the husband and wife team of Alfred and Jacqueline Steiger-Gruber, whose work can be seen in Switzerland and England.
The parish house provided accommodation for 3 priests and staff. It lies adjacent to the Church and is linked via the sacristy and the office.
A simple grass bank was used as a motif to link the grouping of the parish church, house and hall, while providing the needed privacy to the rear. A paved square in front and some planting enhance the entrance approach.