This week sees the start of the Mountain Biking at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, a fact that may not obviously have an obvious connection with the Commonwealth Games. However, the event marks in many ways the final affirmation at an official level of Scotland’s great contribution to the wider narrative of Modernism, and in particular the contribution of the practice of Gillespie Kidd and Coia. As it is well known, this established practice built a series of stunning religious buildings, particularly churches, for the Catholic church in the west coast of Scotland, designed by Andy McMillan and Isi Metstein. The Mountain Biking will head out from the former Church & Presbytery of St Martin’s, Castlemilk, one of the lesser known projects by the pair. A far better way for Glasgow to acknowledge the importance of its modernist heritage than blowing bits of it up for kicks.
St. Martin’s, which ceased to operate as a place of worship in 2010, boasts some of the key features of McMillan and Metzstein’s work. It exhibits an ingenious use of gradient, standing as it does on an outcrop of rock with the slopes and trees of Cathkin Brae which forming a picturesque background to it. Existing rock face and trees on the site being preserved to advantage and exploited with a series of terraces and staircases creating a dramatic approach. It also expresses the complex and engaged role of the Church in local life at the time of design, as it also incorporates a Sanctuary, two side altars, a shrine to St Martin, a baptistry, choir gallery, and sacristies.
The preservation of an example of Scottish modernism was ostensibly enabled by Historic Scotland giving a grant to a local preservation trust. However behind this has been an extensive campaign by key activists in Scottish architecture to convince a reluctant Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow that their architectural patrimony was of greater significance than the value of the land on which it stood. This year Creative Scotland, the Scottish government’s arts body, announced capital funding (i.e. money for buildings) for the slowly emerging proposals for St. Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, Metzstein and McMillan’s masterpiece….