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David Page, the renowned Scottish architect and one of the founders of Page and Park architects, gave a measured and impressive talk to members of the Arran Saltire Society writes Tim Pomeroy.
He began by contextualising the birth of his practice back in the 1980s as a natural inheritor of his architectural antecedents, J Burnet (Corrie Church) and CR Mackintosh, but his immediate influences were the movements of the 1960s and 70s. He described himself as an ‘angry’ young architect, inferring like-minded others around him and that this anger was a propellant.
He began by referencing The Italian Centre in Ingram Street which he saw as a way of re-energising the tired and run down Merchant City area of the larger city. In this scheme he created a piazza-like courtyard crowned with ambitious sculptural projects by Jack Sloan whose Ride of Phaeton is triumphant and tragic at one and the same point. Alexander (Sandy) Stoddart made several monumental neo-classical sculptures and window surrounds, Shona Kinloch made idiosyncratic figures and dogs looking upward, all looking to the light.
Posing questions to the audience, he introduced the idea of the colour green as a fundamental to the human feeling of well-being which eased his talk into the Maggie’s Centre in Inverness. Careful to stress the individual design creativity of his team, he credited by name many of his 40-strong team of architects.
With characteristic modesty he repeated regularly that it was the time for the next generation, the younger ones, the up-and-coming ones. He cleverly tore a piece of paper to illustrate the architectural principle of outward sloping walls employed in the Maggie’s Centre, allowing the head and shoulders a sense of more light and space.
In Page and Park’s addition to Mackintosh’s Lighthouse building, he talked of the soaring, the verticality and the flowering. And as he talked of the National Museum of Rural life in East Kilbride, one could sense a distinct passion for both natural materials, wood, stone, glass and a sense of the beauty of functionality. David’s descriptions of ploughs and combine harvesters was an infectious enthusiasm. The museum, designed in a spiral is set in secluded grounds – for East Kilbride – and is an obvious flagship building of the practice.
Page and Park had been given a role in restoring Glasgow School of Art (GSA) after the first fire, and David was visibly moved as he talked about the destruction of this iconic building.
While unable to comment directly as to the future of the structure, through slides and original drawings and of the forensic archaeology – and thoroughness of his young team – he was able to demonstrate that it was completely feasible that GSA could be rebuilt as it was. He had great faith that the skills still exist in the population and that essentially what is needed is the political will.
David finished his fascinating and informative talk by fielding questions from the floor. John Bruce of Corrie concluded the evening with a vote of thanks.