University plans and photographs

University plans and photographs

Natalie Milne

(First published in Dunaskin News, May 2002)

Drawing of the proposed design for the new building on Gilmorehill for the University of Glasgow, 1860.  (The University of Glasgow.  Copyright reserved.)The neo-gothic building of Glasgow University at Gilmorehill is a one of the landmarks of Glasgow, a resounding feature of the Glaswegian skyline and one which radiates throughout the city.

The original architectural plans of the university buildings, including the main Gilbert Scott construction, held at Glasgow University archives are a very interesting but underused resource.  The nature of the material is in itself problematic and is consulted primarily by professionals who receive training in the interpretation of such material.  Not only are the original plans and designs for the buildings quite fragile, most certainly for the main building, which originates from 1868, but they can also be indecipherable to the "layman". 

The Cloisters, the University of Glasgow, 1970.  (The University of Glasgow. Copyright reserved.) However, regardless of the specialised nature of our collection their potential interest is apparent and often the plans in themselves are of great aesthetic value.  Particularly impressive are those of the Gilbert Scott building, or the new college building as it was called.  Not only do the elevations illustrate the beautifully accurate design of the neo-gothic façade in all its splendour, the ground plans are as equally impressive; particularly those of the cloisters with its fluted columns and transverse ribbed vault.

Our collection of plans ranges from the 18th century to 1987 and so the progression of the architectural styles, university building initiatives and tendencies within the profession such as environmental, functional and economic considerations are clearly marked. 

Exterior shot of the main entrance to the Joseph Black Building, which houses many of the IBLS departments and also the Chemistry Department.  (The University of Glasgow Photographic Unit.  Copyright reserved.)
The range of architects employed by the University over the years has been considerable and generally the roll call consists of architects based in the locality and the designs undertaken by those companies contain the architects personal trademarks and professional philosophy.  Like all institutions established hundreds of years ago, expanding considerably over the years, Glasgow University campus illustrates a hotchpotch of building styles.

These range from the 19th century neo-gothic which defines the University’s public image, styles radical for their time using unconventional materials (such as the zoology building), the elegance of the round reading room which is now listed and the 1950’s and 60’s concrete constructions which reflected contemporary design.  Needless to say, the ongoing building and improvements currently in process at Gilmorehill will add greater variety to the campus aesthetic.