Buildings of the future should be ‘intelligent’ and have a built-in capacity for addition and alteration. Intelligent buildings should be adaptable, re-usable, capable of being re-configured and re-organised, but they should also have a strong physical presence and be imbued with a specific urban character, so that they are a recognizable element in the city. While it may seem paradoxical, it is this strong physical presence, this ‘rootedness’, that allows a building to remain open to new interventions.
The architectural ruin is ultimately the physical essence of a building, laying bare its structure when the more vulnerable layers have decayed or have been reclaimed by nature. St. Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, near Glasgow is a textbook example of this process. Designed by Gillespie Kidd and Coia, completed in 1966 and abandoned in 1987, it illustrates this dual process of disintegration and distillation, revealing both the fragile nature of construction on the one hand, and the physical power of its spatial structure on the other. The effect is uniquely impressive, as what is left of the structure appears at once romantic and hardcore brutalist. We are confronted with the primal expression of protection and form in the exposed concrete frame and vaults, and the spatial complexity of the ruins still evokes a functional promise, a ‘yet-to-be-imagined’ use.