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Latitude: 55.8717 / 55°52'17"N
Longitude: -4.2916 / 4°17'29"W
OS Eastings: 256710
OS Northings: 666650
OS Grid: NS567666
Mapcode National: GBR 0CG.3X
Mapcode Global: WH3P2.1PN2
Plus Code: 9C7QVPC5+M8
Entry Name: Department Of Natural Philosophy, University Of Glasgow, University Avenue, Glasgow
Listing Name: University of Glasgow, Gilmorehill Campus Building B8, Kelvin Building Including Basil Spence Extensions
Listing Date: 15 December 1970
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 376115
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB32923
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: Hillhead
Traditional County: Lanarkshire
Tagged with: University building
James Miller, 1903-06; extended Basil Spence & Partners (architects) with Crouch & Hogg (engineers), T-plan ranges to N in 1947-52 and rectangular-plan range to W in 1959; rooftop extension to W range, Basil Spence, Glover & Ferguson, 1966-68; rooftop extension to N range, later 20th century. Scots Renaissance style university research and teaching building with classic Modernist style extensions. 1906 building: quadrangular-plan (infilled) with lecture theatre block extending from NE angle. Snecked rubble with ashlar dressings. Extensions: Z-plan arrangement forming a further quadrangle with the 1903-06 building; steel frame structures with cavity brick walls and external leaf of smooth Portland stone (upper storeys) and rock-faced Blaxter stone (lower zone); timber clad penthouse on W range; concrete frame cantilevered lecture theatre, with timber cladding, to courtyard.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION OF 1903-06 BUILDING: MAIN S ELEVATION: 4-1-4 bays, outer bays breaking forward, with 3-bay returns; elliptically-headed basement windows; central entrance head of steps with swept parapets; columned doorpiece with strapwork pediment; tripartite window with outer pilasters, corbelled cill, sculpted pediment above, central coped gable. Outer bays fluted Ionic pilasters on raked cill band rising from ground to 1st floor; coped pediments to E and W returns, balustraded die parapet. Cupola over centre with segmental headed niches. E AND W ELEVATIONS continue detailing in simplified form with canted bay window in N bay of E return corniced axial stacks.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION OF SPENCE EXTENSIONS: steps to Portico in antis on single column at NW corner; concrete balcony and metal railings to entrance hall windows; strip windows to W range; regular arrangement of windows in bays to N range. Lecture Hall at NE angle with external concrete staircase and balcony. Splayed and cantilevered Lecture Theatre to internal courtyard.
Sash and case windows, mainly 4-light with stone mullions and transoms. Slate roof. Spence extensions: metal-framed casement windows. Full-height windows, with timber mullions, to foyer.
INTERIOR: (seen 2010). Panelled entrance hall and staircase; granolithic floors; tiled dados to corridors; exposed steel girder barrel roof to former main lecture theatre (subdivided, 1991). Spence extensions: concrete spiral stair with terrazzo treads and steel and timber balustrades; terrazzo flooring; steel cage lift; plywood ceiling panels. Main lecture theatre (Room 222) with timber and steel desks and plywood wall panels; timber doors with glazed panels and stylised handles.
The Kelvin Building was designed by the notable architect James Miller, with extensions by the internationally renowned Basil Spence & Partners. The building also has historical significance as the former home of the 'synchrotron', an early particle accelerator, commissioned in 1954.
James Miller won a number of important competitions, including those for the Glasgow International Exhibition and Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1901, the Materia Medica & Physiology Building for the University of Glasgow in 1903, the Bombay Museum (unbuilt) in 1908 and the Gleneagles Hotel in 1913. As a result of these and other successful commissions, Miller built up a large architectural practice with offices in Glasgow and London specialising in railway, medical and bank buildings. Basil Spence was responsible for a number of high-profile buildings including the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral (1951-62), University of Sussex (1959-75), Household Cavalry Barracks London (1970), Chancery of the British Embassy in Rome (1964-71) and the New Zealand Parliament extension in Wellington (1964-1977).
Miller's building of 1903-06 drew on the form and orientation of the adjacent Gilbert Scott Building, although on a much reduced scale, with 17th century detailing in the style of the University's previous High Street buildings. The University Court preferred the design for its 'simplicity and suitability beside the existing buildings'. Initially the complex contained 3 quadrangles: 2 small quads behind the S range and a larger quad to the W of the surviving lecture theatre wing. The NW corner of this quadrangle was demolished for the Spence link/extension of 1959.
Spence's Natural Philosophy building extension was a landmark in Scottish architecture, heralding the period of reconstruction and university expansion. It provides the link between the pre-war and post-war approaches to Modernism by demonstrating the connection between the Classical and the geometric Purism of Le Corbusier. Tradition is acknowledged in the rusticated lower and opaque upper zones, while the whiteness of Modernism is emphasised with Portland stone. The sculpted column at the portico is a direct reference to Corbusier, which also suggests that the building might be a concrete structure, rather than steel. It was the architect's first university contract, one of the first post-war university buildings, and the first major contract for Spence's new practice. The first phase on the N of the site, begun in 1948, was for the internationally important research work of Professor Dee, a leading figure in particle physics. Structurally demanding, it housed the 300 million watt Synchrotron, which generated gamma rays. Phase 2 links the first extension to the 1906 Miller building and contains mainly teaching facilities, including a 150-seat concrete lecture theatre.
The building is largely externally unchanged, including the metal-framed windows, and retains many original internal features, including the lift and the massive metal doors to the synchrotron chamber. Some original Spence-designed furniture is still present. In 2006, internal alterations were made to the W block to provide computer labs.
Formerly listed as '1J Gilmorehill, University of Glasgow, Natural Philosophy Building'.
List description updated as part of review of the University of Glasgow Hillhead Campus, 2011. The building number is derived from the University of Glasgow Main Campus Map (2007), as published on the University's website www.gla.ac.uk.
External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.
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