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Elmwood College, Main Block to South, Carslogie Road, Cupar

A Category B Listed Building in Cupar, Fife

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.3192 / 56°19'8"N

Longitude: -3.0307 / 3°1'50"W

OS Eastings: 336343

OS Northings: 714561

OS Grid: NO363145

Mapcode National: GBR 2G.5WK4

Mapcode Global: WH7S2.FF0J

Entry Name: Elmwood College, Main Block to South, Carslogie Road, Cupar

Listing Date: 19 May 2014

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 402259

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52207

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Cupar

County: Fife

Town: Cupar

Electoral Ward: Cupar

Traditional County: Fife

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Description

Fife Regional Council Architectural Service, 1966-71 (John Ramsay Cowieson, project architect and lead designer; Robert Sorlie Lowrie, County Architect). Late Modernist college block with stepped cut-out glazing pattern to classrooms and repeating faceted geometric forms to the principal elements of the building, both internally and externally. The main block to south is part of a wider college complex on an extensive site previously occupied by Hope Park villa.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: 4-storey, rectangular-plan, flat-roof block with alternating horizontal bands of glazing and red brick. Steel-frame and cavity-wall construction. Narrow concrete cills and lintels. Stepped and cut-out glazing details to south, north and west elevations. Horizontal fascia between window and roofline.

Double-height library projection over main entrance to south, supported on terrazo-tiled pilotis and returning at south east corner angle. Double 2-leaf timber and glazed entrance doors. Aggregate rendered panelling. Glazed sections with convex-rectangular windows and multi-faceted mullions that taper to points at top and bottom. Former projection room outshot.

Assembly hall adjoining to east of main block with 7-bay with stage and rooms to rear of stage. Saw-tooth walls and roof configuration with full-height glazing to south; clerestorey-level windows to north. Canted, 3 window elevation to east (rear of stage).

Sliding metal-frame casement windows. Sheet metal to roof.

INTERIOR: characterised by careful articulation and interlinking of principal spaces with zig-zag folds and other geometrically disposed walls, ceilings and surface treatments. Timber doors with glazed panels. Entrance foyer/reception: bowed double-door porch partition. Parquet timber flooring; timber panelling. Double-height space with nail-head geometric ceiling panel. Angular, spiral stair access to assembly hall gallery. Glazed, cantilevered mezzanine above entrance with chamfered timber mullions. Fitted display boards and glazed cabinets. Assembly hall: timber-framed glazed wall to west with double-door to foyer. Saw-tooth ceiling and walls. Pierced timber panelling. Timber floor. Gallery to west with tiered seating. Nail-head timber panel detailing to stage and gallery. Tile clad ceiling.

Canteen: geometric coffered ceiling design, tiled with recessed lighting. Library: steel and timber mezzanine level with chamfered timber balusters; metal artworks to walls; former lecture theatre converted to form additional library space.

Statement of Interest

Designed by the Fife County Education Architects Department, Elmwood College (1966-71) is an excellent example of a multi-discipline tertiary educational facility of the post-war building period in Scotland with strong lines and close attention to Modernist architectural detail. Elmwood encapsulates many of the key elements and ideas of the later Modern Movement. It also demonstrates the regionally significant architectural output of the Fife Regional Council Architects' Department. It is comparable to some of the best collaborative architecture to be produced in Scotland in the spirit of the ambitious building programmes for social housing and the New Towns prior to the reorganisation of local governments in 1975.

The building uses modern materials, including steel, brick, concrete and glass, throughout to excellent design effect, particularly within the context of the budgetary constraints associated with publically funded school building programmes of the period.

The design of the main block and assembly hall are built on the Modernist principal that the exterior form should reflect internal volume, space and function. Horizontal bands of brick and glazed corner classrooms are interrupted by stepped changes in glazing height to reflect interior classroom divisions and to add visual interest and momentum across the facade. The importance of the library and former lecture theatre is articulated as a projection over the main entrance with distinctively engineered glazing and faceted tapering mullions.

The main interior spaces are characterised by attention to detail with quality timber and smoothly rendered finishes. The use of repeating geometric forms and zig-zag folds to walls and ceilings define the key spaces. Particularly the double-volume space of the foyer with processional stair leading to the assembly hall gallery. The adjoining assembly hall is striking with its saw-tooth ceiling and walls and its exceptional acoustics. The canteen features a distinctive coffered ceiling.

Two large pieces of wrought aluminium wall art, with the theme of sowing and reaping, were commissioned by Jack Cowieson for the building. Behind the sower is a stylised shape of Africa, while the background of the reaper suggests ploughed furrows. There is also a sun motif. These artworks, by Robert Sneddon, are relevant to the agricultural college context and reflect wider aspirational and cultural approaches to institutional education of the period. In 2003 the artworks were moved from the main foyer to the library.

The building occupies a large site previously occupied by the 19th century villas of Hope Park villa and Elmwood on the west outskirts of Cupar. The college block is set back from road, partially secluded by trees and planting. The topography of the site influences the plan-form of the building to some extent. The main block is orientated to take advantage of open views of the hills, with the full-height glazing of the training restaurant at the centre of the third floor reflecting this in particular. The Hope Park villa balustrade has been retained and forms part of the landscaping adjacent to the main entrance, together with a statue of Sir Walter Scott.

The early post-war years were a period of transformation with egalitarian social welfare and educational reforms in Scotland and the rest of the UK having a dramatic effect on the development of new architecture for education buildings. The 1945 'Education (Scotland) Act' advocated free education for all and this and other new policies helped re-prioritise a design-led ethos in the provision of schools and other public buildings. The influence of the Modern Movement in architecture was felt particularly strongly during these years in the provision of buildings for education.

Fife became one of the main centres for post-war rehousing in Scotland with investment in the new mining industries and the associated provision of New Towns such as Glenrothes. The increased infrastructural requirement saw Fife County spearhead this forward thinking approach, forming a dedicated Architect's Educational Department, resulting in a huge programme of architecturally-led projects not seen on a similar scale elsewhere in Scotland outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Elmwood was one of 4 larger-scale projects undertaken by the Fife County Education Architect's Department before it was restructured and amalgamated into a single body. Other examples are Balwearie High School, Kirkcaldy (1960-62), Madras College, Kilrymont Road, St Andrews (1964); Inverkeithing High School (1968) - see separate listings. In 1966 the Fife Education Committee approved a four million pound expenditure over 3 years for a variety of projects, including Elmwood at a cost of 522,000 pounds.

The technical or vocational approach to further education is fundamentally a post-war concept. In 1956 the first day-release scheme in Scotland for agricultural and horticultural apprentices began at Elmwood. The college expanded during the early 1960s leading to the purchase of the adjacent Hope Park Villa site by Fife County Council and the construction of the new College building in 1968. Elsewhere in Scotland, the Cumbernauld College by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia (1971) employs a more overtly megastructural design philosophy than the contemporary Elmwood Agricultural and Technical College. Elmwood College became part of the Scottish Rural University College in 2012, merging with Oatridge College, Barony College and the Scottish Agricultural College.

Subsequent repairs and alterations to the building, including replacement roof coverings and the addition of a single-storey nursery block in a similar style, are not considered to have a significant effect on the building's integrity and authenticity as built, or its ability to express key architectural ideas and principles of the Modernist period.

The single storey secondary wing to the north west and the gymnasium block to the north east (together forming a U-plan courtyard arrangement to the rear of the main block), and the single-storey nursery wing addition to the south, were not considered to be of special architectural interest at the time of the assessment (2013-14).

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