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Letters to the Editor


Steven Holl responds to William J.R. Curtis

Dear Editors:

Steven Holl
Steven Holl


We welcome criticism as long as it's based on an accurate understanding of our design. Unfortunately William Curtis' article is not knowledgeable about our design. First, the new building will not reflect light onto the Mackintosh building since its skin is matte glass (as has been confirmed by extensive computer modeling). This material is almost like alabaster. It is soft, without reflection. The clear glass portion is set back behind a green landscape. Only about 15 percent of the façade glows, so this will not alter the glowing quality of the original building.

The concept of the new building, a "complementary contrast," is expressed in a silent matte façade which picks up the changing Glaswegian sky as a complement to the rich detail of stone and steel elements of the Mackintosh building. It would not be possible to replicate that building’s intricacy, and it would be a travesty to imitate it. The rich detail of the original will dominate the new urban space without interference from the silent contrast of the new neighbor. The existing 1970's ten-story tower, which will be replaced by our lower five-story building, is certainly out of scale with Mackintosh’s architecture. The entire urban composition will be improved with the removal of the 1970's buildings and the insertion of the new facility. To retain urban history and scale at the corner, the 1936 Assembly building in stone is retained and incorporated into the new building.

Our team has worked diligently with all the great people at the Glasgow School of Art in a very rigorous process.  Every aspect of the design and its relationship to the Mackintosh building has been carefully developed to extend the GSA’s capacity to be the premier education facility in the UK.

The spurious argument by William Curtis is revealed in his closing remarks about two of our other celebrated works. The historical importance of the Glasgow School of Art is enormous; and the school deserves to have this great new facility to extend its educational mission, as Spinoza said "Good things are never easy, they are as difficult as they are rare".

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