Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Thursday, 11 June 2009 15:54 UK

Support for 'bereaved' architects

Canopy over Forth Bridge toll booths
The canopy over the Forth Bridge toll booths lasted less than a year

A support group has been set up to help architects through the "trauma" of seeing one of their creations demolished in their own lifetime.

The Rubble Club aims to draw attention to the number of buildings it believes are being torn down unnecessarily.

Among the first architects to sign up were Reiach and Hall, the designers of the canopy over the Forth Road Bridge toll booths.

It was torn down less than a year later when the tolls were scrapped.

Writing on the Rubble Club's website, Neil Gillespie of Reiach and Hall described his disappointment at seeing his creation bite the dust so soon after it was created.

People often don't notice architecture until it is gone, and they wake up one morning to find a big hole where there was once a building
John Glenday
Rubble Club

He said: "The estuary scene is magnificent with two memorable engineering wonders spanning the Firth. It was a great challenge to add another, albeit wee, addition to this setting.

"We thought very hard about our response. The canopy took the form of a distorted crystal inclined to the rail bridge with more than a nod to the north. We then fought very hard to see it realised well.

"Less than a year old, the canopy sadly became a very early and easy casualty of politics through tolls being scrapped by a new SNP administration.

"We are pretty sanguine about what we do as architects - buildings are there to be useful. An unimaginative government felt it was useful to them at that moment that the canopy vanished."

Manchester-based Hodder Associates, which designed an award-winning swimming pool in Cumbria which is due to be demolished after only five years, has also sought solace in the club.

The Berners Pool in Grange-over-Sands, a former Roses Design Awards Grant Prix winner, was built after a long-running campaign by locals, but shut after the local council said it was no longer financially viable.

Stephen Hodder, director of Hodder Associates, wrote on the swimming pool's Rubble Club website page: "What I mourned was how expendable all that energy was when so many people had given so much."

Notre Dame College of Education
The former Notre Dame College of Education was demolished in 2007

Other members of the club include the designers of the Chungwha factory, an infamous industrial white elephant built with £10m of taxpayers' money at Eurocentral in Lanarkshire in 1996 before being pulled down within 10 years.

Parts of Notre Dame College of Education, which was latterly known as St Andrew's College, in Bearsden, was demolished in 2007 to make way for the new Bearsden Academy, despite much of it being category A listed.

Andy Macmillan, a former architect with designers Gillespie Kidd and Coia, said: "There's no reason why they couldn't convert the existing college which had excellent space and facilities including a swimming pool and gym.

"It seems to me odd that a building built in decent materials with maple flooring and Oregon pine finishes, should be knocked down. "

Rubble Club secretary John Glenday said examples such as these were becoming increasingly prevalent, with high rise flats also being razed across the UK despite the housing shortage.

Out of fashion

Nine times out of ten there was nothing structurally wrong with the buildings other than the fact they had simply gone out of fashion, he argued.

Mr Glenday said: "People often don't notice architecture until it is gone, and they wake up one morning to find a big hole where there was once a building.

"But at the end of the day demolition is usually the least environmentally friendly option.

"When you consider the energy that has being expended putting something up, it is usually well worth the time thinking about whether it is sensible bringing it down."

To satisfy the club's rules of entry, the building's architect must be alive and not party to its destruction, and the building must be built with the intention of permanence, meaning exhibitions, shops and interiors are not eligible.

Finally, the building must be deliberately destroyed or radically altered, and so cannot simply burn down, for example.

Although the Rubble Club's early members are focused in Scotland and the north of England, Mr Glenday said he was hopeful the concept of preserving lost buildings in digital form online would soon be taken up worldwide.


The Seeley History Library in Cambridge - leaky, cold in winter, drafty in autumn, stifling in summer, noisy, horrible discoloured perspex roof - it would disgrace a Communist dictatorship - the architect was Stirling, after whom Private Eye named their award for bad architecture and you can see why.

Tom, London

I can't say I have a lot of sympathy - 'distorted crystals' & ugly concrete colleges do not deserve to become part of Britain's architectural heritage.

Architects do indeed expend vast energies on their creations, but unfortunately these efforts are misdirected because they try too hard to please an inward-looking architectural community. Rather than trying to make something 'original' or 'controversial', they should instead try to make something good!

P James, London

Buildings need a purpose. They should be sympathetic to the environment and be pleasing to see. This monstrosity was none of these. It was a complete waste of taxpayers money, as are a number of projects by Edinburgh City Council

C Stoddart, Ratho

There should be a club set up to council those who are the victims of the abominations that architects and their clients inflict on us. Did Andy Macmillan, a former architect with designers Gillespie Kidd and Coia ever go back and look at St Andrew's College in Bearsden? It was arguably the most hideously ugly carbuncle of a building in the west of Scotland, with the possible exception of St Peter's College in Cardross, and it should have been demolished years ago. Using maple flooring and Oregon pine in a building like that is like putting lipstick on a corpse - a waste of time. Whoever gave it Grade A listing was a fool.

Levenax, Glasgow

My first building "rubbled" was a lovely little timber framed cricket pavilion later replaced with a hideous, but larger "intervention" at Limpsfield in Surrey. I did feel deeply offended at the time.

Later I was project architect on two huge buildings in Bathgate, West Lothian, which were publicly funded to save the commercial division of British Leyland. Getting planning permission took about three weeks (no public consultation in those days) because Tony Benn wanted the project built immediately and we slaved over the project for two years.

The buildings cost many millions of pounds (only a very small part of which kept me going) and were never even used. BL collapsed, the buildings were torn down and replaced with Noddy box housing; all that remains for me are some amusing stories to relate over a glass of plonk.

There is a serious message in that many buildings these days are designed with in built obsolescence or relatively short life. Yes I am traumatised but who wouldn't be after 45 years in architecture? I think I have done better than Pugin on the mental health stakes so far though!

David Rosemont, Scrignac, France

I went to St Andrew's College in Glasgow and lived in the halls of residence there. It was pretty unattractive, even by sixties standards. White concrete always ages so badly and the box shape doesn't really work. Good and lasting architecture is a matter of the right materials in the right location.

Paul Croston, Papa, Hungary

The unhappiness of these architects for the loss of their new buildings and for the associated environmental cost, may be compared with the sense of loss and outrage from those who see much older, historic but still viable, buildings being torn down because they are no longer in fashion or simply because architect and developer think a new building will be more prestigious.

Anne, Belfast

What maddens me is the amount of wasted public money on buildings that should last at least for a lifetime!

Diane, Wakefield

Are you an architect? Has one of your creations been demolished? Do you have an opinion about a building you think should be demolished?

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