St Peter’s Seminary near Cardross, Scotland, was a Roman Catholic educational institution opened in 1966 by the Archdiocese of Glasgow. The building’s function as a college ended in 1980. It was used briefly as a drug rehab centre before closing in 1987, after which the leaky structure was abandoned under the jurisdiction of the Argyll and Bute local authority.
Designed by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, St Peter’s Seminary is an important example of modernist and brutalist architecture. Although buildings like this are often negatively associated with urban decay, the seminary’s geometric, functional concrete and polished wood design was probably intended to reflect the modernisation of the Catholic Church during the 1960s.
The arguably beautiful college was constructed within an isolated woodland estate; making its unique appearance even more striking and unusual. The setting was once complimented by the visual contrast between St Peter’s and a 19th Century baronial mansion called Kilmahew House, which sat proudly alongside the seminary until it was demolished after a severe arson attack in 1995.
In 2008, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) added St Peter’s College to their Watch List of 100 most significant sites of cultural heritage endangered through war, natural disaster or simply neglect. The List has been released every two years since 1996 and St Peter’s Seminary qualified for attention under the heading Modernism at Risk (a category launched in 2006). Some consider it ironic that the WMF was founded in 1965; a year before St Peter’s construction was completed.
In partnership with the Archdiocese and local council, Historic Scotland recently commissioned Avanti Architects and landscape and urban designers Erz Ltd to deliver a detailed report and plan-of-action for the Kilmahew Estate. Scottish arts charity the NVA (‘nacionale vitae activa,’ or ‘the right to influence public affairs’) has arranged to buy the site temporarily and will work within the master-plan to adapt and restore the abandoned buildings.
If planning permission is approved during 2013, St Peter’s and its tranquil surroundings will form a publicly accessible country park complete with spectacular viewpoints and educational facilities. The Invisible College has already put the seminary to work providing inspiration for artists, writers and academics and St Peter’s may host events and visitors in the near future.