The Broken St Peters Building That Shouldn't Be Destroyed

Author shukry
The Broken St Peters Building That Shouldn't Be Destroyed

This is Saint Peters seminary. 

About an hour west of Glasgow in Scotland or rather it was. It was built in the 1960s as training the school for priests and I think it's a beautiful ruin of a building but then I like Modernist architecture like this. In 1992, this was put on the list of historic Scottish buildings in category A, which means that it's of national or international importance. 

Architecturally, it is one of the most important modern buildings in Scotland but by the time it was listed, it had already been closed for years. The Catholic Church had decided that priests should train in towns and cities, not in remote places like this and besides time for changing there weren't as many people who wanted to be priests, no one was interested in buying the place and the church couldn't afford to keep an empty and extremely high maintenance building running for no purpose. One of the troubles with a unique structure like this is that it's expensive and difficult to keep repaired. So, a quarter of a century later what's left looks rough.

The Archdiocese of Glasgow has been responsible for it since the moment they opened. It was a building which was very difficult to reuse because it had been custom-built. No developer wanted a building that had a huge concrete Chapel in it.  We have a responsibility to try and preserve the ruin as best we can.

It is now a ruin. It's covered in graffiti. It's inaccessible. It's dangerous.

We have, by statute, to try and maintain some kind of security in that area to ensure it and so on. But, after 40 years we are at our wits end. 

In 40 years, we have worked with every imaginable idea. Developers have thought of turning into a community centre or a hotel complex and everything in between. There were inherent weaknesses in the building. Those who lived there have nightmarish stories of water ingress. For example, of the fact that the wind would blow so strongly through the windows that curtains would be lifted to be almost horizontal. So, the building itself was not an easy building to live in or work in, which made it even more difficult to find an alternative use for. 

One arts organization spent millions on making it safer removing asbestos and old fittings, using it as a stage for light shows hoping to turn it into an arts venue. Then, they run out of money. Besides, by design this building is in the middle of nowhere. There's a village a mile down the road but that's it. 

There are better places for arts venues and there's no way in law to just abandon a building like this. You can't just decide that it doesn't spark joy anymore and donate it to a charity shop. It definitely can't be knocked down because it's a really significant listed building. 

It's not just a listed building. It's a Grade A listed building. It's the highest form of listing possible.  We are required to stick to all sorts of rules about not using it for any alternative purpose, not amending it, trying to keep the area around safe. Legally, we would give that building away with the estate but whoever takes it on takes on responsibility for insurance, for security, for upkeep and so on. So, it's not so easy.

You literally can't give it away.

There have been expressions of interest, but when it comes down to it, it's a question of money, of finance because the building itself swallows vast amounts of money. Even to maintain in its current ruin state costs the Archdiocese something like 60,000 pounds a year. 

People have looked at the area around because in a beautiful estate, they have looked at perhaps building houses there and using the profit from that but that has been denied because there are Green Bill issues which prevent that too. So, there's something tragic and haunting about. It's unrealistic to expect some sort of Deus Ex Machina. 

We remain open to working with anyone who wants to come forward with plans and ideas, but at the same time realistically, this is bigger than us. This is something for the state. Something for the nation. Most people would probably say, "what a mess!". Those are understand buildings and they have an understanding of Brutalist Architecturewe'd see it as an extraordinary treasure. That's the reality. It is both.

If this was centuries-old, rather than decades, it'll be a national treasure. The Scottish Government would probably pay to restore it. You could charge the admission fee. Parents would bring their kids to picnic in the grounds and the idea of spraying graffiti on it would be abhorrent but apparently it isn't. 

Despite the fact that this is a one-of-a-kind historic religious building. This place has enormous historical and cultural value but a negative financial value. And that it turns out is a very difficult place to be in.

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