St Peter’s Seminary is a modernist, brutalist building in Cardross, Scotland. Designed by Isi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, it won the 1967 Royal Institute of British Architects Architecture Award.
Completed in 1966 within a forest beside Kilmahew Castle, it was originally commissioned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow as a place to train new priests. However, a steep decline in student numbers forced the seminary to close after just fourteen years. It was briefly repurposed as a drug addiction rehabilitation centre, but the building shut its doors entirely in 1987.
In 1992, it achieved Category A Listed status as a building of special architectural or historic interest, the same year it was fully abandoned and began an extended march towards dilapidation, disrepair and defacement.
Despite several millions of pounds spent by arts organisation NVA to stabilise the site, and years of negotiations between interested parties, attempts to rehabilitate the building proved fruitless. In 2019, the Scottish Government accepted the recommendation of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) not to take St Peters Seminary into state care:
Due to the risk and cost to the public purse it would entail to the detriment of other properties in care…We accept the report’s analysis that the only reasonable way forward for this site would be ‘curated decay’.
According to HES, “curated decay” is:
a new approach [involving a minimal level of intervention] to present monuments and be honest about the cycle of life and decay. It involves managing the deterioration of the asset whilst providing a degree of public access and the ability to explore the realities of decay.
Incidentally, in 2020, a year after curated decay began, the Archdiocese of Glasgow bequeathed the site to the Kilmahew Education Trust. In 2021, the Trust announced its hope to transform the building into a film and animation hub.
St Peter's decay may yet abide new curation.
Who is curating yours?