(james benedict brown) on the road

One for the Macallan Club

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 23 November, 2008

There is, amongst successful architects, a fabled and very exclusive club. A club with a membership over which the member has no control; one which invites you in as you realise the fragility of the architect’s profession. In an extract from this article in Building Design, Charlie Hussey and Charlie Sutherland recall their tutor at the Glasgow School of Art, Isi Metzstein:

If you ever receive an unsolicited bottle of Macallan from Isi Metzstein, you have some cause for concern. This is a club with a select membership, to which James Stirling, Enric Miralles and Louis Kahn can all lay claim.

And certainly the distressing state of St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, masterwork of Isi and his partner Andy Macmillan, is a testament to the founding of the Macallan Club, membership of which is restricted to those whose buildings are demolished, redundant or abandoned in the architect’s lifetime.

I am some way in my architectural career from joining these illustrious figures. To be honest, I’m not making much headway at all in that particular career, but that is no longer as much of a concern as it once was. But I have passed a modest personal milestone. Seen through the window of a moving train earlier this week, I have glimpsed what must be the first building to be constructed on which I have contributed to the design.

I say “contributed” because I was a lowly student architect, and most of my work involved hacking about with a the structural grid, parking garages and floorplans of a complex of curved apartment blocks. It was a harsh baptism of the reality of modern real estate in this country as I squeezed one bedroom apartments into a footprint of not much more than 52 square metres (560 sq. ft.). Not much room for storage and many with only single aspect. But inspecting the sales brochures online when I got home, I was touched to see that much was as I remembered it.

I have no idea how the birth of this complex into a global financial crisis has affected it, but I am reliably assured that the “entire first phase” has now sold out. No word, though, on how many apartments were in that first phase.

I can’t claim any credit for the appearance or basic design of the building, nor can I defend myself for some truly mediocre space standards. But if you would like to buy me a glass of Macallan 12 the next time you see me, I’ll gladly reminisce about my first steps in this profession.