Kilmahew / St Peter’s

Cardross, Argyll & Bute

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NVA has produced an ambitious scheme to reclaim the future of the world-renowned St Peter’s seminary complex and its surrounding Victorian designed landscape and woodlands. Combining partial restoration, consolidation and new design, the plans will create unique performance and exhibition spaces and establish a place for public art and knowledge exchange in the 21st century.

Abandoned since the late 1980s, every structure at Kilmahew / St Peter’s, from medieval to modern, has been reduced to ruins. Brutal, beautiful, romantic, ravaged, spiritual, shocking – the site provokes many reactions.

A masterpiece of Scottish modernist architecture, it is held in high regard throughout the world.  Almost 50 years on from the day it opened we are witnessing the first positive steps towards a new purpose; one that accepts loss and ruination as part of the site history.  The imaginative re-use of this great late modernist structure reflects the same social dynamism and ambition with which it was conceived: a spirit of working to improve things and imagining a better world. Rather than rubbing off the hard edges to create a polished version of the past, the intention is to preserve a raw sense of otherness, excitement and revelation.

 “This is truly its last chance, but what a great chance.”

– Angus Farquhar, NVA

Following presentations at the 2010 Venice Architectural Biennale, a 20 year Masterplan was produced which set out this new model for regeneration with fresh ideas and imagination at its heart.





The design team of Avanti Architects, NORD Architecture and ERZ Landscape Architects, are currently developing the proposals that will deliver an iconic cultural resource where powerful art and heritage learning will sit side by side.  This will include the consolidation of the main Seminary building as a ‘raw’ frame, with restoration of the chapel and sanctuary including the stunning ziggurat rooflight as an enclosed events space. There will also be reclamation of the main pathways and repair of the historic bridges and late mediaeval castle keep. The Victorian walled garden will be brought back into productive public use and will act as a hub for community growing and learning activities.

The collective actions that will bring Kilmahew / St Peter’s back to fruition will take many years, but every step has value in the site’s transformation from its current state of glorious abandonment.

We need to raise a total of £7.5 million to deliver these plans and we invite those who share our belief in the importance of this narrative to support us in making it happen.


A Modernist Icon

Designed by Glasgow architects Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein of the renowned Gillespie, Kidd and Coia architectural practice for the Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow, St Peter’s was completed and consecrated in 1966. It went on to win the RIBA royal gold medal for architecture, however after 25 years of decline the buildings are now registered as one of the World Monuments Fund’s most endangered cultural landmarks.

The seminary’s international significance links to the work of the architect Le Corbusier, and specifically his monastery of Sainte-Marie-de la Tourette near Lyon in France.  At St Peter’s there was rare group value in the highly charged relationship of the new buildings both to each other and to the original 19th century house and in their acutely sensitive response to its immediate setting – a relationship that is still legible despite current dereliction.

Picture 1

A Future Reclaimed

Our vision is to create the UK’s first intentional modernist ruin.

Nothing quite like this has been done before and the ideas are generating important and exciting thinking about the value of our recently built heritage and how it should be protected.  The plans, which have been  developed over the past six years, are attracting enthusiastic support at every level, from local people through to Scottish Government.

“The former seminary at St Peter’s is one of Scotland’s most important modern 20th century buildings. This project will at last see the buildings and their wonderful landscape setting conserved and enhanced for the benefit of all.”

– Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Scottish Government

Kilmahew / St Peter's aerial view. Photo: Tom Kidd

Kilmahew / St Peter's model by NORD

Help save this modernist icon for future generations.

The fundraising target for the capital works and to support the first five years of public engagement is £7.5million. Plans are progressing well and the proposals were given a substantial boost in December 2013 with a first-round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund, leading to a Stage 2 submission for £3m in October 2015.

Confirmed funding in the region of £1.5m is already in place from other key partners including Creative Scotland, Historic Scotland, Dunard Fund, The Pilgrim Trust, The Architectural Heritage Fund and Argyll & Bute Council. Generous philanthropic gifts of over £1m have also been received from private donors.

In the next 12 months we must raise a further £2 million through a major public campaign.  If you would like to join us and help to save one of Europe’s greatest modernist buildings and its vivid landscape please contact:

Peter Thierfeldt, Fundraising Consultant
+0044 (0)141 332 9911

Donate with JustGiving

Financial Times 23 Jan 2015

NVA's Kilmahew/St Peter's. Courtesy of HE Media.

The Observer 17 Jan 2015

NVA's Kilmahew/St Peter's. ©Tom Kidd, courtesy of Alamy.

BBC News 16 Jan 2015

NVA's Kilmahew/St Peter's: BBC News

The Independent 28 Nov 2014

The Independent 28 Nov 14

The Herald 22 Nov 2014

NVA's Kilmahew/St Peter's: ©James Johnson

BA High Life Magazine 23 Oct 2014

St Peter's seminary, 1960s. Courtesy of GSA Archives.

The Guardian 10 Dec 2013

Kilmahew/St Peter's: The Guardian


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