University ‘takes possession’ of Western Infirmary site

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Photo by:  Alistair McMillan

Photo by:
Alistair McMillan

Fraser McGowan
Editor

The University of Glasgow has taken possession of the former Western Infirmary site, which will enable the £1 billion expansion of the Gilmorehill campus over the next decade.

The University’s plans for the Western site include the creation of a Research and Innovation Hub; new buildings for social sciences, the Institute of Health and Well-being, the School of Science and Engineering and the College of Arts; and a new ‘central square’ which will link Byres Road to the ‘cultural quarter’ of the West End.

It is understood that there will also be ‘commercial opportunities’, including a hotel, restaurant, bars and cafes – meaning that the five listed buildings on the site will have a ‘new and valuable use’.

The level of investment will be higher than that of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It is expected that there will be 2,500 jobs created during the construction period.

The University claims that there has been an ‘extensive consultation’ regarding proposals for the site and that the views of the staff, students and the wider community “have been taken into consideration.”

Principal and vice-chancellor Professor Anton Muscatelli said: “Since the University moved to Gilmorehill in 1870, we have developed a number of iconic buildings, including, of course, the Gilbert Scott Building. The facilities we built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided a fantastic environment for University of Glasgow researchers, who won seven Nobel prizes and many other accolades. We hope to use the new site as a catalyst to attract and grow the very best academics, to attract the very best students and to ensure that Glasgow continues to be one of the top universities in the world.”

He added: “The first major development will be a Learning and Teaching Hub – situated not on the former Western Infirmary site but on University Avenue. It will provide spaces for 3,000 students at any one time, as well as state-of-the-art facilities, and will allow us to use the latest techniques in pedagogy.”

The University moved from the city’s High Street to the Gilmorehill in 1870.  It was always planned that the development would be a university and hospital, side by side, so that the hospital could be used for clinical teaching and research.

The University’s Gilbert Scott building was completed partially in 1870 but the hospital did not open until 1874. The original proposal was to situate the hospital on the current site of the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery – then known as Clayslaps – which was owned by the University. Instead, however, the town council swapped land it owned on the Western Infirmary site – Donaldshill – for the Clayslaps land. In 1878, a pre-emption clause was signed stating that if the hospital ever ceased to be a hospital then the University could buy the site back.