Our university faces an accommodation crisis... and nobody is talking about it. Halls are overpriced and we’re shipping students out to Dundee because we don’t have enough room. All this is terrible, but we’re missing the bigger problem. Since the mid-20th century, the style, flair, and (dare I say it) class of undergrad accommodation has all but vanished.
Gannochy and Lumsden are dull 60s boxes. Melville I can forgive for its charmingly quirky if utterly impractical brutalist styling. DRAFP on the other hand is like walking into a new- build gulag. Its identical, arbitrarily named buildings remind me eerily of the workers’ village in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, except with a dingy puddle in the middle. ABH is a prison. There’s no point trying to deny it: those are watch towers. Powell Hall and Whitehorn Wing are just, well, boring.
So, let’s campaign to stop this happening again and appoint me as the architect for the new Albany Park residence. I believe I can speak for everyone here when I say I want to live in a castle!
Wardlaw wing of Uni Hall is a good starting point, it has turrets, weirdly proportioned windows, fancy roofs, and a totally illogical floor plan which bears no resemblance to the exterior. Of course, all these things can be said of ABH. The difference is that Wardlaw was built out of attractive stone by an architect who still had eyes. Wardlaw embraces the Scots Baronial style of Victorian St Andrews and therefore fits in perfectly with the surrounding area. This is—in my opinion—its only flaw.
The new Albany Park should push further into the Gothic Revival. Let’s be innovative and unique. I propose we fuse Stalinist skyscraper forms with Anglo-American collegiate gothic elements, including enclosed quads—the only field Oxford beat us in. All this must be built out of local Scottish materials (stone) and peppered with turrets (because they make every building at least 20% cooler). Essentially what I’m asking for is a fu- sion between Hogwarts and Gotham city. Take Glasgow University’s main building to its natural conclusion.
Emphasise verticality and scale: Gothic architecture draws attention to itself—modern student housing recedes into the background. Oxford’s two new quadrangles are sheet glass and metal modern reinterpretations of old architectural styles. Reinterpretation inevitably ends up looking a bit rubbish. Abandon ABH’s pathetic turrets and appropriate the old style.
Now, you may ask: wouldn’t this be a massive waste of money? No. St Andrews is full of people my mother would describe as ‘Americans with more money than sense’, and given our entry requirements that means they’re properly loaded. By building my massive sea-facing façade (complete with flying buttresses and a gargoyle that looks like Sally Mapstone) we could subsidise all other accommodation. Everybody wants to live in a castle, some crazy people will happily pay over the odds to live in unnecessarily en-suite rooms with sea views. So, rip those guys off (they can afford it) and make the rest subsidised standard self-catered.
Our prestige would benefit too. Nobody comes to St Andrews to look at the med building (sorry guys) just like no tourist goes to Edinburgh to see the parliament. I’m not opposed to the institution (please don’t shout at me on Fessdrews) but Scotland’s parliament building looks like the hideous love child of a regional swimming pool and the Teletubbies house. Contrast that against the resplendent grandeur of the equally silly and ostentatious Westminster palace, or better yet the House of the Blackheads in Riga—home to the Latvian president in the 2000s—a 90s building in full Mannerist style. No trip to Riga or London is complete without visiting these icons, why can’t we have a hall that’s part of our identity—somewhere that leaves an impression that lasts longer than the smell.
Will the locals approve of my plan? Probably not. I hope they’d see this monstrosity as a new landmark, an improvement on the generic university buildings colonising their hometown. Either way, one thing is certain, nobody wants another ABH. So, rip up the plans, and rebuild Albany Park as a Neo-Gothic, Socialist Classicist, Art Deco-influenced castle-skyscraper—with Scots Baronial turrets, of course!