Rus in Urbe

Double villa, Glasgow
Competition 2017

Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s oeuvre includes suburban villas and urban tenements, churches and commercial buildings. The insertion of a pair of villas – a potentially suburban type – into a constrained island site in the city therefore presents something of a typological dilemma. It seemed that in translating Thomson onto this site a solution might lie in looking to his churches for inspiration. These buildings present a massy composition of elements to the city, often raised on an acropolis-like plinth. As one approaches and navigates around the churches, the elements making up the elevational composition separate and become visible as individual entities: as parts contributing to the whole.

Ground floor plan
Mews between villas

We thought that the site – an island surrounded by the strong forms of tenements following the perimeters of their city blocks – needed a strong urban response: something other than two villas in open gardens. Thus the wall proposed around the site has, perhaps, something of the character of Thomson’s church plinths, presenting a robust edge to the street, and protecting the gardens within. The perimeter wall gathers the two houses on the site into one assemblage, and seen from afar, the buildings are assembled into a single composition of plinth, pediments and roofs. Thomson’s double villa is one house divided into two; our proposal is for two houses that appear as one.

First floor plan