The Pathfoot Building

This week’s #BeConnected Explore Our Campus looks at the history of the Pathfoot Building, home to the Art Collection and the first building on the left as you enter campus.

The University of Stirling was built on 330 acres of land within the grounds of Airthrey Estate, beneath the Ochil Hills two miles from Stirling itself and close to the Bridge of Allan. The campus was the first new university to be built in Scotland for almost 400 years. This followed the Robbins Report (1963), drawn up by Lord Robbins, who recommended an expansion of universities across the UK, and became the University’s first Chancellor in 1968.

Stirling was selected from a shortlist that included Falkirk and Perth, with the Pathfoot Building being built in the first phase of a thoroughly modern development. Constructed in 1967, it was the first building to be completed on the new campus and is now a listed building.  With its wide-open spaces giving a countrified feel, the landscape surrounding the University already provided a natural canvas. Though Lord Robbins recalled he had reservations when he visited the campus during the initial building stages.

I was overcome by the beauty of the setting… the most enchanting setting for a campus anywhere in the island. But the first piles of the Pathfoot Building were being dug. There was much mud about. It was very messy and as I looked around I could not repress the thought, Can it be that I have become Chancellor of a University which is going to ruin this marvellous landscape?

No reflection could have been more inappropriate. The Pathfoot Building has won world-wide commendations as an outstanding exhibition of what the best of modern architecture can do if it pays attention to the nature of the setting.

Lord Robbins speaking at the opening of the Pathfoot Building in 1967
The Pathfoot Building is shown in the top left with subsequent construction work underway

In keeping with the liberal sensibilities of the era, the Art Collection was initiated from the start, with the University’s founding Principal Tom Cottrell insisting that art ‘should be part of everyday life on campus.’ With work displayed in the Pathfoot building’s iconic Crush Hall and the surrounding courtyards, the Art Collection has played a vital role in University life ever since.

Courtyard in the Pathfoot Building showing Archaean by Barbara Hepworth

As well as the Crush Hall, the building itself originally housed lecture theatres, offices and classrooms, while extensions in 1979 to house a tropical aquarium and in 1987 for a virology unit saw it widen its remit. The Pathfoot building itself is a work of art, with international conservation organisation DoCoMomo recognising it in 1993 as one of sixty key Scottish monuments of the post-war era. It was also voted as one of Prospect magazine’s 100 best modern Scottish buildings, and now has Category A listed status.  

Even though the Pathfoot Building has been altered and extended over the years, the spirit of the original design remains, and is appreciated by those who visit, study and work there. Alongside the offices and lecture theatres, Pathfoot is a public art space, displaying the University‚Äôs permanent art collection as well as a series of temporary exhibitions in its main concourse and corridors, the large Crush Hall and some of its seventeen courtyards.

You can also view Stirling student Pierre Engelhard’s interactive video of the Pathfoot building and its artworks.

In the 50th anniversary year Ally Wallace was the Art Collection’s Artist in residence. Ally created films about the Pathfoot building including this one by our curator Jane Cameron.

Our Curator Jane talks about the effect that the architecture of Pathfoot has on those who work and study in the building

Details of Ally’s residency and more films can be found on his website https://www.allywallace.co.uk/About

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