£7.5m arts centre plan for abandoned Argyll seminary

St Peter’s Seminary plansWork to transform the neglected remains of one of Scotland’s architectural gems is to begin within days.

The £7.5 million plan will see the former St Peter’s Seminary at Kilmahew, in Argyll, converted into a world-class arts complex almost 30 years after the building was abandoned and left to suffer neglect and vandalism.

Earlier this year it was announced that arts organisation NVA were set to transform the building into a space for cultural events.

Leaders of a project to save the seminary, where Roman Catholic priests were trained in the 1960s and 1970s, will close off the site this week to start a clean-up operation and renovation.

When it fully reopens at the end of 2016, they hope it will already be on track to become one of the nation’s leading cultural and heritage attractions.

The design team of Avanti Architects, NORD Architecture and ERZ Landscape Architects, are currently developing the proposals for what is widely regarded as the country’s finest “modernist” building to play host to Scotland’s national performing arts companies, pop and rock concerts, visual arts exhibitions and festivals.

It is also hoped the project, which has won backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Creative Scotland and Historic Scotland, will revive interest in an abandoned country estate with ruins dating to the medieval period.

Angus Farquhar, creative director of NVA, the organisation that has led plans to revive the building, said: “The best way to describe what we plan to do with St Peter’s is to look back at the impact that the Tramway arts centre had when it opened in Glasgow in 1990 with the late 20th-century use of an old industrial space.

“It allowed a lot of large scale work, both national and international, to happen for the first time. I think St Peter’s will take its place.

“You will see some of the seminal shows in Britain taking place here in the next 20-30 years.”

An “illuminated public art extravaganza”, which will give the public the first taste of the new-look St Peter’s, is being planned by NVA for next spring. The arts organisation was behind previous large scale environmental events.

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