Elder + Cannon

Russell Institute

A significant building in the history of Paisley, this highly impressive and largely intact Category A-listed building is notable for its stonework, statuary, interior, period innovative construction and social purpose. 

The building marks part of a transition period toward the modern movement in Scottish Architecture and is one of the first buildings in Scotland with a reinforced concrete frame. Its large bronze and steel framed windows reflective of its social purpose, the introduction of new technologies also evidenced by the hybrid of modern and traditional roof materials and concrete rear façade. Its high quality materiality and statuary emphasises the collaborative spirit of architecture and art at that time and images of mother and child emphasises its social purpose. 

The building was built and bequeathed to the people of Paisley in 1920 for a Neonatal health centre, with an impressive hall and marble stair and lift leading to largely cellular treatment accommodation in the wings. Its use of daylight was also pioneering with large expanses of cast acid etched glass lighting the outer rooms. A roof lit central atrium combined with reflective materials enriched the interior and reinforced its social purpose of health and well being.   

Building on the work done in the options appraisal the Institute has now been adapted as drop-in centre and contemporary facility for Renfrewshire Council and Skills Development Scotland. This involving a careful transformation of the cellular spaces to a series of linear open plan offices, introduction of a new reception and conference facilities with improvements throughout for accessibility, all while retaining its significant features and materiality.

The process and completed work came from a willingness by the whole project team to understand the value already in the building, combining to enable solutions that integrated restoration strategies with design proposals that maximised the client’s request for functionality - whilst all along ensuring the restoration and enhancement of spacial qualities of this historic asset, its rich materials and unique identity.