MSA Stage 4 School of Architecture

Adam Cowan (He/Him)

I have recently finished my 4th year at MSA, a year which offered great challenges and opportunities to develop my architectural skills, adapting the ways I think and design to strategically tackle larger problems, led by a thesis.

My practice is underpinned by a passion for sustainability, technology and a desire to enrich communities and society. My drawing, digital and design skills combine with a research driven, innovative approach to produce comprehensive, thoughtful designs highly specific to the needs of their location.

Please feel free to connect via my LinkedIn, Instragram or email!

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Barras Materials Bank

Barras Materials Bank

The brief was to deliver a civic building meaningful to its local context and the wider city.

My research has led me to design a ‘materials bank’ for the Barras (and broader Calton/Glasgow area) which facilitates the recycling and processing of materials, and offers educational opportunities for specialist skills, sustainable living and materials in a circular economy.

Facilitating a local materials economy and giving a platform for making skills and environmental awareness to grow should lead to a more socially cohesive and empowered body of citizens who understand and control their relationship to materials and objects, to their own and the community’s advantage.

The programme includes spaces for storage and distribution, a large flexible hall, teaching spaces, workshops and a materials library, interconnected by different outdoor squares and supporting spaces.

The full thesis statement is included as the bottom image. Please feel welcome to find my links and contact details on my profile, and get in touch.

“If humankind could somehow perceive this connection to materials, to the collective consumption and the earth it impoverishes, it would be a leap in our social evolution, in building an awareness that everyone must somehow become better stewards of the future.” – Studio Drift, in reference to their work ‘materialism’.

Bain Street Exterior View

The warehouse facades use reclaimed rusted metal sheeting found all around the Barras, which cantilever to shelter the pavement below. The ground floor is wrapped by a reclaimed sandstone wall creating alcoves which invite views into workshop spaces and include benches, planters and integrated lighting.

Bain Street Exterior View 2

A Closer view of the Bain Street facade in its context.

Work Yard Exterior View

The work yard features hard surfaces at the perimeter for workshop spaces and the main hall to spill onto, with grass, trees and flower beds in the centre to create a softer public space. The form and materiality of the main hall set it apart from the rest of the building, creating 3 elevations that draw views from each external square.

Perspective Section

Perspective section showing activities in the landscaped work yard, the main hall, lifting hall, Bain Street entrance and the above classroom and workshop spaces. Click to enlarge.

Lifting Hall Interior View

The lifting hall fulfills the need for the vertical and horizontal circulation of materials and people within the building, connecting the classrooms, workshops, warehouses and main hall with an open stair, goods lift and cranes at either end. Suspended catwalks add to the industrial feel and make the circulation more visible in the main spaces.

Teaching Workshop Interior View

The skylit workshop is connected to warehouse spaces on either end, with a small 'clean' machine room for CNC machines to the side. The glass channel wall creates frosted silhouettes of movement on the stairs and goods lift. Here, residents of the Barras will be assisted in upcycling and repairing their own objects - saving materials from landfill and optimising their material environment.

Main Hall Interior View

The main hall is a large versatile space with doors on all sides, facing onto the public square, work yard and side yard. It can host performances, presentations, exhibitions and community construction projects - a base for prefabricating community builds for other nearby sites. The large modular roof is made of cork, which meets the environmental, acoustic, aesthetic and atmospheric qualities desired for my main hall and most importantly is dry jointed, making it reusable and biodegradable.

Public Square Exterior View at Night

The main hall facade allows soft clerestory lighting in the day and acts as a 'light box' at night, illuminating the three adjacent squares.

Maker Spaces & Deprivation Map

Researching similar spaces internationally and within Glasgow, and reading reports on the relationship between deprivation and maker spaces, highlighted this programme as one specifically relevant and potentially beneficial to residents in the area. This map highlight Calton as one of Glasgow's largest and most deprived areas currently without a community maker space.

Location Plan

Location plan showing the relationship of my civic building to city amenities.

Site Plan

Site plan showing the proposal in relation to surrounding streets and buildings.

Thesis Statement


The colours here relate to the programme diagram.


These diagrams explain the link between the thesis, programme and plan. The programme is logically divided into associated groups relevant to the thesis, then arranged according to massing decisions, adjacency requirements and a need to revitalise Bain Street with community amenities.


The arrangement of spaces in the building is driven by the order of the required processes. Imagining these processes allowed me to focus on maintaining an efficient flow of materials and people, then using that flow to activate central spaces and entrances.


Alcoves in the reclaimed sandstone wall integrate views into the internal activities with seating, lighting and planters. Consideration of lighting behind the stone wall, under the soffits and in the main hall facade contributes to a safer feeling in dark hours.

Section A-A

Section B-B

Bain Street Elevation

Work Yard Elevation

Facade Detail

Thermal Envelope & Retrofit

The industrial nature of the building means there are several large volumes which are intermittently occupied, either for events, circulation or storage. These have been arranged according to thermal comfort, reducing the energy demand with minimal impact on user experience. The internal partitions are independent of the main structure, increasing the feasibility of the building's future reuse as the needs of the community change. There is also the opportunity to expand workshop spaces into the warehouses, by adding insulated partitions - optimising the building as users settle into its use.

Ground Floor Plan

First Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan