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Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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  • Category: A
  • Group Category Details: A - See Notes
  • Date Added: 15/01/1985


  • Local Authority: Glasgow
  • Planning Authority: Glasgow
  • Burgh: Glasgow

National Grid Reference

  • NGRNS 56614 66700
  • Coordinates256614, 666700


T Harold Hughes with D S R Waugh, 1936-9; completed 1950-54, Alexander Waugh & Kay (the latter designed additional timber upper storey, 1963 and 1966); Reading Room extension, 1982; refurbishment 1986-1993; refurbishment of main lecture theatre and most laboratories, 2004-06. 3-storey Art Deco university teaching and research building. Butterfly-plan with wings radiating from central body linked by curving vertically glazed stair towers. Machine-made narrow 'Roman' yellow brick, with reinforced concrete banding and construction.

2 main entrances to N into boldly glazed carved stairwells, with lettering above doors, flanking physical chemistry block, full-height vertical stairlights; several further entrances with plain doorpieces and die walls. Projecting glazed ground floor with windows set in brick piers in central physical chemistry block. Simple ground level mouldings, ground and 1st floor bands. EARLIER PART TO SE: tripartite window to SE elevation with relief memorial panel to Joseph Priestley (1733-1804). 2nd floor frieze to S wall with incised animal carving. LATER NW BLOCK TO UNIVERSITY PLACE: Joseph Black (1728-1799) memorial tablet on N wall, semi-engaged podium, corniced.

Metal-framed windows, mainly 3-light horizontal with concrete mullions. Flat and shallow-pitched roofs; prominent modern ducting pipes.

INTERIOR: (seen 2010). Original room plan largely extant. Much refurbished and modernized. Curved principal and subsidiary staircases with metal balustrades. Brass Art Deco door handles to corridor firedoors and Main Lecture Theatre doors. Some 1950s timber-panelled corridors and teaching rooms; also some surviving parquet flooring.

GATEWAY AND RAILINGS TO UNIVERSITY PLACE: Metal gates and railings with chevron design.

Statement of Special Interest

The Joseph Black Building forms an A-Group with the Graham Kerr Building (see separate listing). The Joseph Black Building is an outstanding example of a purpose built mid 20th century higher education building. The architectural design of the building is unusual, with an innovative plan form composed of wings linked by large glazed stair blocks. The use of materials is also unusual for its date, with a bold use of exposed brick and concrete. The large sweeping staircases, housed in round towers are characteristic of a design which includes some Art Deco features. The interior also contains some Art Deco details, a number of which are retained in situ, including timber panelling and some doors and door furniture.

Of interest as a rare example of a mid 20th-century higher educational building. Also of interest are the unusual use of brick and concrete and the large sweeping glazed staircases of the linking blocks. Some Art Deco and 1950s and 1960s features remain internally.

The building was designed in 1936-8 as the Institute of Chemistry, but only two of the projected three wings were constructed before the outbreak of the Second World War. The third wing (Inorganic Chemistry, facing University Place) was not completed until 1954, following the death of the original architect, Professor T Harold Hughes of the Glasgow School of Art, in 1949. The discovery of mine workings further delayed completion. At the time of construction it was the largest purpose-built Chemistry facility in the UK. Novel features included special foundations to eliminate vibrations from University Avenue, a large central chemical and equipment store, a 400-seat lecture theatre with projection facilities, and special isolated laboratories for dangerous experiments. The same architects were responsible for the contemporary McMillan Reading Room.

The building was re-named in 1997 after Joseph Black (1728-1799), University Lecturer in Chemistry from 1756 to 1766, who first identified carbon dioxide and carried out pioneering research on latent and specific heat.

Formerly listed as '1f Gilmorehill, University Of Glasgow, Chemistry Building (Including Inorganic, Physical, and Organic Chemistry) Former "Institute Of Chemistry"'.

List description updated as part of review of the University of Glasgow Hillhead Campus, 2011. The building number is derived from the University of Glasgow Main Campus Map (2007), as published on the University's website



Ordnance Survey, Large Scale Town Plan: Glasgow, 1949-51; Glasgow University Archives, Drawings Collection Ref. GB 0248 GUA BUL/6/19/1-72; RCAHMS, RIAS Collection, T H Hughes work books; Builder Vol. CLX, (27 June 1941) pp. 609-614 (plan, illustration); RIBA Journal Vol. 57, (December 1949) p. 72 (obituary of Thomas Harold Hughes); Royal Scottish Academy Exhibition 1960, Exhibit No. 320; A M Doak & A McLaren Young (eds), Glasgow at a Glance: An Architectural Handbook, (1977) No.178n; C McKean, The Scottish Thirties, (1987) pp. 125-6; C McKean, D Walker, F Walker, Central Glasgow: Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland Illustrated Architectural Guide, (1989) p. 185; E Williamson, A Riches, M Higgs, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, (1990) p. 342; A L Brown, M Moss, The University of Glasgow: 1451-1996, (1996) p. 56; Gordon R Urquhart, Along Great Western Road - An Illustrated History of Glasgow's West End, (2000), p. 15; 'University Glasgow Chemistry' search at (accessed 03-03-2010); early photographs and drawings are included in this departmental history, (accessed 03-03-2010).

About Designations

Listed Buildings

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the, Annex 2, pp74-76.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Enquiries relating to works to listed buildings should be made to the local authority in the first instance. Listed building consent is required for works which a local authority considers will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest and local authorities also decide if listed building consent is required.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The local authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see

Legislation introduced on 1 October 2015 allows us to state that: an object or structure fixed to the listed building; any object or structure within the curtilage of the listed building; and, any part or feature of the listed building that is not of architectural or historic interest may be excluded from a listing. If part of your building is not listed under the new legislation, the part will be excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

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