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Glasgow Film Theatre – Best Use of Timber Awards 2019 Shortlist

Name of building
Glasgow Film Theatre
Date Completed
March 2017
Building type
Glasgow, Scotland
McGinaly Bell Ltd
Brian McGinlay
Designer site
The Glasgow Film Theatre
Main contractor

Thomas Johnstone Ltd


The Best Use of Timber - 2019


Glasgow Film Theatre:

McGinlay Bell Architects


GFT Sketch




The Glasgow Film Theatre, formerly known as the Cosmo Cinema, was Scotland’s first art-house cinema.  Since opening in 1939 it has become a well-loved and treasured landmark within the city, exemplifying the heyday of cinema design. Its Art Deco period interior has subsequently acquired heritage value for its creative timber applications.


In 2011, the GFT embarked on a phased journey to deliver a masterplan vision for a significant refurbishment to the category B-listed building. Following the completion of the first phase in 2013, which included a new entrance box office facility and new sixty seat digital auditorium space, the recent completion stage by McGinlay Bell focused on the full refurbishment and alteration to both the public and private areas throughout the cinema building, encompassing approximately 350sqm in area.

GFT Box Office

The principal aspiration for the project was to sensitively and seamlessly insert the new programme of interior elements and surfaces while respecting and reflecting the cinema’s former glory.


McGinlay Bell’s approach looked to traditional carpentry and wood making in order to formally establish ornament and decoration by carefully composed application of natural materials.  Taking cues from the cinema’s history a researched palette of timber materials resulted in the specification of sustainably sourced Iroko, profiled hardwood timber mouldings, and intricate curved profile forms. Layers of circulation space have been defined and separated by use of timber whether connected or organised by interlocking spaces or open rooms.


Key to the success of the new interiors was the expertise by specialist contractor Thomas Johnstone, who was able to bring workshop precision and controlled craftsmanship to the project.  Innovative methods of jointing and off-site fabrication also allowed for greater control and quality.

GFT Stairs McGinlay Bell

Delivery of the client’s ambition for quality and a sense of timelessness but equally good levels of robustness necessary for a well-used public space required the completion stage of the GFT masterplan to be managed, challengingly, during the building’s ‘day to day’ operations.

GFT Bar Interior

“But with all its challenges the project allowed for great opportunity to exploit design ideas in material selection, bespoke joinery, and the making of new architectural interiors respecting what has gone before while delivering something new but familiar,”(McGinlay Bell)


Images: Dapple Photography

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