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Old Athenaeum


The Glasgow Old Athenaeum’s two part asymmetrical composition is a strikingly enigmatic fusion of Scots Baronial, Indian and European Art Nouveau styles. Its narrow frontage and vertical composition exploited contemporary innovations in structural technology to enable better use to be made of Glasgow's Georgian house plots. A stair tower (and lift) rises to an octagonal cupola to the right of the six storey main section. This has superimposed bay windows framed within an arch and surmounted by a steep gable, broken by an aedicule and flanked by small minarets. The theatre, at first floor, consisted of a shallow raked stalls with one semi-circular balcony with straight slips and a square proscenium and stage. The ceiling is flat with moulded decorative panels and a circular centre. Established in 1893 to 'provide a source of mental cultivation, moral improvement and delightful recreation to all classes', the Old Athenaeum's school of music developed into the Scottish National Academy of Music in 1929, later becoming the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama (RSAMD). During the 1940s the theatre provided the initial home for the Citizens' Theatre Company. Scottish Youth Theatre used the Old Athenaeum from 1989 until 1998, when the building was sold. It was sold again in 2005, to a property developer, and was subject to several planning applications for conversion to retail use. Since 2013 the building has been in theatre use as a Hard Rock Cafe.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1893 - 1998: Theatre; Arts education
  • 2013 : Restaurant, continuing
Current state
Current use
179 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, Strathclyde, G2 1BT, Scotland
Further details
Other names
  • 1893 Design/Construction:
    Sir J J Burnet & J A Campbell
    - Architect
  • 1893 Owner/Management: College of Dramatic Art (later RSAMD)
  • 1893 - 1998 Use: Theatre; Arts education
  • 1943 - 1945 Owner/Management: Citizens' Theatre Co (before moving to Gorbals)
  • 1950 Owner/Management: School of Drama founded in present form
  • 1989 - 1998 Owner/Management: Scottish Youth Theatre
  • 2005 Owner/Management: Sold to property developer
  • 2013 Use: Restaurant, continuing
  • 2013 Owner/Management: Hard Rock Cafe (UK) Ltd
  • Capacity
  • Capacity
    1995: 345
  • Listing
Stage type
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: -
Proscenium width: 7.23m
Height to grid: 10.14m
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: -