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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Jack Antonio Coia
Designation: Architect
Born: 17 July 1898
Died: 14 August 1981
Bio Notes: Jack (baptised Giacomo) Antonio Coia was born on 17 July 1898 at 24 Salop Street, Wolverhampton, the eldest of the nine children of Giovanni Coia, the sculptor son of a farmer in Filignano near Naples. His mother Maria Ernesta Vannini was a dancer of Italian stock who was part of her stepfather’s circus dog act. The couple had met in Paris while Giovanni was making his way across France to Glasgow where other members of the family were already established. The Coias remained in Wolverhampton for a year before resuming the journey north with a barrel organ, earning a living with musical and dancing acts. On their arrival in Glasgow Giovanni opened an Italian café at Parkhead Cross. Jack attended St Michael's RC Primary School and, later, St Aloysius College, assisting in the café as soon as he was old enough.

In October 1915 John Gaff Gillespie took Coia into his office as an apprentice at a salary of 4 shillings a week without asking a premium. Coia first attended evening classes at Whitehill School in building construction and mathematics to qualify for entry to the Glasgow School of Architecture, then jointly run by Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Technical College under Professors Gourlay and MacGibbon: he did not have to serve in the First World War because of poor eyesight and enrolled as a part-time student in 1917. On leaving Gillespie's office he worked for a time with Alexander Nisbet Paterson and with Alexander Hislop. His studies were aided by gaining two prizes: the A Leslie Hamilton Memorial and the Haldane Travelling Scholarship, which enabled him to make a first study visit to Italy in 1923, spending his time mainly in Venice. He was admitted ARIBA on 3 March 1924, his proposers being James Lochhead, John Watson and William Brown Whitie.

Coia then moved to the office of Herbert A Welch and Hollis in London, but family problems caused him to return home in 1927. Gillespie had died in May 1926, soon after taking William A Kidd into partnership, and on hearing Coia was back in Glasgow Kidd appealed to him to return and assist in the reconstruction of the Smith warehouse as the Ca' d'Oro, for which Gillespie had left only sketch designs. Shortly after taking Coia into partnership, Kidd died in 1928 while the work was in progress. Coia inherited the practice which he continued as Gillespie Kidd and Coia, but as there was little business apart from the fitting of Leon's shop at 89 St Vincent Street, Coia joined the staff of Glasgow School of Art quickly becoming chief assistant instructor to Alexander Adam, then head of School.

In 1931 Coia approached Archbishop Donald Mackintosh for work on the programme of church extension then planned. This resulted in a series of important brick-built church commissions of continental inspiration and in about 1938, his senior assistant T Warnett Kennedy was taken into partnership. Kennedy was born c.1913 and was articled to Coia in about 1927 after an unhappy period with James Austen Laird. He remained with him thereafter apart from a short period with Honeyman and Jack. As a student he had been editor of the quarterly magazine 'Vista' published quarterly which included articles by Hans Poelzig, Ragnar Ostberg, R H Wilenski and other major names of the 1930s. Coia and Kennedy worked closely together but in Kennedy's words 'Jack thought with his fingers. He sketched at lightning speed. I pontificated on the emergence of abstract art … During the 1938 British Empire Exhibition we slept on the floor of the office an average of three nights a week.'

At the British Empire Exhibition Coia was initially commissioned to design the Roman Catholic Pavilion, a towered modernist church with external frescoes by Hugh Adam Crawford, but Thomas Smith Tait quickly brought Coia and Kennedy into his own team to design the Palace of Industry North. These prominent modernist structures brought a wider recognition of the practice’s abilities and in 1939 Glasgow Corporation commissioned an £130,000 school at Knightswood. In the same year the practice was returned to complete Gillespsie’s municipal buildings in Stirling. The increasing prosperity of the practice had been marked by a move into Burnet’s old office at 239 St Vincent Street in or about 1936. But after the Second World War broke out in September 1939 both these projects were abandoned although the contractors were already on site at Stirling. Although the outlook was black, on 21 November 1939 Coia married Eden Bernard (born Edith Marx) after her divorce from Harry Levingstone and set up house at 2 Clifton Street.

The partnership of Coia and Warnett Kennedy did not survive the war. The completion of St Columbkille’s at Rutherglen was the only significant work left in hand and Kennedy left: he was not called up, but was recruited by Sam Bunton to repair Dumbarton after the first air raids. When Italy entered the war in June 1940 Coia briefly lost control of the practice although born in Britain and a British subject, and much more seriously lost the practice archive to salvage (although he did manage to retain those records relating to his own practice in 1927). As soon as he could, he re-established the practice at 199 Bath Street, and perhaps to emphasise his commitment to it, he was admitted FRIBA on 20 May 1941, his proposers being Lockhart Whitford Hutson, Alexander Nisbet Malcolm and John Stewart.

Nevertheless Coia still found his Italian connections made him suspect and work was harder to come by than it had been for Kennedy and he spent more of his time studying for a degree in town planning. By 1942 maintaining a separate house and office had become unsustainable and the Coias moved to 7 Hamilton Drive where the basement became the office. Although it has been stated by Rogerson and others that the practice closed in 1940, the practice of Gillespie Kidd & Coia was at least nominally in existence throughout the war to retain the Knightswood and Stirling commissions, although the latter was not referred to in his 1941 nomination paper.

Lack of work resulted in the Coias suffering considerable financial hardship in the later years of the war, with Jack Coia's income coming mainly from work in the family café, such free time as he had being spent on obtaining a degree in town planning. But in 1945 Sam Bunton relieved the situation by asking him to help with the reconstruction of Clydebank. Kennedy preferred not to rejoin the partnership, and emigrated to Vancouver where he founded a building centre and became Mayor. Coia then took on as an apprentice Isi Metzstein, who was a refugee. In 1948 the practice moved out to Waterloo Chambers, 19 Waterloo Street and in 1954 Andrew MacMillan joined the practice from East Kilbride Development Corporation. By 1950 Coia had been elected AMTPI. In 1956 both house and office moved to 20 Park Circus, and in the course of the move a burst water pipe destroyed most of the practice drawings. (At this time John Peter Coia, Jack's much younger brother, was working in the practice, having undertaken his apprenticeship there from 1933 to 1938.) Thereafter Metzstein and MacMillan undertook most of the design work. The last major buildings by Coia himself were the magnificent St Laurence, Greenock (1950-54), St Michael’s, Dumbarton, (1952) and St Charles, Kelvinside (1959-60) where his design was developed by Andrew MacMillan and Joe Taylor.

Coia was elected ARSA in 1954 and full academician in 1962. He was a Vice President of the RIAS from 1964-65. He was appointed CBE in 1967 and awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 1969 followed by honorary degrees from the universities of Glasgow (1970) and Strathclyde (1976). In person he was in Patrick Nuttgens' words 'small, intense, unkempt, angry and bloody-minded', mainly as a result of his wartime hardships and the post-war decision not to complete the Stirling Municipal Buildings as Gillespie had designed them. The poverty of contemporary architecture, dissatisfaction with the competition system and the destruction of some of his favourite buildings also coloured his outlook in his later years, his views being trenchantly expressed at the Royal Fine Art Commission of Scotland of which he was for a time a member. In his retirement he spent much of his time at Glendaruel where he overtaxed his strength on ambitious gardening works. He died at 12 Winton Drive on 14 August 1981. His funeral service was held at St Aloysius, the homily being preached by his pupil Father Kenneth Nugent SJ.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 888, Drumother Drive (now Drumover Drive), Parkhead, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1923 * This was a bit unclear in ARIBA paper. Maybe Dunnottar Street?
Item 2 of 838, Bath Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessc. 1930 *  
Item 3 of 8239, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessc. 1939 *  
Item 4 of 8199, Bath Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1941 *  
Item 5 of 82, Clifton Street, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1941 *  
Item 6 of 8Hamilton Drive, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessAfter 1945Before 1948 
Item 7 of 819, Waterloo Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1948After 1950(?) 
Item 8 of 820, Park Circus, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate/businessBefore 1956After 1970 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 5John Gaff Gillespie19151919Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5Alexander David HislopAfter 1920c. 1923Draughtsman 
Item 3 of 5A N Paterson & Stoddartc. 1920After 1920Draughtsman 
Item 4 of 5Herbert A Welch and HollisAfter 19231927Assistant 
Item 5 of 5Gillespie Kidd & Coia19271981(?)Partner 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6Lockhart Whiteford Hutson20 May 1941for Fellowship
Item 2 of 6James Lochhead3 March 1924For Associateship
Item 3 of 6Alexander Nisbet Malcolm20 May 1941for Fellowship
Item 4 of 6John Stewart20 May 1941for Fellowship
Item 5 of 6John Watson3 March 1924For Associateship
Item 6 of 6William Brown Whitie3 March 1924For Associateship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 45Robert Aitchison10 December 1946For Associateship
Item 2 of 45Stuart Lothian Barclay4 February 1970For Fellowship
Item 3 of 45John Bolton14 October 1947For Licentiateship
Item 4 of 45John Philip Boys4 February 1970For Fellowship
Item 5 of 45Sam Bunton18 November 1941for Licentiateship
Item 6 of 45Douglas William McNair Calder6 October 1965For Fellowship
Item 7 of 45Alexander Buchanan Campbell6 December 1955For Fellowship
Item 8 of 45Robert McMillan Clive13 February 1945for Licentiateship
Item 9 of 45Richard Rudolphe Chitham De'Ath5 June 1968for Fellowship
Item 10 of 45Archibald Macintosh Doak17 July 1968For Fellowship
Item 11 of 45James Docherty14 December 1943for Associateship
Item 12 of 45Eric Doig Ellison15 June 1954for Associateship
Item 13 of 45Eric Doig Ellison3 April 1968for Fellowship
Item 14 of 45George Anderson Findlay14 December 1943for Licentiateship
Item 15 of 45Thomas Loudon Fleming11 February 1947For Associateship
Item 16 of 45Kenneth Murray Fraser14 December 1948For Licentiateship
Item 17 of 45James Paton Fulton19 June 1956For Licentiateship
Item 18 of 45George Gibson11 December 1945for Licentiateship
Item 19 of 45Walter Henderson Gillespie14 November 1944for Licentiateship
Item 20 of 45Alexander Adair Gowans14 November 1944for Associateship
Item 21 of 45Alexander Green13 January 1948For Licentiateship
Item 22 of 45Alexander McDonald Heaton4 December 1968For Fellowship
Item 23 of 45David Watson Jackson15 January 1946For Associateship
Item 24 of 45William Geoffrey Jarvis4 February 1970For Fellowship
Item 25 of 45James Kirkwood14 December 1948for Associateship
Item 26 of 45Allen ('Mick') Short Matheson8 April 1970For Fellowship
Item 27 of 45Alexander McAnally (sometimes misspelt McNally or Macannally)15 June 1943for Licentiateship
Item 28 of 45Archibald Hunter McCartney (sometimes misspelt MacCartney)12 October 1954For Licentiateship
Item 29 of 45Duncan McCulloch (junior)16 December 1943for Licentiateship
Item 30 of 45William Porter Mitchell12 December 1944for Associateship
Item 31 of 45Charles Robertson Muir15 October 1946For Licentiateship
Item 32 of 45Larmont Douglas Penman (junior)9 September 1942for Associateship
Item 33 of 45Robert Barr Rankin22 July 1970For Fellowship
Item 34 of 45Robert William Kelly Cupples Rogerson9 December 1964For Fellowship
Item 35 of 45Francis Clunie Scott16 July 1969For Fellowship
Item 36 of 45Thomas Russell Scott5 June 1968For Fellowship
Item 37 of 45Arthur Frank ShapleyEarly 1943for Licentiateship
Item 38 of 45John Tonner13 March 1945for Licentiateship
Item 39 of 45William Ramsay Wark6 May 1947For Associateship
Item 40 of 45James Boyne Watson2 March 1954For Licentiateship
Item 41 of 45Richard Alan Webber16 February 1943for Licentiateship
Item 42 of 45Alistair Robertson Whitelaw (or Alexander Robertson Whitelaw)17 August 1968For Fellowship
Item 43 of 45John McFarlane (or Macfarlane) Whyte (misspelt White)20 July 1943For Licentiateship
Item 44 of 45Alfred Arden Wood3 April 1968For Fellowship
Item 45 of 45Derreck Roy Wyler1946For Associateship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 74 Lanarkshire Ice RinkMotherwell LanarkshireScotlandDate unknown
Item 2 of 74 St Bride's RC ChurchEast Kilbride LanarkshireScotland 
Item 3 of 74 St Martin's RC Church, Ardencraig RoadCastlemilk GlasgowScotland 
Item 4 of 74 St Patrick's RC ChurchKilsyth StirlingshireScotland 
Item 5 of 741926F & J Smith Furniture Warehouse  GlasgowScotlandExtension (on Union Street) (including ballroom); also ballroom.
Item 6 of 74After 1927Ca' d'Oro Restaurant  GlasgowScotlandExtension
Item 7 of 741928Shop for Leon  GlasgowScotland 
Item 8 of 741931St Anne's RC Church and PresbyteryDennistoun GlasgowScotland 
Item 9 of 741934St Patrick's RC Church and PresbyteryGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 10 of 741936BrierlandsBusby LanarkshireScotland 
Item 11 of 741936Glasgow Empire Exhibition, masterplanBellahouston GlasgowScotlandWorked with Thomas Smith Tait on masterplan
Item 12 of 741936RC ChurchDuntochar DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 13 of 741936St Peter-in-Chains RC ChurchArdrossan AyrshireScotlandMainly by Kennedy
Item 14 of 741937Super cinemaMusselburgh MidlothianScotland 
Item 15 of 741938Glasgow Empire Exhibition, Palace of Industries NorthBellahouston GlasgowScotland 
Item 16 of 741938Glasgow Empire Exhibition, post officeBellahouston GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 741938Glasgow Empire Exhibition, RC Chapel and PavilionBellahouston GlasgowScotland 
Item 18 of 741938Knightswood Senior Secondary School  GlasgowScotland 
Item 19 of 741938RC SchoolGovanhill GlasgowScotland 
Item 20 of 741938St Columba's RC Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 21 of 741938Stirling Municipal BuildingsStirling StirlingshireScotlandProposed completion of building as designed by John Gaff Gillespie: contractors' huts erected 1939, but project abandoned due to World War II
Item 22 of 741939Business premises, Union Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 23 of 741939St Columbkille's RC Church and PresbyteryRutherglen LanarkshireScotland 
Item 24 of 74Before 1941War damage repair to 12,000 houses (approx)Clydebank DunbartonshireScotlandAssisted Bunton
Item 25 of 741945Canteen and Dining Room Cambuslang LanarkshireScotland 
Item 26 of 741946Holy Family RC ChurchPort Glasgow RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 27 of 741947Scottish Motor Services Limited  Glasgow Alterations and additions
Item 28 of 741948Askomel EndCampbeltown ArgyllScotland 
Item 29 of 741948Castle Street  GlasgowScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 30 of 741948Factory and Dye-works Cambuslang LanarkshireScotland 
Item 31 of 741948Hostel and Flats Gower Street  Glasgow  
Item 32 of 741948Ice Cream Factory Kilmarnock AyrshireScotland 
Item 33 of 741948Our Lady of Good Aid RC ChurchMotherwell LanarkshireScotlandRenovation and reordering as Cathedral
Item 34 of 741948Park Circus Place  GlasgowScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 35 of 741948St Aloysius College, War MemorialGarnethill GlasgowScotland 
Item 36 of 741948Vicarfield Tyre and Rubber WorksGovan? GlasgowScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 37 of 741949Glasgow University, Materia Medica and Physiology Buildings  GlasgowScotlandAlterations
Item 38 of 741950Our Lady and St Francis RC Secondary School  GlasgowScotlandWing added
Item 39 of 741950St Aloysius RC Church and PresbyterySpringburn GlasgowScotlandRepairs
Item 40 of 741950St David's RC ChurchPlains, Airdrie LanarkshireScotland 
Item 41 of 741950St Eunan's RC ChurchClydebank DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 42 of 741950St Kevin's RC ChurchBargeddie, Coatbridge LanarkshireScotland 
Item 43 of 741950St Matthew's RC ChurchBishopbriggs LanarkshireScotland 
Item 44 of 741951Shipbuilding and Railways Pavilion, Kelvin Hall  GlasgowScotland 
Item 45 of 741951St Lawrence's RC ChurchGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 46 of 741952St Bernadette's RC ChurchCarntyne GlasgowScotlandPresbytery designed
Item 47 of 741952St Michael's RC ChurchDumbarton DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 48 of 741952St Michael's RC Church and presbyteryLinlithgow West LothianScotlandInternal renovation
Item 49 of 741952University of Glasgow, Biochemistry Building, Boiler House  GlasgowScotland 
Item 50 of 741953'Domino' flats, Murray 1st DevelopmentMurray, East Kilbride LanarkshireScotland 
Item 51 of 741953Buchanan Memorial Church and HallOatlands GlasgowScotlandReconstruction as RC Church; spire demolished as a result of neglect and structural problems
Item 52 of 741953RC Church of the Sacred HeartBridgeton GlasgowScotlandNew ceiling to correct structural faults in roof
Item 53 of 741953St Andrew's RC ChurchAirdrie LanarkshireScotland 
Item 54 of 741953St Peter and Paul's RC ChurchArrochar DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 55 of 741954Knightswood Senior Secondary School  GlasgowScotlandRedesigned and built school
Item 56 of 741954St Joachim's RC Church and PresbyteryCarmyle GlasgowScotland 
Item 57 of 741954St Mary's RC Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 58 of 741955Lawmuir Primary SchoolBellshill LanarkshireScotland 
Item 59 of 741955Oratory, 19 Park Circus  GlasgowScotlandConversion of operating theatre into oratory
Item 60 of 741955St Maria Goretti RC ChurchCranhill GlasgowScotlandDesign only
Item 61 of 741955St Saviour and Sacred Heart SchoolsOrbiston, Bellshill LanarkshireScotlandRogerson gives 1956-1958 as dates; Close et al say built 'at same time as' Lawmuir Primary School (423740), 1955-57.
Item 62 of 741955Turnbull Hall Chapel  GlasgowScotland 
Item 63 of 741956Catholic Retreat HouseCraighead, Bothwell LanarkshireScotlandChapel formed from conservatory
Item 64 of 741956St Paul's RC ChurchGlenrothes FifeScotland 
Item 65 of 741956St Peter's RC Church and PresbyteryPartick GlasgowScotlandInterior remodelled (and furnishings)
Item 66 of 741957St Paul's RC Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 67 of 741958Our Lady and St Francis RC Secondary School  GlasgowScotlandAddition
Item 68 of 741959Maternity Hospital, BellshillBellshill LanarkshireScotland 
Item 69 of 741959St Charles RC Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 70 of 741960St Mary of the Angels RC ChurchCamelon, Falkirk StirlingshireScotland'Building' attributes this to Coia but it may be rather by MacMillan & Metzstein
Item 71 of 741960St Mary of the Assumption Church, Bo'nessBo'ness / Borrowstouness West LothianScotland 
Item 72 of 741964High-rise residential blockCumbernauld LanarkshireScotland 
Item 73 of 7415 April 1966Cultural Centre for Glasgow, Buchanan St  GlasgowScotlandIndependent architect brought in to discuss possible modifications and alterations to city architect A. G. Jury's design following public and professional concern over the appearance of the building
Item 74 of 74c. 1957Assumption HouseAirdrie LanarkshireScotlandChapel


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 13Gillespie Kidd and Coia1994Mac Journal One   
Item 2 of 13Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp5 St Lawrence, Greenock
p6 image St Lawrence, Greenock
p13 Photograph of Jack Coia 1968
p28 Bellshill Maternity Hospital
p129-140 (Gillespie Kidd & Coia)
p130 St Bride's RC Church, East Kilbride; St Paul's RC Church, Glenrothes; St Patrick's RC Church, Kilsyth
p132 Our Lady and St Francis School
p156 St Paul's, Glenrothes
p173 St Bride's
p178 St Lawrences, Greenock
Item 3 of 13Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art  Article by F A Walker
Item 4 of 13Municipal Annual1964Scottish Municipal Annual1964-1965  
Item 5 of 13New DNB New Dictionary of National Biography  Article by Gavin Stamp
Item 6 of 13RIBA1930The RIBA Kalendar 1930-1931 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 7 of 13RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 8 of 13RIBA1950The RIBA Kalendar 1950-1951 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 9 of 13Rodger, Johnny (ed.)2007Gillespie Kidd & Coia, Architecture 1956-87 RIAS et al. 
Item 10 of 13Rogerson, R W K C1986Jack Coia: his life and work Glasgow: privately published 
Item 11 of 13Sharp, Dennis1969Jack Coia19 June 1969Country Life 
Item 12 of 13Watters, Diane1997Cardross Seminary: Gillespie Kidd and Coia and the architecture of postwar Catholicism RCAHMS 
Item 13 of 13Worsdall, Frank1967[Article on Jack Coia]August 1967Scotland's Magazine 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 5Builder28 April 1961  'Glasgow Institute of Architects' p829 - appointed as member of council along with J A Kirkwood, N R Johnston, C Fyfe and W H Sanders
Item 2 of 5Builder18 August 1961  'Civic Trust Design Awards, 1960 - Results of Competitions in the County Boroughs, The Awards, Scotland' pp304-305 - served as assessor for Edinburgh projects
Item 3 of 5Building3 January 1969  p1/59 & p1/36 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture 1969
Item 4 of 5Building27 June 1969  Royal Gold Medal address (page number not given)
Item 5 of 5The Times18 August 1981   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Research by Iain Paterson
Item 2 of 3RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F no3825 (box 29); A no 3741 (microfilm reel 27)
Item 3 of 3Saul MetzsteinInformation via website  


© All rights reserved. © and courtesy of RIAS 

© All rights reserved. © and courtesy of RIAS