Graham Kerr Building


The Zoology Building was designed by Sir John James Burnet and opened for the beginning of term in October 1923 (but work continued into early 1924). It was renamed in the 1990s for Sir John Graham Kerr (1869-1957), Regius Professor of Zoology at the University from 1902 until 1935 and a member of Court from 1913 to 1921.

John Graham Kerr had long campaigned for improved facilities for his department. Zoology originally inhabited the dark labyrinth of basements and cellars beneath the Hunterian Museum. Kerr proposed that the department be moved to a new building on University Avenue, across from the Hunterian Museum, so that the department could continue to use the Museum’s collections. The removal of the Recreation Grounds to Westerlands in 1909 allowed for expansion of the University west of the Natural Philosophy Building (now The Kelvin Building). A new building was agreed to in 1914 but building was postponed due to the outbreak of war.

The building scheme was revisited between 1920 and 1922, with contracts being signed in 1921. John James Burnet provided the overall scheme but was busy with his firm in London so much of the drawing was done by the Glasgow Office draughtsmen, Walter K. Knight and James Napier. Norman Aitken Dick, partner in Burnet’s Glasgow firm, undertook the detailed work and construction supervision. The finished building reflects Graham Kerr’s strongly held views on the teaching of natural history, with an emphasis on microscope laboratory work and the study of museum artefacts. The Zoology Museum was placed centrally between the main lecture theatre and the elementary laboratory to encourage use of its materials.

The building is markedly different in appearance compared to the other Renaissance and Baronial-style buildings designed by Burnet, such as the Bower Building and Thomson Building. The south side of the Zoology Building has a monumental appearance, emphasized through the use of deeply channelled Northumberland stonework and includes Baroque details such as the broken pediment and domed roof ventilator, while the north elevation is highly glazed. The building also had a small courtyard that enclosed live animal houses and there were two large tanks on the roof of the museum for marine biology.

The building has been repaired and altered over the years. Most of the windows on the south side were damaged during the Clydebank bombing raids of 13 March 1941. These were repaired at the end of 1946 by the firm of T. Harold Hughes and David Stark Reid Waugh. Also in 1946, a utilitarian brick extension containing further laboratory and research rooms were added to the west by John Keppie & Henderson but have since been replaced. The large elementary laboratory was subdivided horizontally in 1959 and in 1964 Wylie, Shanks & Partners created a neuro-physiology unit, aquarium and animal house. In 1968 Keppie Henderson & Partners constructed a rooftop extension over the Museum.


Graham Kerr Building
University Avenue
G12 8QQ
Record last updated: 5th Jun 2015