Unusual Neo-Gothic Building in Glasgow

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One of the buildings that took my eye while I was mooching around Glasgow Merchant City last Monday afternoon was what the British Listed Buildings website describes as a

Bizarrely detailed Gothic warehouse,

I think that just about sums it up! It’s relatively restrained in that there isn’t much decoration or embellishment and looks more like a later Art Nouveau or Glasgow School style building than a typical Victorian Gothic wedding cake.

I particularly liked this eyecatching

unusual semi-octagonal door head with heavily moulded octagonal oculus above.

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I haven’t been able to find much information on it other than from the British Listed Buildings posting, but that does tell us that it was originally a warehouse, that it was built in 1859, and that the architect was R W Billings

The Hatrack

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This distinctive tall, slender, Art Nouveau style listed building at 142 St Vincent St, Glasgow, is popularly known as the Hatrack

It was designed by James Salmon Jnr a contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh Salmon, who was affectionately nicknamed “the Wee Troot”, a play on his name (Troot = Trout) and short stature. He was also one of the architects of the Anderston Savings Bank I stumbled upon during my last visit to the city.

The building was constructed between 1899 and 1902. Its name was inspired by the cupola, which has projecting finials that resemble the “pegs” of a hat rack. It was difficult to get a decent snap of it from street level so this is my best effort.

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Above the entrance to the building is an attractive stained glass oriel window with the design of a sailing ship on top of a sculpture of what appears to be a mythical dragon.

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The front of the building is a curtain wall supported on a concrete frame and is mainly glass with only a bare minimum of decorative sandstone. It does rather remind me of a more slender version of Oriel Chambers, built in Liverpool in 1874 and designed by the revolutionary architect, Peter Ellis. This resemblance and likely influence is also noted on the Scotcities website.

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The Martyr’s School

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I’d spotted that the hotel where I was staying in Glasgow was about a 20 minute walk away from one of the earliest buildings associated with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, so I decided to wander over and take a look.

The red sandstone Martyrs’ School on Parson Street in Townhead, to the north of Glasgow city centre, in the same street where Mackintosh was born. It was designed in 1895, around the same time as the Glasgow Herald Building (today known as the Lighthouse). The architects were Honeyman and Keppie, Mackintosh’s employers, who were commissioned by the Glasgow School Board. At the time, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a senior assistant in the practice and his influence can be seen in the building, especially in the details.

When it was built it was surrounded by working class tenement buildings but today they have been demolished.

Interestingly the last of his Glasgow buildings was another school – the Scotland Street School to the south of the Clyde.

Apparently, the inside of the building has a number of features designed by Mackintosh, but it isn’t open to the public so I couldn’t get inside so had to be content with looking around the outside. The late afternoon light wasn’t brilliant and my photos aren’t so great, unfortunately.

The front and rear entrances certainly bear the hallmarks of Mackintosh

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as well as the upper floor on the west side of the building

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Street haunting in Glasgow

I was up in Glasgow on Monday and Tuesday for some meetings. I took a train up late morning and when I arrived had a few hours before my first commitment so decided to have a mooch around the city centre. It’s a city with plenty of character and interesting architecture. Here’s a few snaps I took during the short time I had street haunting, mainly round the Merchant City area.

Hi Jimmy!

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I saw this sculpture towards the end of my walk along the Clyde and back through Anderston during my recent visit to Glasgow. Made from plasma cut sheet steel, a technique that’s used in the traditional local industry, shipbuilding, he three figures represent “local heroes” – Tom Weir (a climber, writer and broadcaster), James Watt, of steam engine fame flanking a modern figure representing former communist and shop steward Jimmy Reid.

Born in the Gorbals in 1932, Jimmy was one of the leaders of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in which took place between June 1971 and October 1973, a  response to the decision of Ted Heath’s Tory Government to shut the yards.

In a speech to the shipyard workers he said

We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity.

The campaign was successful and the Government backed down, keeping the yards open. Alas, few are left today.

Jimmy left the Communist party, joining the Labour Party. Later, disillusioned with “New Labour” he defected (sadly) to the SNP. He died in August 2010.

Who’s exploiting who in the deep sea?

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During my recent visit to Glasgow, after I’d visited the Lighthouse I took a short walk round to the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Housed in  a Victorian Neo-Classical building it has 4 galleries which showcase modern and contemporary art.

The main gallery, an impressive large hall, was occupied by an exhibition of works by the German artist Cosima Von Bonin.

The GOMA website tells us that the exhibition

brings together a series of works from 2006 onwards exploring the artist’s affection for the creatures of the sea. Working with textiles, music, sculpture, performance, video and painting, her practice is varied and often collaborative in nature.

I was tickled by this photograph on display in the entrance hall.

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Imaginative use of a very simple “found object”.

Although the artist had employed various media, including audio recordings, I thought that the most interesting works were those featuring fabric, anthropomorphic sea creatures.

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Art Nouveau in Anderston

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Heading back to my hotel after my walk along the Clyde, I spotted this very distinctive Art Nouveau style building in amongst the modern housing blocks, so I wandered over for a closer look.

It’s a solid almost fortress like building – a strong Scottish Baronial influence – but with a number of decorative features, including sculpture and mosaics, very typical of the Art Nouveau style on the front of the building. The side elevation is plainer, no doubt as they would have been less visible when it was built as I expect that it would be hemmed in by other buildings across a narrow street.

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The decoration above and around the front doorway was particularly elaborate, as was the cast iron gate (I assume that this is original).

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The writing above the door revealed that this was originally a branch of the Savings Bank of Glasgow and some research on the web revealed that it was built between 1899 and1900, and was designed by James Salmon, junior and J Gaff Gillespie (Salmon, Son and Gillespie), with sculpture by Albert Hodge.

The sculptural elements and mosaic above the door are particularly fine.

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There’s some information about the building, which is Grade A Listed, here and here.

It’s always a pleasure to come across something unexpected during a walk.

Modern Buildings on the Clyde

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My hotel in Glasgow was just a short distance from the Clyde and on Monday evening I decided to get outside for a walk.

Not that long ago the banks of the Clyde were thriving as a major centre of shipbuilding, but not today. It’s hanging on by its fingernails at the Govan yard owned by BAE Systems but other than that there is little evidence of the industry which employed thousands of workers.

Walking south from my hotel following the M9 I reached the Clyde where the motorway crossed the river and turned right to follow it downstream towards an area that has been regenerated in recent years.

There was some evidence of the area’s industrial past.

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The Titan Crane , on the north bank of the river, is now a visitor attraction

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The giant 150-ton cantilever crane was erected around 1907 on the west side of the fitting-out basin of the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank. The refurbishment has been carried out in time to celebrate its 100 anniversary. The crane was used to lift the engines and boilers into numerous warships, as well as vessels like the Lusitania, Queen Mary, Britannia and the QE2.

I crossed over to the south bank via the Clyde Arc, better known as the “Squinty Bridge”

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I walked past the BBC Scotland building (I’d seen the local news broadcast from here during the morning on breakfast TV). The architect was David Chipperfield who also designed the Hepworth in Wakefield.

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A little further south, on the former Prince’s Dock, is the Glasgow Science Centre, designed by the Building Design Partnership. Standing next to it is the Glasgow Tower  designed by Richard Horden, with engineering design by Buro Happold and an IMAX cinema.

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On the north bank the Clyde Auditorium, better known as “the Armadillo” is probably the best known of Glasgow’s modern buildings and something of an “icon”. It’s distinctive design is meant to represent a series of interlocking ships’ hulls, commemorating the Clyde’s shipbuilding heritage.

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It was designed by Foster & Partners and opened in 1997

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Nearby is the most recent of the buildings, the SSE Hydro arena, also designed by Foster and Partners. It’s a 12,500-capacity arena used for major concerts and sporting events.

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To the Lighthouse

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No, not a review of the novel by Virginia Woolf, but a report of my visit to the Lighthouse centre in Glasgow last Sunday. I was up there for a Conference that started on Monday but had to travel up the day before. Arriving and checking into my hotel around 2 p.m., I had a few hours to explore the city centre.

I’m an admirer of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and have visited most of the main buildings he designed in the city. The Lighthouse

Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, is a visitor centre, exhibition space and events venue situated in the heart of Glasgow, just off the Style Mile. The Lighthouse acts as a beacon for the creative industries in Scotland and promotes design and architecture through a vibrant programme of exhibitions and events.

It’s located in the former Glasgow Herald building the first public commission worked on by Mackintosh. At the time (1895) he worked as a draughtsman in the architectural practice of Honeyman and Keppie . They were responsible for designing a warehouse at the back of the printing office of the paper in Mitchell Street. He is unlikely to have been responsible for the whole of the building, but probably designed the tower – a prominent feature – which originally contained a water tank holding 8,000-gallons of water to be used in the event of a fire. A little ironic, perhaps, given the major damage caused to his most important building, the iconic Glasgow School of Art, which was very badly damaged in May 2014 when a fire broke out.

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It’s a tall, narrow building with office and exhibition space. There’s a shop selling Mackintosh related merchandise on the ground floor with the main exhibition spaces being on the next couple of floors.

I started by making my way up to the Mackintosh Interpretation Centre or ‘Mack’ Centre, which “celebrates Glasgow’s most famous architect and explores his life and work”  which is located on the third floor.

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It’s a relatively small, but informative and interesting, exhibition that tells the story of Mackintosh’s work with examples of furniture and other objects he designed and photographs, drawings and models of his buildings around Glasgow and it’s environs.

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After looking around I made my way up the stairs to the top of the tower which is now a viewing platform. It was a serious climb up a long spiral staircase. This what it looked like from the top

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From the narrow outdoor balcony there was a view out over the rooftops of Glasgow. It’s not exactly Paris, though.

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In the other part of the building there’s an indoor viewing gallery, only accessible by lift. So I made my way down the spiral staircase (easier than going up!) and took the lift up to here. There was a similar view over Glasgow but I was also able to get a good look at the water tower.

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Mackintosh type style and ornamentation were certainly discernible in its design.

Then I went to have a look in the exhibition galleries. The main exhibition showing at the moment is Weather Forms which

presents art and architectural works that challenge the popular idea that ‘people make places’ by demonstrating that they, in fact, make us.

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There was also a small exhibition on one of the landings, Weaving DNA

an immersive textile exhibition borne from a collaboration between Icelandic product designer Hanna Dís Whitehead and Scottish textile designer Claire Anderson. Together they re-appropriate traditional Nordic and Scottish textiles, examining the ways in which these represent and shape aspects of national identity.

I thought it was interesting with the exhibits imaginatively displayed, even if the space was a little cramped

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

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While we were in Glasgow last week, we visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum over in the west side of the city, near the University of Glasgow. Opened in 1901, when it formed a major p​art of the Glasgow International Exhibition, it’s the main municipal museum and gallery in the city.

The building is very striking and very different those designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh during the same period that we’d been visiting during our day trips up to Glasgow. It’s design was the result of a competition that was launched in 1891 and which was won by John W Simpson and E J Milner Allen.

According to the Museum’s website

The architects described their design as ‘an astylar composition on severely ​Classic lines, but with free Renaissance treatment in detail’.

and that

the best description of the Kelvingrove building is Spanish Baroque.

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I’d certainly agree that it has a lot of over the top Baroque ornamentation and from a distance it does have a resemblance to the cathedral at Santiago de la Compostela (I’ve never been there, but have seen plenty of photographs of the cathedral).

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The entrance to the building led into a massive hall, that reminded me a little of the main hall inside St George’s Hall in Liverpool.  Everywhere you looked there were heavily decorated classical style features. There wasn’t a plain piece of stone any where in sight. I found it all too much to take in.

The gallery is well designed as a space to display artefacts and art works. There are two main wings off the central hall which, in turn, have smaller galleries off them. The rooms are light and airy. So it performs it’s intended function. However, for me it’s an ugly building with excessive ornamentation which can detract from the displays.

The exterior is decorated with an excess of superfluous towers, pinnacles, carvings and sculptures and lots of other “twiddly bits” (a good architectural term, that!). It’s all rather over the top.

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Its architecture is typical of municipal buildings of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods – big and brassy. It’s meant to make a statement about the city’s wealth and status. The industrial and commercial elite in the at this time tended to look backwards to older architectural forms for their inspiration. So the majority of the new buildings tended to be constructed in revivalist styles. More forward looking architects, such as Rennie Mackintosh found it difficult to find commissions. Ironically, it’s his work that is now used to promote Glasgow as a tourist destination.