This weekend was weekend 3 of Doors Open Days in Scotland, chose to explore my own turf as Glasgow has a wealth of architectural goodies for our delight.
I had perused the brochure so many times prior to the weekend that I was surprised that I was surprised by some of the buildings we saw, I knew some were further away than others so we had planned out some routes beforehand. This weeks mode of transport was the bus, £4.00 for an all day City ticket for First Bus. This takes you all around Glasgow for the one price, buy a ticket on the bus (no fuss, says the advert).
From town to our first building it was the number 56 to Red Road. This was a great way to spend the first part of the morning, fascinating to see this for several reasons. Firstly, this set of buildings is actually due to be knocked down shortly, therefore it is both a “last chance” and a “must see” Doors Open wise. Two flats on the 23rd floor have been opened up for Doors Open Day, and have also been serving as a community flat where residents have been creating art works and working with different organisations on Red Road related projects. There were some eerie photographs of part of the flat complex which had been abandoned, coupled with lots of inspirational and moving tales of life in the flats and the story of residents. One artist had created some work based around all the places she had lived, purely by cutting the black paper to form beautiful and intricate designs showcasing how she saw these places. Sam Bunton and Associates 1964 original plans for Red Road were on display, this was a good chance to see how the designs were planned out. I find it fascinating to see plans for buildings (old and new) so you can see changes over time and trace back the historical development of the spaces and places which make up our contemporary urban environment.
Views from Red Road are outstanding; the 23rd storey offers views back into the City centre, over parts of the East End and towards East Dunbartonshire. We could almost see another building which we were visiting later that afternoon, City of Glasgow College in North Hanover Street.
Back into town on the 12, we took a peek at the Merchants House. This is just off George Square and has the grandest wallpaper I have ever seen, gilded and golden yet dark with aging through the years. It was quite a dramatic backdrop to the large rooms and assorted papers on display. In the main room there was a video showing, which I listened to while staring upwards; “MHG” in gold letters with moulded plasterwork and beautiful columns, together with wooden panels around the room celebrating the generous legacies left for the people of Glasgow.
The Tron Church was not listed in the Doors Open brochure but was displaying its banner outside. I remember work being done on this building and I had been meaning to go and see it, the Tron is a church so is open for worship (and nosy people who like architecture) most days. I was glad that we did go and see this building as it was really interesting. The interior is very modern on the ground floor with moveable seating, colour co-ordinated decor, a large etched glass screen and big multimedia panels. Upstairs one gets a better view of the ceiling and the stained glass, and a mixing deck! Sitting in the curved wooden seating, again colour co-ordinated, one can take in the space and grab a bit of peace. In this building it felt like there was a kind of photographic trail, follow the photographs to discover what the building used to look like, the story of the repairs and changes which were made, and its current appearance. The view out onto Buchanan Street was also rather lovely, nice frame.
We decided to visit the Tobacco Merchant’s House next, home of the Scottish Civic Trust (those lovely people who help co-ordinate Doors Open Days, among other things!). The building was so busy that we had to queue to read the information boards at one point. It was really interesting to see the old maps of the City, I love old maps, how Miller Street has changed. It is fascinating to read the building descriptions on the maps, and try and spot things you recognise. Upstairs we played the “where is this” game, it was great to see all the PhotoArch pictures in one place (this was a competition for children to take photographs of their local environment, so many talented photographers). We managed to name quite a few places and buildings, there were some particularly stunning images of the Glasgow School of Art and I really liked the ones of McManus Galleries in Dundee. It gave us lots of ideas for places we would like to see and revisit on other weekend wanders, and also the new plaque outside declaring Glasgow’s 50 favourite landmark buildings reminded us we had a further future challenge on our hands, should we choose to accept it!
City of Glasgow College roof from their North Hanover Street Campus; we seemed to see new things every time we looked out at the view. It was good to try and spot features which we recognised, it’s amazing how your mental map of a city is constructed around certain things and it’s not until you are getting such a unique perspective on it that you think “what are my landmarks?”. Landmarks may not actually be particularly architecturally fantastic (not naming any particular city centre buildings which have won Carbuncle awards), but they do point the way to orientate your senses. Things are not always in the direction you think they are! I discovered how to use the panoramic function on my camera, do you like the results? (More over on Flickr).
We walked along George Street and Duke Street via Sanfranglasgow… more American street additions, courtesy of Cloud Atlas. This is only a few weeks after Philaglasgowia! Glasgow Film Office are very busy promoting Glasgow as a good place to film.
Kirkhaven Wellpark Enterprise Centre was next for our viewing pleasure. Here we learnt about the work of the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust in creating a community office, enterprise and meeting space in two fantastic blonde sandstone buildings (and how to join buildings in an unobtrusive and innovative manner). The knowledgeable tour guide took us to the main entrance to view the spire and exterior, noting that both buildings used to be used by the local community and those who worked in the Tennants factory (our next stop). The palmettes on the church are vey Alexander “Greek” Thomson. The title of this blog post comes from the absolutely awe inspiring ceiling in the Enterprise Centre; I had never seen it “in the flesh” before, and no photograph could really do it justice. Even the archways were beautifully patterned. The offices within this space use glazing, stained timber and steel, there is a beautiful feel within the atrium meeting area. If you are in need of an office, here is the place to have it.
Tennants Brewery were offering tours, which we managed to book in time, we learnt that they had owned and run this site since 1885 and currently even includes a Training Academy where people who work in hospitality can learn bar management, catering skills and all about different wines and spirits. I liked their painted tile mural on the gates, it showed the early days of the brewery through to the current times, and included an elephant. At the end, we got to sample the product, and look back to the Wellpark Enterprise Centre.
Following a day of Doors Open, we chose to do the “alternate tourist bus” as we had our all day ticket; the Inner Circle bus (numbered 89/ 90) goes all the way around Glasgow but does not go via your usual tourist spots, if you went all the way around you would:
- get great views over Glasgow
- see a lot of regeneration areas
- Hear and see the Glasgow Tigers speedway
- Be able to do the “can you hold your breath all the way through the Clyde Tunnel?” challenge
- See three football stadiums…..
- feel the Luv in Linthouse (yummy cupcakes, nice art)
- be able to go for lunch in the fabulous converted tram shelter in Langside
- be smiled at by the Paisley Road Toll angel 🙂
The first stop for us on Sunday was the “Glasgow House”, a development by City Building and Glasgow Housing Association (GHA). This is an exciting project which aims to provide homes with low heating costs, innovative design and sustainable building materials. There are two types of homes, built as prototypes using different materials. These have both been used as training facilities with the Construction Academy, where there is also a showcase of the elderly care homes of the future. The Big Red Truck was interesting too, lots of videos of flat demolitions and stories from residents of different communities where GHA have housing.
Govanhill baths was next. The volunteer guides here should win awards for their good patter and knowledgeable enthusiasm. Quite a project and such a great community building, now managed by the Govanhill Baths Community Trust who plan to turn it into a wellbeing centre, art space, cafe and community place. If you happen to have a spare penny or to, help them out, they are great!
A lovely walk up Victoria Road through Queens Park from the Govanhill pool led us to the Queens Park viewpoint. This meant we had experienced three different panoramic viewpoints over the city within two days. The view from here is rather spectacular and you get some good exercise walking up the hill to get there. The Langside heritage trail and Queens Park heritage trail both pass through this route, and the glass houses are lovely, one forgets how lucky we are to have them, in other cities tourists may flock to see them, especially as one of them has a small collection of animals, and a cactus collection for the more horticulturally minded. I made friends with a mynah bird, I like the noise they make (he was fairly quiet until I whistled, then he “talked” back which started a trend of other people having conversations with him too). There was also a very photogenic African grey parrot. He followed my camera around.
Hampden Park was great, it is certainly not every day you can say you have scored a goal at Scotland’s national stadium! We got to take the route which a team takes from arriving at the stadium to lifting the cup and also heard tales of concerts and bands and fans. It also occurred to me that I had stood in two national stadiums in a week, given that at that time the week before I had cycled through the middle of Murrayfield. Someone I know has said to me “you have such interesting weekends”, with experiences like this I can wholeheartedly agree.
Sloans was the last Glasgow building for the weekend; the decorative tiles featured in the brochure drew us in. These tiles are rather beautiful, and the ballroom upstairs is also well worth a look.
So, what a day, what a weekend, Glasgow Doors Open, always much to see.