This weekend it has been the Festival of Museums throughout Scotland (and Museums at Night throughout the UK). We had a great time yesterday (May 17th) on an architectural art bus tour organised by the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, and hosted by Dress for the Weather architects. There is currently an exhibition at GOMA by Nathan Coley, using the architectural form of places of worship in Edinburgh to form a dramatic model landscape, our tour was inspired by this and we visited two religious buildings in the South Side of Glasgow (Glasgow Gurdwara and Govan Old).
I have included a taster of some of the sketches and models in the video, but I am looking forward to seeing them all on display in GOMA together.
Today I went to three museums… the Architecture Centre (well, I would, wouldn’t I.. the planner and conservation-ist in me can’t help it!), Arnolfini and M-Shed. I also wandered along the river and took lots of photographs.
At The Architecture Centre they have an ever changing programme of events and exhibitions, sited in a harbourside building. The current exhibition focuses on what the future of the city could look like, and invites lots and lots of post it note contributions to add ideas to the city map. There are showcases of successful environmental schemes and projects, I was amused and intrigued to see “The Bristol pound”, first of all it looks really aesthetically pleasing, but secondly it is run on the basis of community good and helps support local businesses. Great idea! A small display on “Bristol Opening Doors” was really interesting as it invited people to contribute stories and “favourite buildings”, and also showcased a new app which is a walking trail (available on www.bristolopeningdoors.org ). I enjoyed the illustrations and design of this, and of course the wonderful buildings! I am starting to recognise more and more of the streetscape and landmarks here, and this will help discover more. Chatting briefly to the friendly staff there I also was given a flyer for a website called “Know Your Place: Learning and Sharing Information about Historic Bristol”, run by English Heritage and Bristol City Council. I am looking forward to exploring this properly, as yesterday (on my visit to the City Art Gallery and Museum) I was fascinated with the historic maps… this site lets you overlay and integrate different maps from various eras. Oooh! Just what I am after, as I can spot the places where my ancestors lived. Ideal for “Are You Here” research!
This was my first visit to Arnolfini, I have walked past it many times but always en route to somewhere else or whizzing past on my bike. I enjoyed the Susanne Kriemann’s Modelling (Construction School) exhibition, it brings a little of an “art- planning- environment” discussion into a contemporary art environment. The photographs of quarries were quite spectacular, many of the works are designed to provoke discussion on archives, and also problem solving in design education.
M-Shed could keep me amused for hours, it is full of all sorts of historical bits and pieces, I really did get lost in history. Interestingly for me, there was a whole section on Bristol people and families, saying “it’s important to know where you’ve come from so that you know where you’re going”… the question was posed “why did you leave?”.
In the case of my family I suspect it was for work as it would have to be a fairly major reason such as this to move to the opposite end of the country. There are themed galleries at M-Shed, Bristol people, Bristol life, Bristol places (and a special exhibition, currently on chocolate!), all of them have real objects to explore, some thought provoking interactive displays (I loved the one on “what makes a Bristolian”.. very funny mixtures of answers come out of that!), video and multimedia and also lots of transport to explore. No “please keep off” signs here. I am even starting to recognise the different Bristol districts, having passed through them by bike or bus at various points of my several visits over the years, it is nice to recognise things in a “technically not home” city! M-shed cafe is worth a visit, local produce, family friendly, vegan friendly and lovely views.
Oh, and did I mention the view from the roof terrace….
Even though I have been to Edinburgh many times I still feel like I don’t know the city that well so I enjoy the opportunity to explore a familiar city whilst it still feels unfamiliar. It is funny reading the brochure and going “Gogar… is that near such and such” or “new town, yes, I know where that is, but where is Great King Street?”. My A to Z was an invaluable accompaniment for the day, and our happy band of four started the adventure with a paper Doors Open booklet picked up at the tourist office off Princes Street. It was ideal photography weather, a crisp blue East Coast morning setting us up for a days wanderings.
First stop.. bus stop as we had purchased an additional item on top of the train tickets (on family recommendation, thanks for that tip!). Getting a “plus bus” ticket meant we had all day travel on all the buses as well as our train journey and it was a very reasonable additional price which actually represents a saving on the normal buy on the bus price. You can also use it on more than one company so it’s ideal for resting tired feet on an all day exploration. The novelty of holding out a train ticket to get on the bus is quite amusing too.
From North Bridge we headed towards Newington, to the splendid Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) which is located in Bernard Street, off South Clerk Street. I have used some of the online RCAHMS sites before, but never been to their actual offices, so I was excited to see what lay inside. As we walked through the doors we were greeted by a very friendly team, as well as a huge 1940’s aerial photograph of Glasgow (Park area). We were offered us the chance to book on some talks and explore the search rooms, the first talk was on recording work so we donned our green booking stickers and headed upstairs. The theme of the Doors Open Day was industrial Scotland so there were various displays reflecting this. One of the first images I saw was a rather terrifying depiction of the Forth Road bridge under construction (use your imagination to consider how someone might access their working area for the day, even if you had a head for heights getting to the highest platforms of the largest suspension bridge in Europe would have been quite some feat in the early 1960’s). There were also videos showing the Clyde cranes, 3D images, and aerial photographs laid side by side so you could see the changes over the years… and books, lots of lovely books. At this point we all quickly realised that we could quite happily stay in here all day (which, absorbing as it may well have been, would not quite have sat with our aim of “doors open-ing” all day long!).
The inside story on a days photographing traditional structures expertly unfolded before our eyes as we saw stunning A2 prints of various examples of RCAHMS work from all round the country at the behind the scenes talk on recording buildings. I was particularly keen on two images, showing what you can do if you have the knowledge (and proper kit). Stone crosses and Pictish engravings can be seen all over Scotland but anyone who has ever tried to take their photograph knows that getting the right angle to see engravings and markings can be quite tricky. Image one was a snapshot showing the size of the cross and the colour of the stone, a nice enough image but nothing particularly notable about it. Image two was the same structure, this time with the judicious application of a number of flash bulb kits. What a difference. Every little detail and carving was shown and the level of work which had gone into creating that piece (along with the effects of gradual erosion over time) was beautifully showcased. C’est magnifique!
The detailed process of recording structures such as breweries and watermills was also showcased. The on site measurements allowed a beautiful and accurate hand drawn image of plan, sections and elevations to be formed, with the surveyors piecing together a unique record of a structure. Laying this together with additional data taken from laser scanning, and perhaps combining this with photographs and previous archival sources (especially with the help of knowledgeable locals, adding in some vital insight and oral history) gives a precious record for future generations, preserved in archives and accessible in person or on line (I am sounding like an advert now, do go, its absorbing!).
Our next venue was The Queens Hall, located just across the road. This is a former 19th Century church designed by Robert Brown, now incorporating the main concert venue, bar and artist facilities. It was quite amusing to be greeted by the ten commandments written on a huge panel displayed in the hallway as we went upstairs, not perhaps what one expects whilst going to view a performance (which may well not quite sit with those instructions) but a beautiful nod to the buildings history. This history is also reflected in the fittings and fixtures of the hall, the pew style seating in elegant colouring offering a pleasant space to sit and enjoy the unfolding festivities. Later we got to experience the stage from the artists point of view, as the lights shone down we saw more people sitting at the balcony and the Steinway piano rose from the floor. We admired its shine through the lift door, and wondered just how many famous people had tinkered with its ivories (my piano playing skills are somewhat lacking but I can imagine that the acoustics of the auditorium make for a beautiful atmospheric experience, both from a performer and concert goers point of view).
Heading back into town we decided to go to explore the New Town. Princes Street greeted us with a gold postbox- I had forgotten that I wanted to see one, until I got stupidly excited to see it! I think this is a great touch by Royal Mail, I hope Sir Chris Hoy enjoys this, I wonder if he has seen it yet?
Feeling like a behind the scenes peek at one of those famous gorgeous townhouses, we headed for “Institut Francais d’Ecosse”, located in Randolph Crescent in the West End. The helpful leaflet provided told me this Georgian beauty was acquired by the French Government in 1945, and had previously been a maternity hospital. The cornice work has been restored, and there is a good view up the stairs to the atrium skylight which brought light flooding down the ironwork lined stairs inviting us to explore further. An unexpected treat was the chance to flick through the pages of an 18th century book. We donned the archival gloves and saw stunning engravings, these 1739 maps (known as the Turgot map ) showed a beautiful perspective on the city, with elegant lines depicting large boulevards, tree lined avenues and private courtyards in precise detail. One day, I will go to Paris!
In the bookcases to the side of the table there were Jules Verne first editions. Beautiful covers, I can’t quite believe we got to see these too as I remember learning about Jules Verne when I was taking French at school. Heading downstairs we found a très jolie little café, offering a Doors Open Day special meal (we had already eaten, but made a mental note to come back again sometime soon, for the atmosphere was wonderful and the garden views back to Dean village were stunning).
On the way back out we paused to explore the library. I headed for the childrens books (about my level of French!) and found a rather amusing tale of an ant who wanted to be different, and some great Leo Leonni treasures. I had discovered Leo Leonni when doing a project about 1950’s illustration, I liked his bold lines and collages but fell in love with his 1960’s mouse tales. The books in the Institut were “when/ quand” and “where/ou”, you may be wondering why I like his work, you can see more online here
The Danish Cultural Institute is located a few terraces along from our last venue, here we were greeted with another beautiful townhouse (again, more elegant ironwork, I was starting to experience a little “close envy” at this point as my stairways are far less elegant than this!). The short journey upstairs allowed us to view the current exhibition by Kurt Hoppe entitled “Hidden Spaces, Forgotten Places”, a photographic stroll round some Danish treasures. This was highly in keeping with the Doors Open theme (and I get the feeling from absorbing the atmosphere in his photographs that he might have enjoyed our tour around Edinburgh’s treasures today). There were striking images with a hint of wabi sabi showing abandoned buildings with peeling paint, sitting adjacent to thoughtful studies of library facilities (where the composition drew you further into the centre of the image, ready to explore the spines of dusty books and wonder what was between those focused pages). An arrangement of theatre images on one wall were well laid out to see the similarities in “roomscapes”, concert spaces taken from the performers point of view offering a visual artists eye on a performance artists position.
The fireplace in the exhibition room was rather unusual, mythical beasts sat in the centre casting their eye over the walls.
A stroll down from Doune Terrace led us to Stockbridge, a beautiful part of the city where the water of Leith walk passes through and you can gaze down to the Antony Gormley “six times” works. Last time I saw this, shortly after the trail was revealed. I was sure it was upright, perhaps I am wrong, or the water energy has led the statue to take a peek at the river bed?
Noting the time, we perused the brochure to see if there were any late opening venues. To our delight there were two just off Leith Walk, the Steel House at Hart Street and the Edinburgh Print Makers at Union Street. These two venues were a nice unification of my artistic and architectural interests, so train ticket in hand we nipped on the bus over towards the East. The Edinburgh Printmakers is a fascinating facility offering space for artists to work together and share excellent artwork (over 350 artists currently use the space). The shop offered a hint at some of the diverse lithography and screenprinting products produced by those using the space, and upstairs the gallery space revealed video and printed works for us to observe. I laughed out loud at one work “Idealy (sic) the entrance would be here” as it was right next to a door anyway, just a bit further along. Construction printing humour.
Our next building was the award winning Steel House, a townhouse of an entirely different nature, it was fascinating to see around someones private home and see how Zone architects had fitted a new house into such a sensitive setting.
All in all, a great Doors Open Day, there was such a diverse programme of events organised by the Cockburn Association this year. I look forward to hearing what other people got up to as well!
Well, not really, but I did have a whole day exploring some of Ayrshire’s hidden gems often closed to the public, courtesy of Doors Open Day weekend 1 on the Sunday. I spent the saturday with some of my friends doing our own architectural tour, stopped off at the Lighthouse for an awe inspiring view over Glasgow City Centre.
Travelling to Ayrshire from Glasgow can be a little on the expensive side, but not if you have an SPT daytripper ticket. This lets you travel all over the old Strathclyde area, using many modes of transport. On non Doors Open weekends, I tend to adopt this as somewhat of a challenge, using as many modes of transport to get as far as possible (yes, it is technically possible to do them all including bus, subway, train and ferry.. I will save this particular expedition for another blog post).
Back to Ayrshire, one of the best things about having a daytripper is the possibility of sitting on the top deck of the bus, on the big wean seats (for all non Glasgow-ers reading this, that means embracing your inner child and sitting at the front seat of the double decker bus at the top), also at getting on and off anywhere you like. The scariest bit is scratching off the ticket foil though, no prizes if you accidentally scratch the wrong day!
This particular double decker bus journey was met with much fun views of people in tutu’s and all sorts of flourescent garb going along the Kingston Bridge as it was the day of the Great Scottish run.
On the way to Ayr I got a splendid view of the “Pure Dead Brilliant” Prestwick airport and flying man sculptures. Does watching planes take off count as a mode of transport? sadly, I don’t think Daytrippers are accepted on aeroplanes :-). Just before the airport you get the most amazing view of the sea, Arran stretches out before you and the water glistens with a spectacular sense of joy. The West Coast of Scotland in the sun is indeed a beautiful sight to behold.
On the edge of Ayr we were greeted with play on words shop number 1, a nod to Ayrshire’s famous poet. Do you think he enjoyed his fried goodies? This BBC website explains more.
I have been to Ayr many, many times, but Doors Open Day gives a great excuse to go and have a nosy again. There are a great number of architectural gems in the town, it’s amazing to think that a lot of people will only go to the shops and the beach and back and that’s it! Arriving in Ayr bus station (actual mode of transport 1) one is met straight away with two buildings in the same street open for our delight. The Scottish Episcopal Church of Scotland had their blue balloons out, waving at us from the end of the street. The nearest property was the masonic hall, so we ventured in and upstairs. What beautiful rippled coloured stained glass, originally from Newnham School. Each part of the window was constructed from glass of a different texture, held together with lead cames. The top parts had been changed to include various masonic symbols. One of them said “tempus fugit” which if my Latin serves me well (I never did Latin at school, but I did learn “sinister dexter sinister dexter” while walking along the Roman Wall) means “time flies”. Time does indeed fly, for how did it get to be September already? Back downstairs we admired the building from the outside.
Holy Trinity church service was still on as it was a Sunday morning; we got to hear the choir belting out a hymn and the sound bouncing off the walls, what acoustics! Peeked in and admired the spaciousness, and also the beautiful vaulting in the ceiling of the porch area. There was also a beautiful door knocker, spikey ironwork (as featured in the blog entry “why I love September in Scotland (and it’s nearest neighbour)”.
Took a wander to the Tourist Information in Sandgate to pick up a map we could draw on and plot out the buildings we might see. The TIC is in a beautiful limewashed building, not in itself a Doors Open attraction, but it’s truely spectacular vernacular. You can’t help but stare. The staff in the TIC are so helpful, they know everything about Ayr and will happily print things off their computer for you if needs be. We picked up paper versions of the Doors Open brochures, and a number of “for later” leaflets about cycle routes and walking routes off the Ayr to Stranraer train line. My “Ayrshire and Arran: An Illustrated Architectural Guide” book (RIAS publications, by Rob Close… many places in Scotland have these guides and I’m still building my collection!) told me this property is “17th century onwards”. Crazy crowsteps. There is also a sign on the building which explains the story of Lady Cathcart’s house. John Louden McAdam, road engineer was reputedly born in this building, we had seen the remains of his works while doing the Ayr Way last year (near Muirkirk). Just think, all those miles of motorway as a result of this building!
The Town Hall is beautifully adorned with Griffins. There was an event on, “tea and tunes in the tower” so we were able to see inside. There’s gorgeous civic stained glass, especially the Provost’s room. Nearby 1930’s buildings in the High Street still have a painted “Burton’s” advert on. Much to see and notice.
Stopped off for tea and tray bake at Ayr’s oldest restaurant, “the Swan” which has a nice view of the old bridge. Wickedly nice chocolate caramel, and yummy proper coffee. The photos on the wall were also quite interesting, old Ayr very much in the frame.
The route which we chose to get to the “ten rooms” exhibition passed the covenanter’s grave, and offered beautiful views of the bridges, the river, and its noisy but pretty geese. We also passed two other amusingly named outlets, “Ar’Tea cafe and gallery” and “Neet Wheat” health food shop.
We spent quite a happy while wandering around “Ten rooms at Holmston House”. I was particularly taken with the work of David Croft Smith (Journey 14 was colourful and striking, the video below shows some of his work), and loved the work of Ian McNicol. Spectacular prints of all kinds, beautiful etchings and wood carvings, imaginatively arranged showing architectural features of buildings in Glasgow. He had a programme out for Glasgow Print Studio, it makes me want to pick up my linocutting again. Unusually for me, I did not do any drawing the whole day, I was too absorbed in the art and architecture! I love that handcrafted effect which you get from prints, where ink is not quite all there. Some of Ian McNicol’s work is featured on their page although this does not include the architectural images to which I refer.
St. Andrew’s Parish Church in Park Circus church was next on our list, a helpful guide told us all about the stained glass here (each lower window is different), and also the story of the steeple construction (a generous parishioner donated the funds to construct it). The upper floor balcony offered a good view of the main church, and a close up of the other glass, which is beautifully aged with little roundels teaming with light from the Ayrshire sun.
County buildings is half a sheriff court and half Council Offices. i think if I worked there I would never get any work done, the view out of the windows and over the sea is fantastic! The rooms are all named after towns and villages in South Ayrshire, and the Council crest (with its motto chosen as a response to a competition for local people) is also seen in the flooring to the entrance area. One of the most amusing features of this building was its bannisters, carved griffins or dragons invite you upstairs. The gates are also quite impressive, framing the entrances off Wellington Square.
As closing time of Doors Open properties emerges, we retired to a lovely chip shop (well, chips always taste best by the sea!) and then decided to play pot luck with transport. What was due next? At the bus station we were met with a few queues but no pending buses, so we went to the train station and decided to get the first train which came. The view up the Clyde coast is beautiful, Arran and Cumbrae islands, golf courses and sparking sea. It was o its way back to Glasgow, but far too soon to end our day so a lottery of stops ended up in Kilwinning. We had never been there before and the guide told us that it had an 1187+ abbey which beats St Andrew’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in bulk. What’s not to like? A monument which makes such claims is clearly worthy of a good nosy. What we found was a beautiful mixture of a building, oh if stones could speak. The aesthetics of eroded stone clearly on display and also some archaeological excavations underway. One of the most striking features of the area around the Abbey was a particular grave which had the scariest yet most interesting carvings I think I have ever seen, sulking skulls.
The High Street has “The Mother Lodge”, red sandstone carving on a building which is the home of freemasonry. Having known next to nothing about this subject at the start of the day, here we had viewed two of these buildings in one day.
Here is a selection of Doors Open Day images from week 1 wanders.
What can you see on the way into your town? Buildings fascinate me. Spaces and places there to be explored. Hidden details to be revealed if you look up along a roofline or up at a changing skyline. I intend sharing some of these finds, wandering with architectural mindfulness is one of life’s great joys.
There is much to appreciate in the world around us. When we create things we see things in a different way. Walk around while looking up.. it might surprise you. Drawing, sketching and photographing the changing environment is a great way to learn more about your surroundings. Take a different route to your usual one. Carry a camera. Sit upstairs at the front of the bus. Be a tourist in your own town. You won’t regret it.
This blog is all about sharing what I see in various ways, I hope you enjoy it. Tell me about some of the places you see too!