Notes on the Geography of The United Kingdom: Glasgow Core
The most concise published guide to Glasgow's architecture is probably Glasgow at a Glance, by A.M. Doak and Andrew McLaren Young (4th ed., 1983). A much fuller, bulkier, and tarter survey is Glasgow, by Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches, and Malcolm Higgs (1990), a book heavily cribbed for the captions here. Both Doak and Williamson are organized chiefly as collections of photos with extended captions. For a sustained narrative history, see Andor Gomme and David Walker's Architecture of Glasgow (2nd ed., 1987). The late Professor Gomme's parents had a remarkable sense of humor, apparently naming their son not in some Hungarian tradition but because the child would either be this "and/or" something else.
The Clyde is physically puny but historically mighty, once the home of a huge shipbuilding industry and still the central natural feature of the Glasgow landscape. Bridges now block ocean-going ships from reaching the center of the city. To serve those ships, the river was "improved," good news for shipping but not so good for anyone liking natural rivers. You ask about that bridge? OK, OK, take it easy.
It's the Portland Street Suspension or simply the Clyde Suspension Bridge, a financial disaster for the promoters who hoped on completion of the bridge in 1853 to recoup their investment by charging tolls. Aesthetically the bridge may be more successful. Gomme calls it "one of the only two of Glasgow's present collection worth notice." The designer of the triumphal pylons was Alexander Kirkland, who in a fine show of the meanderings of fate, abandoned Scotland for the New World and from 1879 to 1886 served as Chicago's Commissioner of Public Buildings.
A nice juxtaposition of new and old.
Why is it that the eyebars, here linked together in combs, are so much more interesting than the nice new apartment buildings? One of life's little mysteries.
Part of the financial planning behind the bridge was to make it easy for people at Carlton Place (you're looking at it) to come over to the city. This was prestige housing, Glasgow's first with a palace facade. The development consisted of two adjacent buildings. This is the western or upstream one, finished about 1818, about 15 years after the one you can't see here. Gomme calls it "quite severe." Try "grim," though I'd revise that opinion if it was possible to bowl down the central hall. The building was renovated about 1990.
Old bollards survive along the Glasgow side, but no big ship has tied up since 2009, when ocean-going ships were permanently blocked by the double fin-shaped pedestrian bridge seen here. It's the Broomielaw-Tradeston Bridge, completed in 2009 about 500 meters downstream from the old suspension bridge. The design is largely Danish, although I'm not sure if this should make Danish breasts swell with pride. A bicyclist crossing the bridge traces a slight S-curve, whence the nickname "Squiggly Bridge."
Facing the river here and between the two pedestrian bridges is this Custom House from 1840, designed in those days of men-of-many-parts by John Taylor, a customs official. For an amateur, I think he deserves more credit that the critics give him. Don't you think Williamson is a bit harsh in describing the building as having an "unassuming Greek Revival facade of uncomfortable proportions in well-cut yellow sandstone ashlar"? I see her point, but still. (The lower wings are later additions.)
As of 2018, an application was pending for a big hotel to rise behind the building, which would became the main entrance. Think the extension will enhance the appearance of the Custom House?
Come downstream a couple of blocks and you bump into the Clyde Navigation Trust, created in 1809 to maintain and improve the river's channel for 18 miles upstream from Cardross, opposite Port Glasgow. The building was built in two stages. First, in the 1880s, came the bit up the street. Then came the "bravura" corner of 1905-08. (That's Williamson in a better humor.) The dome is flanked by Ceres leading a bull on one side and, on the other, Amphitrite with seahorses.
It's more than a different century; it's a different universe. The Authority was privatized in 1992 and the organization, now part of Peel Ports, was renamed Clydeport. (You know the disease, where Mr. Deep Pockets loves to create a name by mashing words together.)
Here's the older part of the same building, with plenty of symbolism in the shiplapped prows bursting through the walls. Neptune and seahorses are above the pediment; he appears in the pediment, too. Flanking the pediment are figures of local engineering heroes including James Watt and Thomas Telford. You have to feel a tinge of pity for the sculptors. Their work was next to invisible, and they had to find consolation in pounds, shillings, and pence.
Speaking of money, here's the Glasgow Tobacco Warehouse on Watt Street, literally two blocks downstream from the Clydeport Building. Once I tell you it will be obvious, but I bet you don't look at this building and say (spoiler alert), "of course, it was built in stages." So it was, the first floor in 1854, the second in 1870, and the rest (the pink bits) in 1912. The scaffolded facade across the street is all that was left in 2018 of another warehouse, described by Williamson as "the grandest in the street, with bolder pilasters, pediments at each end, Mannerist window surrounds, and a pseudo-metope frieze with attic windows."
The second storey was added when the building was converted from a grain store to a tobacco bond warehouse for Connal & Co. The pediment dates from the original building of 1854 and had to be raised. The inscription was added, too. William Connal, by the way, was an early trustee of the Cunard Company. By the time this building was begun, he had already pioneered a shipping line, by sail, from Glasgow-to-Calcutta.
The badly eroded royal arms were raised too. They were done in the 1840s by John Mossman, one of a cluster of sculptors whose work is scattered across the city, often in hard-to-see places. Mossman studied under one of these men, Carlo Marochetti. He also studied under his own father, William, a sculptor who had trained with the eminent Francis Chantrey. Mossman went on to produce the much better- preserved Glasgow statues of Robert Peel and and David Livingstone, both of which we'll get to, if you stick around. (No worries; I'm not pushy.)
Here's the back of the same building, which has a T-shaped footprint. The building is now a commercial storage company where the likes of thee and me can rent a bit of space and store all the junk we just can't part with.
Here's the building next door, more proof of the importance of the River Clyde in the old days. This one dates from about 1848.
It's the Atlantic Warehouse, and unless I be sadly in error (which does happen) I do believe that's a tobacco hogshead. You'll tell me if I'm wrong.
What's in the building now? Tadaaa!
If the river forms the southern boundary of the city's core, the western boundary must be this, the M8, a motorway completed in 1972 and primarily connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh. We're looking south here (that's the landmark dome of the Mitchell Library), and the river is about a kilometer ahead. The road jumps across it and continues to the city's airport. Behind us, it continues north about half a kilometer before making a 90-degree turn to the right and forming the third side of a box enclosing the city's core. (Protests put a kabosh on construction of the fourth side of the box, which was envisioned in the 1945 Bruce Report and which would have run north-south along the ancient High Street and done a fine job of spoiling the city's cathedral.)
The M8 is running in a trench right across this image, and the building here began life as an overpass. It sat without approaches for 20 years until, as the Bridge to Nowhere, it was converted in 1992 to a platform supporting Tay House, now serving as Glasgow HQ for Barclays.
You too can be a master, j.g., of the universe, sit at your fine desk, and watch (and maybe feel) the traffic below. Don't worry: you're allowed two small house plants.
Certain offices get a view of this charming heap, Fountain House, built in 1982 for Clydesdale Bank but now mostly offices for one of the UK's biggest labor unions, the GBM Union, originally representing boilermakers.
There really is a fountain close to Fountain House. It's the Cameron Memorial Fountain from 1896 and made of granite and Doulton Ware.
Cameron was a doctor, newspaper editor, and liberal member of parliament. Glasgow has lots of Doulton Ware monuments on display. The company had many designers, too, including George Tinworth, who designed this one.
Between the fountain and Fountain House there's this covered-up public convenience. A few more years and it will acquire monument status of its own.
The corner we've been looking at is called Charing Cross, perhaps merely to tickle the Scots sense of humor. The corner was an important junction for a long time, however, because people with money tended to buy property a mile or more west of here, while the city center is a ten-minute walk straight off to the right on Sauchiehall Street. Hence the Charing Cross Mansions. It looks down and out, but the location must still be an important one. For proof, just look at who's renting space on the ground floor under the clock.
Here we are on Sauchiehall Street, which heads east into the town center. This used to be functionally the city's High Street, but its character has changed a lot. Converting it into a pedestrian mall won't bring back the expensive shops.
We've come along a few blocks, just in case you prefer BK to McD. The high rise is a Premier Inn, a budget chain which arrived here in 2012 and took over what had been St. Andrew House, an office tower. Go back before 1953 and the site was occupied by the Lyric Theater. Maybe the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, in the distance, is a partial replacement.
Here it is, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, sharing an intimate relationship with the Buchanan Galleries shopping mall and, farther east, the Queen Street station, with trains mostly to Edinburgh. The green man is Donald Dewar, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland for almost nine years, then Scotland's first First Minister. No surprise, he was an advocate of devolution.
Don't get lost: we're in the middle of the city's core and for the moment looking north.
And here's the railway station. The line opened in 1842, but this glass roof was completed in 1880 to a design by James Carswell, chief engineer for the railway and the engineer as well of the long, long approaches to the Forth Bridge, near Edinburgh. The lovely highrise was the City of Glasgow College of Building and Printing but is slated as of 2019 to become the even lovelier Glasgow Metropolitan Hotel.
We could continue east another half dozen blocks to High Street, which survives and was spared conversion to the never-built eastern side of the city's freeway box. Instead we'll march south down Buchanan Street, which roughly bifurcates the city center north to south. The name Buchanan comes from a family that, having lost its Virginia plantations in the American Revolutionary War, had to sell some of its extensive Glasgow property. Must have been painful, though empathy for such cases is in short supply.
We've come about 800 feet down Buchanan to St. George's Tron, a box of a church completed in 1809 and most noteworthy possibly for its tower (the finials were supposed to have statues but money ran short). Perhaps it's more noteworthy from its position in the center of a small square that breaks the grid and creates a handy landmark. The square was St. George's until 1986, when it officially became Nelson Mandela Place. Mandela was still in prison, and the South African consulate-general was housed in the building on the left. Since then, the church has been further caught up in politics, with the entire congregation in 2012 moving out to be replaced by a new minister and new worshippers accepting the Church of Scotland's new-found toleration of openly gay clergy.
Here's the building that housed the uncomfortable South African diplomats. It was originally the Glasgow Stock Exchange, but the exchange was absorbed into the London exchange in 1973.
Buchanan was pedestrianized in 1975. The river's about 700 meters straight ahead, at which point you look across the water to the Carlton Place apartment buildings, next to the old pedestrian suspension bridge where we started.
Gothic architecture is unusual in central Glasgow, but hear it sits, inspired perhaps by the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The architect was John Burnet, and his building today is protected as a Category A monument, despite what Williamson rightly calls the "glaring disfigurements" of the ground-floor tenants. Burnet was father of John James Burnet, who designed both the Clydeport Building and the Charing Cross Mansions. Makes you wonder if a dozen Glasgow architects ever strolled around the city and put little tags on this building and that: "Mine," "My son's," etc.
We've come another 400 meters and are approching the river. The emergent submarine is the entrance to the St. Enoch Square subway station. Cafe Nero was built in 1896 as the original entrance to the same station.
Enoch, despite what you might think, is a feminine name here and refers to the mother of Kentigern (alias Saint Mungo), the city's sixth-century founder.
We haven't moved, only turned to take a look at Fraser's, a department store. We'll come back and look at it more later, but for now just notice the dome.
There it is in the distance in this picture of Argyle street, pedestrianized in part and by no means as pricey as Buchanan.
So we're back to the river and between the two pedestrian bridges where we started. In front of us are two bridges built for the Caledonian Railway, the main rail link between Glasgow and London. The railway has changed names more than once, but the bridges are more permanent. Here are the piers of the first bridge, a four-tracker from 1878 and, next to them and from 1906, the much bigger replacement bridge, whose tracks fan out to 13 platforms in the city's central station.
Here it is. It opened in 1908.
You wonder what all the windows were for? The building was conceived as an office building but opened as and remains a hotel, the Grand Central.
The architect was Robert Rowand Anderson. Why he chose a Swedish style tower is a little mystery, but maybe you can sort it out if you stay a while. It's easy to make a reservation: the hotel is part of IHG, the same group that brings you Holiday Inn.
You're not lost, are you. We're still in the box. The track comes in on the south side and terminates in about 500 meters. If you strike a circle of that radius, centered here, you take in most of the box, save the northwest corner around Charing Cross.
What's in the box? The business of Glasgow was always mostly business, so let's be devious and look first and civic monuments, beginning with George Square, about 400 meters (or four blocks) northeast of the central station.
George Square was surveyed in 1782 and was residential for a while. Its conversion to big buildings began with the arrival in 1859 of the Bank of Scotland, behind the camera. The post office (here on the right) came next, followed by the massive City Chambers, straight ahead. Perhaps George House, on the left and opened in 1981 to house the city council, is no worse than the older buildings. Perhaps.
The statue of Peel was by John Mossman, who we met before on the royal arms above the Glasgow Tobacco Warehouse. Why Peel? My guess: his support for free trade.
Next to Peel is this statue of Victoria by Marochetti, Mossmans's teacher.
The most expressive of the lot is this one, from 1832, by Francis Chantrey of a thoughtful James Watt.
How's this for an unlikely pair? Atop the column, and wondering how to get down, is Walter Scott. He's been there since 1837, five years after Scott's death. In the foreground is Field Marshall Colin Campbell, AKA Lord Clyde, who was born in Glasgow and went on to play a pivotal role in saving the Britain's Indian Empire. The statues have just about outlived the fame of the men they portray. So, too, the sculptors. John Greenshields designed the Scott figure, and John Foley designed and executed the Campbell. Foley sculpted the figure of Prince Albert that sits in London's Albert Memorial, but much of Foley's work was in Ireland and was destroyed with Irish independence.
The architect of the City Chambers, William Young, described the design, executed between 1883 and 1890, as a "free and dignified treatment of the Italian Renaissance." Historian Williamson is more restrained, saying only that the building "admitted no doubt of the city's wealth and importance."
The queen came for the building's opening in 1888 and still resides in the pediment, where she forever receives tribute from across her empire.
Panels over the entrance represent Art, Science, and Commerce. Presumably this is science, though the question of the moment seems to be "Where did I put those damned keys?"
The City Chambers soon proved too small and by 1914 this depressingly sober extension or east block had been added.
The City Chambers are tied to the extension or east block by this arch, classical at first blush but less so on second. Is there a windowless corridor running through it? A Bridge of Sighs for bureaucrats?
You thought the City Chambers was big? Try this, the nearby County Buildings and Courthouses, begun after a competition in 1841 and in use until replaced by a new building across the river in 1986.
There seems to be no purpose in the colonnades other than to impress. A gentler bit of persuasion comes from the frieze, entitled "International Commerce" and executed by Walter Buchan, a student of William Mossman, John's father.
The temple fronts are not only practically useless but absolutely inaccessible.
You ask what's inside now? Answer: residential apartments. Awfully dark interior spaces, you wonder? No, the interior is a long, narrow courtyard, so light does penetrate.
Two blocks away and half the way back to Buchanan, this is Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art. It's housed in an old house built in 1780 and enrobed fifty years later to suitably house the Royal Exchange. The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, ed. by Francis Groome, 1901, reports that "The principal apartment is a great newsroom, 130 feet long, 60 wide and 30 high.... The subscription is ?3 for members who have residences or offices within six miles of it, and ?1, 10s. from others...." Telephones reduced the need of businessmen to chat face to face, and in 1949 the Exchange was sold to the city. The building housed a library until the museum hatched in 1996. But I want to know who's out front.
I swear he's a British actor I've seen on TV a hundred times, but no, it's the Duke of Wellington as portrayed by Carlo Marochetti, our old friend from the equestrian Victoria. Cost in 1844? A bracing ?10,000.
The base of the statue has a bronze version of the Battle of Waterloo.
Wellington had earlier been in India, which explains why he's here at Assaye accepting the surrender of Daulat Scindia, who has dismounted from his elephant.
Least persuasive of the bronzes, here we have the iron duke busy giving directions but this time to horses pulling his bucolic plow. Full disclosure: it may not be the great man but merely, as one source puts it, "a peasant."
Think it's a church? Think again. You may have spotted this building at the end of the view of the county buildng some pictures back. It's Hucheson's Hospital, but it was never a hospital in today's sense of that word. Now housing the National Trust for Scotland, it was built in 1805 (and remodelled in 1876) to house a charity founded by George and Thomas Hutcheson to grant pensions to old men. Maybe Hospitality Center comes closer.
Want to try "church" again? This time you'd be right, though you'll be hard pressed to identify the style. In 1839 it was a Scottish Episcopal Church, but it became a Free Prebyterian Church before it became other things, most recently the Malmaison Hotel, of which the church entrance became the door to the brasserie. Williamson writes of the "powerful pylon form savagely stripped of its detail," including a choragic monument up top.
Another church, in this case the St. Vincent Street church, which opened in 1859 for the former United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. It's the work of Alexander "Greek" Thomson, but it's plain than Thomson was no slave to Greek precedent. John Tweed's city guide of 1872 says of the tower behind that "it is difficult to bring it into harmony with the temple architecture..., as if there had been more money to spare at the building of the church than people knew what to do with." Tittle did Mr. Tweed anticipate Heron House, the residential tower behind the church tower.
The stylobate or platform of the church is said to be inspired by the platform of Solomon's temple. You're wondering how to get inside?
You wonder how Thomson ever got the sobriquet "Greek."
Look Greek to you?
We've stepped inside, which has its own surprises. How would you classify the capitals? Good luck with that.
"Chickens on a Starry Night."
The inside is much higher than you'd expect, but that's because the floor is in the basement.
The organ was added in 1904 and fits the space much better than the wretched screen.
Nice lamps, but the view from behind the pulpit is the back of the screen.
And now to brass tacks and the business of making money. We're back at the entrance to the central station, but now we're looking across the street to the Grosvenor Building, another of Alexander "Greek" Thomson's designs--and built for him as a side business. See anything else odd? Sure you do, once it's pointed out: the building got a new top. It was put there in 1907, which is why Williamson writes of Thomson's "disciplined facade weighed down by the swagger Graeco-Roman top hamper."
The odd thing is that, like many, many of the buildings ahead of us, this was originally a warehouse. Glasgow is full of them, far more opulent than we utilitarians expect.
A more modest building by Thomson but still touched by the exotic, in this case "stumpy" columns on what's called the Egyptian Building. It's on Sauchiehall Street about half a mile northwest of the station. Do you sense an attenuated Karnak?
Glasgow's architects were not always so adventurous. The long-lived Horatio Bromhead, described in the Dictionary of Scottish Architects as "extremely conservative," produced this building in 1903 for the department store now called Frasers but at the time Stewart and McDonald. Willamson points to its "ponderous French details." And, yes, this is the building we noticed down at the bottom of Buchanan and at the corner of Argyle.
Speaking of ponderous, what did William Vickers have in mind when he, the sculptor, put these bent-over Atlantes at the doorway? Cruel and unusual punishment, I'd say.
Here's a lighter touch. The building on the right, from 1875, housed the offices of Teachers Whiskey. (The sign's been kept, but from 1991 to 2018 the building was part of Glasgow's Institute of Engineering and Technology.) The building on the left was the National Bank of Scotland, later the Royal Bank of Scotland. Notice the figures?
Four figures were designed by Phyllis Archibald for the building. Yes, a woman. These two are labelled Prudence and Adventure, and they do evoke those temperaments.
Here, on Ingram Street and about a block from George Square, is a menswear shop housed in an exotic banking hall from 1900. The hall was designed by J.J. Burnet, who a decade earlier had designed the Clydeport Building with its dories emerging from a solid wall. The main bank building is behind the banking hall and was built in 1866 to a design by Burnet's father, John, who designed the Gothic stock exchange near Mandela Place. J.J. rebuilt his father's bank building when he added the banking hall. He also added the top floor.
Williamson says that the banking hall's sculpture is "full of imagination but strictly subservient to the architectural forms." The figure of St. Mungo, Glasgow's patron saint, was sculpted by George Frampton, who must have wondered what a saint was doing here. Surely he had more fun when he got the commission to do a monument for W.S. Gilbert on the London Embankment. The Atlantes here, by the way, are in even worse shape than at Fraser's department store.
At last: good old red (or pink) sandstone, generally from quarries about 60 miles to the south at Locharbriggs, near Dumbries.
We've just gone back to the central station and whipped around the corner for this narrow building "to let."
Built for the Scottish Temperance League, the building was converted in 1919 to house The Daily Record. Williamson calls it Franco-Flemish, with a "profusion of semi-naked figures." All in good taste, of course, and mostly too high to allow much scope for amusement.
We're just a block away here on Bothwell Street at what was the Central Thread Agency. From about 1900, it was designed in three sections by two brothers, Hugh and David Barclay, and stands "all thick against the skyline with gables, turrets and chimneys." The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by Francis Groome, 1901, is less tolerant and calls the building "over-ornamented."
The Barclays did lots of other stuff, too. Stay tuned.
Just across the street is this, the Mercantile Chambers, from 1897. The facade is severe but alleviated by damsels representing Industry, Prudence, Prosperity, and Fortune--plus Mercury over the door and rubbing his feet in fatigue. Williamson quotes The Builder which saw through the statuary and declared that "the facade does not pretend to be more than a curtain concealing a frame of steel beams, cast-iron columns, and load-bearing piers..."
Remember the Barclay brothers? Here, five blocks north of their Mercantile Chambers, is a warehouse built in the 1890s for Cumming & Smith, who operated a department store. Almost demolished in 1970, the facade was saved as a front for the Savoy Center.
Williamson calls the facade "a feast for the eyes," and the detailing is unusual enough to provoke at least some examination. The classical figures hanging out between the arches are no doubt waiting for the Savoy to open. It advertises a "modern clubbing experience with exclusive VIP area" and lots more.
More Barclay Boys, in this case on George Street just north of the City Chambers extension. It's the Royal College of Science and Technology, now incorporated into the University of Strathclyde. Williamson recognizes that it is the centerpiece of the campus but comes down hard: the building has "none of the refinement of the earlier Barclay practice." Gomme shows little mercy, calling the building "coarse."
Here's the entrance, pressed flat against the plane of the property line.
How busy can these buildings be? Here, from 1900 and a block east of Mandela Square, is a warehouse (!) built for Connal and Company, which we met before at the Glasgow Tobacco Warehouse. The stone is the ever-popular Locharbriggs sandstone. Here, Williamson writes, the stone forms "heaped-up gables, masses of rustication, blocked columns and so on." Original? Williamson thinks not and judges that the building is largely a copy of the famous Hotel Zum Ritter, next to the Protestant church on Heidelberg's Haupstrasse. Gomme, writing in the 1980s, already considered the ground floor "irrecoverable."
Idiosyncrasies aplenty. Here, on Waterloo Road a few blocks west of the central station is a building with three life-sized figures.
They're highlanders, and one of them is Rhoderick Dhu, the name of a famous whiskey produced by a company once headquartered here.
The baldacchini never got their intended statues of the four seasons, but the corner of the building got what Williamson calls a highland lass with a malting shovel.
Here's something else that's unusual. It's the L-shaped Argyle Arcade, Scotland's first indoor shopping mall. It was cut through older residential buildings in 1828, and has always had that glass roof.
Here's the entrance to the arcade. Oddly, the buildings around it disappeared long ago and were replaced by this, Argyle Chambers, in 1904. Oddly, in other words, the arcade now is much older than the building around it.
All that sandstone couldn't prevail against the invasion of American vulgarity. (Am I serious? Good question.) When it arrived here on St. Vincent Street, it would plop down right next to this, one of the city's first red sandstone buildings, built in 1885 and long housing the Evening Citizen, including its presses.
Look who's elbowing in next door.
It's the offices of the Anchor Line. The building is steel-framed but clad in white Doulton Carrara ware, used here for the first time by a Scottish architect, James Miller. It's 1907, and a year earlier Miller had done the very white interiors of the Lusitania, a ship belonging to the larger Cunard company, which in 1911 would take over the Anchor Line. Miller had by then come a long way from his St. Enoch subway station of 1896, which we saw at the foot of Buchanan Street.
About 30 years later, Miller had simplified things but was still all white in this building for the Commercial Bank, later the Royal Bank of Scotland but more recently entering the major leagues as a Bavarian brew house. Don't tell the customers that the frieze up top portrays Wisdom, Prudence, and Justice.
One more study in white: here's Burton's clothing store from 1938 at the busy corner of Argyle and Buchanan. By now the material was artificial stone produced by the Empire Stone Company of London.
What a difference a few years can make. See that white building in the distance? That's where we're going. Here we're just passing Ashfield House built in the first decade of the century. It's shops down and "tenements" up. That's Glaswegian for residential apartments, not slums. See the Ionic columns in the bowed facade. Wonder what they're for? It's like someone putting on a necktie out of sheer habit.
Along comes the Beresford Hotel from 1937. It's just a hollow box, but the architects are building in keeping with the Art Deco theme of 1938's Empire Exhibition, held a few miles away at Bellahouston Park (where almost none of the exhibition's hundred buildings survive). The architects (plural) are James Weddell and William Beresford Inglis. Weddell was a longtime assistant to John Burnet, who we met most recently at the banking hall on Ingram Street, and Inglis was the owner of this property and gave it his middle name.
The building was requisitioned during the war and has been many things since, including student housing and, most recently. apartments. In 1990 its fancy trim had been painted over; Williamson writes that its "dazzling livery of mustard and black faience with red fins has been sadly obliterated." Since then, it's been at least partly restored.
If the Beresford Hotel was stylistically from a different universe than the neighboring Ashfield House, the previous century had already seen much more fundamental architectural changes in Glasgow. This, the Iron Building, is from 1856. Williamson calls is "one of the most remarkable cast-iron warehouses of its date anywhere in Britain." Near the southeast corner of the central station, it was the home of A. Gardener and Son, maker of upholstery and cabinets. As such, it survived until 1985, since when the ground floor has been a pub called The Crystal Palace. That's become the colloquial name of the entire building. On inspection you'll see that the building is more subtle than it first appears. The windows are grouped in fours on one side but fives around the corner. The curves at the top of each window vary from four-centered at the bottom to semicircular on the top floor. Also, the height of each floor diminishes, accentuating the perceived height of the building. The architect was John Baird, a name we haven't encountered but the man who a year earlier had designed the first stage of the Glasgow Tobacco Warehouse which we encountered down at the river. Talk about professional development! A lot of credit must go to Robert McConnell, an ironfounder who served as structural engineer.
Five years later, along comes Alexander "Greek Thompson" and tries his hand with glass curtains and iron framing at the Buck's Head Building. Williamson notes the "Schinkelesque winged brackets and an insubstantial balcony of filigree acanthus." Gomme calls the building "as nearly glass-fronted as possible" but lambastes later owners for "having completed the ruination of the ground floor."
You're not surprised when I say that the architect here, John Honeyman, was keenly interested in architectural history. On the other hand, the building is popularly called the Ca' D'Oro, which makes you wonder how well Honeyman knew Venice. It's a bum rap. Yes, the building recalls Venice, but the name arrived in 1927, long after the building's completion in 1872. Who's to blame? Try the owners of the Ca' D'Oro restaurant, which opened under a mansard roof that was added to the building but which burned down in 1987 and was not replaced. Pre-mansard, this was F & J Smith Furniture Warehouse. Still, it's pretty special.
Another view. The iron framing was replaced by concrete pillars after the 1987 fire, and the interior became an atrium.
You believe in progress? Shame on you. Here, a block west of central station (you catch a corner of it on the right) is Westergate Chambers, built in 1985 for British Telecom. Williamson calls it a "crushingly dull office block," the "most deadly building in the city centre." BT long ago moved out, and plans as of 2018 were for a conversion to a Yotel. The windows were to be replaced with full height panes, and the existing granite cladding was to be removed. You still won't like it? No problem. There will be a rooftop bar.
Here's a beauty, the Aurora Building , completed 2006 and only a block from Thomson's St. Vincent Street Free Church. It's mainly occupied by Barclays Wealth Management.
A night-time view of a neighboring investment bank, with a couple of bankers still crunching those numbers.
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