I first moved to Glasgow in 1996, to work on, amongst other things, the Glasgow International Festival of Design, a precursor to the city’s Year of Design and Architecture held in 1999. I remember now with embarrassment my reaction to getting the job. There was a degree of disappointment that it was, well, you know, Glasgow…
I was born in the North East of Scotland to a family who, on both sides, were East Coasters. Our gaze naturally turned east, into the wind, towards the North Sea. I spent 10 years as a child and adolescent near Falkirk and visited Edinburgh many times. It seems incredible to me now that over the course of that decade I visited Glasgow only once, to take part in a school drawing contest hosted at Kelvingrove Museum. After all, the train journey took less than 30 minutes.
Map Of Maryhill Glasgow Photo Gallery
I studied in Edinburgh, then worked in Yorkshire, Belfast and back in Edinburgh, reaching my late 20s with no knowledge of the city that was Glasgow other than that handed down by popular culture and prejudice. Glasgow was dirty. Glasgow was ugly. Glasgow was scary.
So walking through the city centre streets in the mid-1990s was a revelation. As my fellow commuters hurried to work, heads down, I walked with my eyes raised. I was astounded at how beautiful, how lavish the architecture was.
Edinburgh is a stunning city. Its compact nature, its buildings representative of almost every era since the late middle ages; its grand bridges, its parks, its monuments, the hills, the sea… all combine into a unforgettable experience for visitors. But the dominance of Scots Vernacular and Georgian styles gives Edinburgh an elegant restraint, wholly appropriate to the personality of the city and its inhabitants.
Glasgow couldn’t be more different. The exuberance of its Victorian architecture is brash, confident, demonstrative, equal to the city’s collective personality. The 19th century’s equivalent of skyscrapers give the city centre a fabulously vertiginous tilt. But, for me, most remarkable is the extraordinary abundance of sculpture and architectural decoration everywhere I look. Less so the proliferation of monuments and plinths in George Square and Kelvingrove Park; more the classical figures jostling with mythical colossi and biblical heroes together with reliefs and portraits of the great and good that make Glasgow unlike any other city in the world. It was surprising, alarming but also somehow reassuring when I first realised just how many pairs of stone eyes were watching me from above.
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