What enhanced my pleasure in Glasgow’s plethora of statues, gargoyles and ornament on the walls and roofs of its grand buildings was the fact that the city’s residents seemed oblivious to their existence. Hardly surprising, since our necks aren’t designed to tilt back for any length of time. We instinctively walk looking down to see where we are going.
For many years I have thought about different ways to share this visual feast with a wider audience. Eventually, it was clear that a blog with beautiful colour photographs was the best way to draw attention to this neglected aspect of Glasgow’s architectural heritage.
Other studies have been published before. We’re in great debt to Ray McKenzie’s wonderful and exhaustive Public Sculpture of Glasgow, published by Liverpool University Press in 2001, which proved invaluable in both identifying subjects we didn’t know and important facts that could inform the reader.
Map Of Merchant City Glasgow Photo Gallery
But this blog is a very different animal. While Public Sculpture of Glasgow is a serious and comprehensive academic study, the focus here is visual. David Barbour has used his 20 years in architectural photography to show off Glasgow’s hidden assets to the very best effect. Additional images have been provided by Mike Brooke and myself. We have also avoided the jargon of architectural study so that the annotations at the end of each chapter are easy to understand.
This is very much a personal selection, with an emphasis on secular architecture (with a few lavish ecclesiastical exceptions). There’s plenty that has been omitted for reasons of cost, brevity and in some cases photographic accessibility (for example the glorious Buck’s Head Building on Argyle Street has been shrouded in scaffolding during the entire production period of this blog).
We make no apology for also using our images as a means to inspire some of Scotland’s best writing talent. It’s a pleasure and privilege to be able to commission Colin Begg, Jim Carruth, Sophie Cooke, Vicky Feaver, Graham Fulton and Kona Macphee to write poems on the subject of Glasgow’s architectural decoration. These poems provide moments of reflection on the artworks themselves. But they also look at the historical context in which a majority were created, during the boom years when Glasgow was the ‘Second City of the Empire’ and how this informs the way we view the city and ourselves today.
This is a blog to enjoy, to pour over, to keep, to pass on to others, to follow like a map. We hope you find it a way to rediscover our world class architectural heritage, regardless of whether you’re local or a visitor to this great city. Most of all, we hope you hear the cry, Look Up Glasgow!
They beg along the inner city miles, these empire’s orphans, each a hefty waif of blurring stonework, downward-slipping tiles: not yet unlovely, ever more unsafe.
Facades and gutters foster tufted plumes funereal wild ironies of green while rain and roots slip in to higher rooms and do their wreckers’ work unpaid, unseen. Passing, we buzz with possibility (Academy of Joy? Some arty den?
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