Sunday, 27 September 2009

27 September 2009 - Granton Lighthouse

Edinburgh literally threw its "Doors Open" and we were intrigued by Granton Lighthouse. It's a building we have driven by a few times and liked. Whilst the appearance is that of a lighthouse you could be confused for thinking it might be something else because it sits a little bit back from the shoreline at Leith. The bulk of the building is red brick too - and I thought all lighthouses were whitewashed!

It houses a gallery space in the main part of the building. Nice space, not so interesting art work! Although these weather worn bricks I liked. They reminded me of a box of broken biscuits!

Managed to climb some very dodgy stairs, or should I say ladders, to access the lighthouse part of the building. Some great views.

The artwork on the walls wasn't holding my interest so my eyes wandered down towards the floor and the large "taped map" showing the boundary shorelines of Leith and lettering which I really liked which labelled the parts along the coastline.

"Bring to Life" artwork. Once again fab bricks but then there is the dodgy teddy bear in the corner wearing a pampers nappy. Why? Some artwork I just don't get!

View of the gallery space.

The red brick entrance to the lighthouse had that nice industrial feel about it.

Someone decided to have their workshop entrance seem more welcoming by 2 fisherman sculptures. They are posing as you'd expect any fisherman to pose. Not.

Two mixed brick chimney stacks and a selection of buoys give it that coastal feel even if you are a distance from the shoreline!

And here is the lighthouse itself in all its glory. Weird looking eh? Reminds me of the Oast houses you see in and around Kent.

A view from further down the street.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

20 September 2009 - Glasgow School of Art

A Sunday tea time treat for us, a tour of the Glasgow School of Art in Glasgow. Another tour courtesy of the Doors Open event.

It won't come as a surprise that the entrance to Glasgow School of Art is appropriately sign posted in true Rennie Mackintosh style.

The main entrance is amazing. Funny though you can't describe it as grand. Nor is it lavish. It's "just right!" I think I like the fact it's not symmetrical like many of the other "pillared" buildings we had visited the previous day. As the front of the building spreads to the side you could be mistaken into thinking either side of the central entrance aspect are symmetrical but they are not. Long iron "rose like" bars rise up from the lower window lintels and if you look closely the "bud" element of the flower increases in age from left to right; starting off as a closed bud form and by the time it is repeated in the right hand side it becomes a more open looking flower. Our guide explained this symbolised an art student starting out and developing into a more mature student as their studies progressed.

We liked the entrance; grand stairs leading to quite a modest black door. The iron archway with a box in the centre also adds that little bit of magic.

Loved the brass door plates!

This is a view to the side of the building. Behind the long windows lie the library. Dark wood fills the library but these windows throw in generous amounts of natural light.

You get an idea of the scale of the windows here.

Unfortunately no photographs are allowed inside the building. They do tours during the year and it is worth a visit believe me. The interior has an indescribable aura and you get this feeling that the place exists to inspire and encourage the students that study within.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

19 September 2009 - Alexander Stephen & Sons Limited

Our day trip to Glasgow's Door Open event was drawing to a close. Andrew was recalling the story of his grandfather's early career as a draughtsman for a Clyde shipyard. As with many old stories his recollection was somewhat patchy but we knew he worked for Alexander Stephens somewhere in Linthouse. He also boasted about some huge vice his grandfather had added to his personal tool collection when he was at Stephens. Nowadays it's a couple of pens and post it pads but back then they helped themselves to anything..... even if it was nailed down!!!!

Having just visited Fairfields Shipyard offices we asked one of the restorers if he knew where his grandfather may have worked and if the buildings still existed. Well the Alexander Stephen offices still existed and we took a trip down to see them. Unlike the former building though this one has been fully restored and is now office accommodation.

19 September 2009 - Fairfield Shipyard Offices

I don't know what it is about ports, dockyards and harbours but they hold a strange fascination for me. I'm sure Andrew would add........ and a worrying one!!! In all my travels I've never failed to find "interesting" buildings hanging about beside docks and harbours. You could be forgiven for thinking such locations would inherently lead to bland blocks for buildings which most would consider perfectly acceptable for conducting the business of shipping etc. Alas true gems do exist around these areas and I was hoping Fairfield Shipyard Offices would be just one of these gems.

Arriving at the place you can't help but feel sorry for this building. Wrapped in scaffolding and netting it certainly is a sorry sight. Years of neglect finally promoted this building to the Historical Buildings at Risk Register or the Hospice for pre demolished buildings. Ten years of hard work from a charity have given Fairfields a stay of execution. Some of the charity directors have had a long association with shipbuilding and have it seems worked tirelessly to secure funding for the restoration work. They have their work cut out for them. They aim to turn the place into purpose built office/work space for the community who have suffered redundancy not just from the shipbuilding industry.

Only the ground floor was accessible due to the on-going building works.

But despite its tired state the place still boasted lovely plaster ceilings and wall panelling.

And are these light fittings not just amazing. You'd expect generic strip lighting of that era to be installed here not these wonderful fittings.

And they put in lovely windows too. We liked this one, especially the "links" pattern in the lower section.

There are plenty of examples of work in progress.

The main staircase had been carefully wrapped in protective plyboard but the open atrium at the entrance still had a beautiful plaster ceiling to show off.

Outside the building Andrew couldn't help himself...... he had to take a picture of this weird metal sculpture. I have no idea what is going on with it other than there are a couple of birds sitting on what looks like a giant set of crabs claws! There remains some art I just "cannot get".

19 September 2009 - Castlemilk Stables

Our visit to Castlemilk Stables was included in our Doors Open touring day. The building was a bit different to the old, lavish city buildings we had visited so far. The original stables lay in a state of disrepair for many years. Then a charity was formed in conjunction with the local community and funding was sought to restore the stables and turn it into a community hub.

The building itself won various awards for the architects Elder and Cannon. Despite having only a basic, ruinous shell to begin with they successfully restored it adding a much needed upper floor and a glass loggia walkway skirting the building providing a walkway round the central courtyard and giving access to the office space within. The building also has excellent eco credentials, heated by a ground source heat system. I want one of those for the cottage one day in the future!!!

This picture is taken from within the courtyard. Hard to imagine how such an expanse of glass could ever work or blend with this Listed Building but it does. The glass extension is NOT visible from the front of the building.

Castlemilk House used to stand close by the stables but it was demolished many years ago. Sadly a lot of the architectural salvage that could have been retrieved from the house wasn't, or it was pilfered, not sure which!!! One item which did survive despite being under water from the over flowing river was an oak fireplace.

The carved scene on the fireplace is that of Joan of Arc at the battle of Orleans. How it managed to survive despite being water logged heaven only knows.

The revamp of the building incorporated many of the features of the original building. Despite being extended a feature is still made of the stone end of the original stable block.

This shows you the additional floorspace that was added. This provides office space for Castlemilk Housing Association. It must be a pleasure to work in such a lovely office.

Another view of the glass loggia from inside the courtyard.

But the front of the stables cleverly hides the newness of the glass extension at the rear. You'd never guess would you?

19 September 2009 - The Corinthian

Just down from George Square was another building that caught my eye. It's the Corinthian and a place I've been to several times on my nights out in Glasgow. We strolled over for a quick look.

Once again the main room wasn't designed to disappoint. Another lovely glass, dome ceiling.

19 September 2009 - Glasgow City Chambers

Glasgow City Chambers proudly sits overlooking George Square. I've walked past the place many times but it never dawned on me that it was the City Chambers. Once again, it was part of the Doors Open annual event. I'd chosen it because of the lavish description of it in the catalogue. Surely no such building would match the grandiose language used to give you an overview of the interior of this building.

Through the front doors and you are instantly greeted by classic, Italianate, marble pillars and detailed mosaic on the floor and multi domed ceilings and archways. Wow! Lavish it said in the brochure and lavish is what you got. William Young was the architect and he must have had a budget that had him laughing all the way to the marble and granite mines of the world!! Because believe me there is so much of the stuff it made you wonder if he was on commission from the Italian marble mafia!

Here are some examples of the mosaic flooring. There truly was so much of it and all with fantastic designs it was hard to chose just one or two for the blog.

This one I have to say is my favourite though.

We were able to stroll down the Councillors chambers / corridor. After climbing the beautiful marble stairway I found this part of the building somewhat too shiny and tacky. Sorry, I am sure it cost an arm and a leg but it didn't look right to me. Then again what do I know? It reminded me more of a rather ostentatious route to the public toilets!

The stairways were plentiful with matching marbled pillars and bannisters. It is very hard to glean the entire scale of this place but this picture taken looking up gives you a good idea.

Andrew liked this room. It was one of the bigger rooms and no doubt housed various events. As you'd expect it was filled with amazing plaster ceilings and mural style paintings. Chandeliers too of course.......... several of them!!!

This is a closer picture of the painting above the stage area.

And another view.

We'd climbed several staircases by this stage and a quick look reminded us of just how many! Great view of the mosaic floors too from up here.

Paintings of all the historical provosts lined the walls of the top floor. My eye was naturally drawn to one in particular, a painting of Provost Pat Lally, done in what I thought looked like the style of the artist Peter Howson.

And right enough guess who the artist was? Peter Howson. Well that was a bonus for me!! Thereafter the other paintings of the provost paled into insignificance!!

This is the view looking up to the round balustrade on the top floor.

We then slowly descended the stairs and back to have a last look at the front entrance. Mosaics featured more on the ceilings here.

The entrance was very dark but looking outwards towards George Square you could only admire the iron works on the external doors. Lovely.

Back out in the fresh air and a few external photos of the City Chambers. The building is lavish not only on the inside but outside too. What a fantastic place to see.

19 September 2009 - Mitchell Library

This is part of Glasgow's Doors Open annual event whereby members of the public are invited in to see buildings, or parts of buildings, normally closed to the public.

I've driven past the Mitchell Library next to the M8 motorway many times. The familiar green domed roof looks fantastic lit up at night. Doors Open provided the opportunity to go inside and explore.

Before the nice, arty,architectural bits, I must get on my soap box and have a moan. The Mitchell Library houses a rather nice Cafe. Arriving early for our tour we decided a coffee and a fruit juice was in order. Imagine my surprise as I stood at the counter in front of the solitary member of staff, asked for my coffee and fruit juice only to be told "sorry but due to the licensing laws and with the cafe serving alcohol you can't be served at this counter with your young daughter standing here. What??? It looked like a cafe, the counter had cakes in it and coffee machines behind it......... oh but wait......... yes.......there in the distance behind some pull down wire screen I think I can see alcohol!!!! It's 10am on a Saturday morning....... I'm simply asking for a coffee and a fruit juice as advertised on your CAFE MENU........ where did the alcohol come into it you daft mare? And whilst I am having my rant...... would you truly expect a public library cafe to actually be offering alcohol for sale? Are there not enough drinking establishments in the vicinity who kind of have that "old drinking market" sewn up? How many people walk into their public library and think......oh yeah...... shall grab a pint of beer while I'm at it!!! WAKE UP GLASGOW, YOU HAVE A SERIOUS DRINK PROBLEM BECAUSE YOU ARE INTRODUCING IT INTO THE VERY HEART OF EVERY ESTABLISHMENT FREQUENTED BY THE CHILDREN OF YOUR CITY!!!

There, that's better.

Now to the library itself. We headed towards the Jeffrey Room which houses many of the books bequeathed to the city by Stephen Mitchell. Ornate bookcases line the walls and then you look up and see the most amazing glass roof.

Standing directly underneath the roof and looking up you get an even better view of the glass roof.

As with many historical buildings the architects seemed to go in for symmetry in their design therefore the opposite end of the hallway housed another room called the Burns Room. It was similar if not identical to the Jeffrey Room. This room was home to an ever expanding collection of Burns books and artefacts including a handwritten version of Auld Lang Syne. A similar glass roof and ornate plaster ceiling was on show too.

We had a bit of a treat too courtesy of one of the very helpful guides on duty. Rather than walk along the hallway between the Jeffrey and Burns Rooms we were able to head "behind the scenes" into the vast store room which houses the remaining books. Dark, musty oak numbered shelves greeted us. What an amazing place. Amber spotted a dumb waiter in the wall which was apparently in use up until 1981. Members of the public would select a book they wished to see and a note of its number and shelf reference would be sent up via the dumb waiter. Someone in the store room would then pull out the book and send it down via the dumb waiter. Incidentally, the order in which the books were stored was not your usual alphabetical by author. Oh no. They were numbered as and when they were bought and placed on the shelves in that order!! Imagine if you put a book back in the wrong'd never find it. Small wooden batons were visible at regular intervals with the word "missing" on it. Sadly a previous book stock audit uncovered the fact it had gone missing.

A central marble stairway leads you up through the storeys of the Mitchell Library. Looking up yet another amazing ceiling. It is basically the inside of the green dome roof you can see from the outside.

This is part of the library from the outside. What a lovely looking building. William B. Whitie the architect certainly got it right when he designed this building originally for the wealthy tobacco manufacturer Mr Mitchell.

The library were also hosting an art exhibition called Inspired. Each work has a connection to Robbie Burns, coupled with 2009 being the 250th anniversary of Burns, seemed like a good excuse for an exhibition. We saw a few works that appealed....... and also a few that had the most tentative link to Burns imaginable.

Our favourites include Peter Howson, Calum Colvin, Robert Powell and an artist we hadn't heard of before Harland Miller.