The Glasgow of old that I described yesterday achieved the pinnacle of its wealth in the 19th century, but the 20th saw it fall into decline. Shipbuilding and locomotive engineering, both slumped , and though the need to replace shipping following WWII gave temporary respite, the pace of decline quickened in the 50’s and 60’s. Even the proud Govan shipyard went through several changes of identity in what seemed like an attempt to keep some heavy engineering on the Clyde at any cost.
Much of the riverside, like so many other industrial heartlands where shipping had once flourished, fell into decay, yet the area was to bloom again (quite literally) as the city turned to culture to begin the rebirth. The Glasgow Flower Festival attracted millions of visitors during the spring and summer of 1988, and the city was named European City of Culture two years later. Huge investments continued to be made in concert halls and galleries, and whilst the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre may have been said to be the first step in this renaissance when it opened in 1985, it was the addition of the Norman Foster designed Clyde Auditorium as part of the site in 1997 which gave it iconic status. This was the building that drew me to the area in search of pictures.
Not surprisingly, given its shape and purpose the building has been compared to the Sydney Opera House, though to most it is known better as The Armadillo.
I didn’t have time to cross the Clyde and get some perspective into my shots of the building, so for the most part concentrated on details of it’s sweeping curves. Personally I don’t see it as a rival to my beloved Sage for beauty, but it is certainly an eye catching structure. It will need to be, for adjacent to it the regeneration work goes on. The Scottish National Arena, to be known as the Hydro, is another Foster design and will dwarf its neighbour. Ostensibly due to open in 3 months time, it seems to me that there is still much to do.
And yet for all the shining steel and voluptuous curves on either side of the river, it was another structure that I appreciated the most. The Finnieston Crane, though no longer in use, is retained as a symbol that unites two elements of the City’s industrial heritage. This beast, completed in the 1930’s just before the depression took its toll here, was used not to build ships but to load them, with the locomotives that were exported around the world from here. Perhaps it was my own brief experience of shipyard work that resonated, but this boxy giant tugged at my heartstrings.
Todays portrait is Harshida who I met on my way back to my hotel. Clearly much to young to remember any of this I assume she is a student at the University from her lack of local accent. I wonder what industries of today will be no more than relics when she looks back in 30 years time