Monday, 7 December 2015

2015 Glasgow buildings deadpool: an update

As it is now December, here is an update in our 2015 Glasgow buildings deadpool from January.

In order of doom (with my January thoughts italicized):

1. The Beco Building, 56-64 Kingston Street

( © Copyright Steven Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

"Built 1878 by an architect lost in the mists of time, the Beco Building (as its known due to the shop on the ground floor) has already survived an appointment with the executioner. The Scottish government, in 2014, vetoed an application from the City Council for demolition. With the Evening Times as chief cheerleader.

"A £300million plan to redevelop Tradeston is being put at risk by a dilapidated warehouse" screamed their headline of 30th March 2012.

Yes, the old "a great thing for Glasgow wont happen unless this goes" trick. As seen with the St Enochs Hotel. Only, this time, the bluff was called. For now."

The Beco Building might have avoided one run with the bulldozers, but it's time is surely limited. Frequent travels in that vicinity show no sign, as of November 2015, of anything done to prevent the extensive vegetation growth and damp. This is particularly noticeable from the rear of the building which is frequently hit by sea winds racing down the Clyde.

The Beco's neighbour in neglect, Barretts, disappeared in recent times, its record of being the most dilapidated building in Glasgow falling to other contenders.

With the removal of Barretts, the Beco is only thing remaining of note in that entire block between Clyde Street and Kingston Street. And, with rights issues and money preventing anyone actually trying to restore it, one can safely say it won't remain for too much longer.

2. Lion Chambers, 172 Hope Street

(© Copyright wfmillar and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

An art noveau classic, claimed The Independent in June. 

"Another Salmon masterpiece, this 1907 building is the perfect counterpoint to anyone who thinks I hold a grudge in general against concrete. Concrete high rise megaliths are awful. This building, on the corner of Hope Street and West Regent Street, is the supreme example of what can be done, aesthetically, with concrete.

And, besides, the Church already mentioned with an execution date set, the most doomed building on this list. You see, it had a last ditch attempt for restoration due to dangerous by Keppie. The Glasgow Buildings Preservation Trust took it, the building was given the architectural equivalent of "fix it, or the last rights".

That was in 1995.

Since then, a demolition order was defeated, a wire mesh surrounded the exterior of the building to prevent the intricate concrete design falling onto members of the public."

I stand by my fatalistic view in January. The window of opportunity to save this building passed long ago, and now it will go before long. It might be saved with lots of money put in, but I'm led to believe the structural issues might be unfixable. If so, with its increasing danger to the public, it might as well go.

My inner pragmatist disgusts my natural conservationist and historian, incidentally.

3. Our Lady of Consolation RC Church, 

Inglefield St, Govanhill

RIP Ugly Church.

You were demolished in 2015 and the land has been sold. You lasted longer than many of the genuinely beautiful religious places torn down in the redevelopment of Govanhill and the Gorbals in the 1960s and 1970s.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

4. Egyptian Halls

Delaying tactics, delaying tactics, delaying tactics.

"By Alexander "Greek" Thomson, 1870.

The building Thomson considered his Masterpiece.

One of the top five cornerstones of Glasgow art.

How to say this and avoid being sued? Thomson's greatest work is one of the cornerstones of what makes Glasgow Glasgow. It is severely under threat, and necessary work remains dormant. Unless all the vested interests - and I don't care who feels the other is more to blame, knock off the egos and get round a table - get together soon, the building is doomed. And the day the Halls are demolished, is the day Glasgow loses a large chunk of its history and soul forever."

To whoever may be concerned: c'mon, folks. You can make far more money from a fully restored Egyptian halls than you can from it remaining in its perilous condition. Act now before it's too late, and receive the thanks of all knowing Glaswegians. 

5. The British Linen Bank, 162-170 Gorbals Street

(© Copyright Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

"Built in 1900 by James Salmon, this was the local branch of the British Linen Bank. Built as the Bank itself was on the way out, the building has become one of the great survivors of Laurieston. Standing across the road from the popular Citizens and Palace Theatres, on the edge of Gorbals Cross. Snug in between an auto shop and the Gorbals Public Baths. Portugal Street ran behind it, complete with St Johns Roman Catholic Church, in which the early records of my Great Grandfather Duncan were kept.

Then in came the great developers, and all of it was swept away. Even St Johns, which survived everything, went away in the deluge of bulldozers. And most of its records disappeared.

The high rise towers which replaced it, lasted twenty years.

And so of all the great hubble and tubble, only the Citizens Theatre, which enlargened to take advantage of the space from the demolished Palace and tenements, and the old Linen Bank building remained.

For years, the little building that could has cried out for restoration. For life to return to Laurieston. And now it finally has, it might be the thing that signs its death warrant. For the mothballed building no one has money to use is quite safe out of the way. But when you find yourself on the edge of a major revitalization project, still mothballed, then time may run short. Just ask the Broomloan Road School chimney, while you can.

There was talk of restoring it in 2008, when the high rises came down. John Gilbert Architects were interesting. Nothing happened, much like the touted restoration of the Greek Thomson Caledonian Road Church just round the corner.

Hopefully, in years to come, people can read this and laugh and go "Oh Michael, look how unnecessarily worried you were!" But the last great survivor of a city area and its people, which, frankly, were treated like absolute shit, has limited time left before its event horizon."

Well, we've a bit to go yet, but it might be time to warm up those "look how unnecessarily worried you were!" comments. Weeks after my original article went up, I found out that the Southside Housing Association were looking into the restoration of the Linen Bank for using as dwellings.

Feasibility studies and the like continued on, as did restoration work, and in October, a grant of £345k was handed out from Historic Environment Scotland towards the full restoration of the Linen Bank for use as retail and residential use, like it had been in its heyday! "A major restoration job" heralded the BBC in October, to the delight of many.

And special thanks ought go to Southside Housing. They bought the building in 1996, and sought funding to restore. Funding for a period long enough to actually restore never materialised, and so, when Southside put the building on the market for sale, it was with the specific note that the long term future of the building had to be secure. Mothballed until such time it could be saved, it now looks like the long game has saved one of the Gorbals few remaining links with its past. Such careful work is a rarity in the property game, and to be commended here.