Glasgow Buildings: Then and Now

Glasgow skyline by day by  Johnny Durnan

Glasgow skyline by day by Johnny Durnan

Take a look around the city of Glasgow and you’ll see some stunning pieces of architecture, and although  there is little left of the pre-Victorian era left today, what remains are some of the most beautiful buildings in this, or any other city in the world.

Many of the buildings have been redesigned for other purposes, some still have many of their original features, and some sadly, have been left to decay. You may be new to Glasgow, in which case you should seek these buildings out, or you may pass these buildings every day and not realise their history; either way, they’re definitely worth seeking out.

Royal Exchange Square by Paul Robertson

Royal Exchange Square by Paul Robertson

Royal Exchange, Queen Street

Then – the Royal Exchange building was completed in 1829 and was built as an extension of the mansion of a tobacco merchant by architect David Hamilton. It was Hamilton who added the recognisable Corinthian columns are arched ceiling, and the building was used for merchants to trade in coal, sugar and iron. The building has also been used to house the city’s telephone exchange and in the 1950’s was used as the Stirling Library.

Now – the building is now the home of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art and has displayed works by diverse artists including Grayson Perry, David Hockney and Andy Warhol. The building still retains the columns and ceiling , but now also houses an education studio and learning library. Although the building itself is a city landmark, it is perhaps its neighbour who has become famous. The statue of the Duke of Wellington which has stood outside the gallery since 1844 is famed for usually having a traffic cone on his head! I can honestly say that, in all the years I’ve lived in Glasgow, I still haven’t seen anyone putting one there……

Glasgow Herald Building

Then – designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and finished in 1895, this red sandstone building at the corner of Mitchell Street and Mitchell Lane used to contain the offices of the Glasgow Herald newspaper. The street level parts of the building were used to house the printing and production of the newspapers, which would then be put onto waiting carts.

Now – after the Herald offices moved to another Glasgow location, the building was remodelled in 1999 to be the home of the Lighthouse, Glasgow’s centre for architecture and design. Today the Lighthouse hosts a number of events and exhibitions, focusing on all aspects of design, a fitting use for a building designed by one of Scotland’s most famous sons.

St Jude’s Church

Then – St Jude’s Episcopal Church was designed in the Greek Revival Style by architect John Stephen and was built around 1839; it later became a Presbyterian church and was eventually converted into offices in the late 1970’s.

Now – the building was threatened with demolition in the early 1990’s until it was bought by the Malmaison hotel group and reopened as the Malmaison Glasgow in 1994. Today the building retains its Greek style exterior, but the interior has been stunningly transformed into a luxurious boutique property, which is one of the most stylish hotels in Glasgow city centre.

Caledonia Road Church by Thomas Nugent

Caledonia Road Church by Thomas Nugent

Caledonia Road Church

Then – Designed by leading Scottish architect, Alexander “Greek” Thomson and completed in 1857, the Caledonia Road Free Church in the Gorbals area of Glasgow is one of the best examples of Thomson’s work, and the first church he built in the city. The church was built with a mixture of influences and styles, including Greek and Italian, and Thomson also designed a row of tenements which stood at the rear of the church.

Now – Sadly, the decline of the Gorbals area meant that the church ended up with a declining congregation and by 1962 was virtually unused. It was purchased by Glasgow Corporation in 1963, and it was estimated that it would cost around £90,000 to restore it for another purpose, but was gutted by fire in 1965 in an arson attack. The Thomson designed tenements situated behind the church were demolished in  the 1970’s, leaving the ruins of the church standing alone. To this day, the site has never been redeveloped, but remains a testament to Thomson’s talents.

So there you have a little run down of some of the finest buildings in Glasgow, we hope this will inspire you to go and have a look at them, find out some more information about them and then discover some of our other hidden, and not so hidden, gems.

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