A City Park

My time in the city of Glasgow remains active in my thoughts.   I was nicely situated in a guest house that was located across from the well tended 85 acre Kelvingrove Park.  In the morning breakfast room, I looked out at early morning tennis players.  The park kindly supplied rackets and balls to players.  Next to the tennis courts there was construction going on to complete a new set of lawn bowling greens.  The “Glasgow 2014” online site reads that:  “The Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre will serve as the site for Lawn Bowls. Over a period of two years from 2010 to 2011, the facility will be upgraded to international standard with four to five bowling greens and 2,500 seats planned for competition use in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.    Owned by the Glasgow City Council, this venue will be one of the highlights of the Games, being next to the magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and overlooked by the equally spectacular Victorian edifice of Glasgow University.”

At 85 acres, I could not have covered the whole park, but the park became my primary access route to the city and provided a cool-down location for my evening walk and park bench rests.  I was always surprised to see so many unleashed, but behaved, dogs.  I asked a woman about the leash law: leash law

I was also surprised to see so many organized exercise groups. 

One group was especially curious; they were running with huge logs while the leader shouted, “change,” which directed the runners to change log holders.   At a rest period I asked the leader about the sport:   park circuits

I miss access to such a fine old Victorian park.  It provided restful spots–

and unfamiliar bird songs.   bird in park

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Scotland Street School

After my long morning walk through the West End to see the city’s Victorian tenements and then on to be dazzled by Mackintosh’s Queen’s Church, I took a taxi to Scotland Street School.

Charles Rennie Macintosh was working at the architectural firm of Honeyman and Keppie when he designed the School: it  came to be his last major architectural project in Glasgow.

I entered the school to find a wide hall that “is articulated in such a way that it can be used as a theatre space” (Kliczkowski & Thorburn 65).  On either side I could see stairs leading to the second floor.  The stairwells  are situated in vertical towers that have massive walls of stained glass.          

In 1979, along with the decline of this section of Glasgow, the school closed and it is now a museum with a Mackintosh room that provided much of the information in this post.   Walking through the building one can hardly imagine the many artistic compromises Mackintosh endured; the school board had “a meagre budget,” and had to accommodate 1,250 students in only 21 classrooms.   And yet, mackintosh’s signature rose and geometric designs were in full view.

 

I was enamored with the school “cookery” classroom:

      

Some last looks at the school’s facade revealed details too good to leave unphotographed:

      

                                                                           Another rendition of Mackintosh’s signature rose, this time in the Scotland Street School gate.

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A Walk in Glasgow: Terraced Urban Architecture and Queen’s Church

It was another beautiful day in Victorian Glasgow, the last day before I had to leave Scotland for home.  I started the morning on a walking route offered by the Mackintosh Heritage Group.  The downloaded brochure offered a wealth of information about the architecture I was about to see.  I was curious about  “terraced houses” and was eager to see the tenements built in the 1890s that still feature their original stained glass windows: a hot item in that Glasgow era.  At the Kelvingrove Museum, I read that Glasgow, starting in 1850, was a key producer of stained glass.  The Museum had an artifact of a lovely piece taken from a tenement flat on Glasgow’s Florida Ave.   

Although the walking brochure offered good information, the route was not easy to follow, so I asked a city worker for directions to Byres Road:  to Byrnes Rd.

  

The tenements came into view and I snapped away at the stained glass windows, no one  seemed to notice me, but then one elderly woman knew just what I was doing, “lovely aren’t they,” she said.

     

A “terraced house” is another name for a row house, a cost-effective design originated for the UK working class. The “houses” look exactly alike, share side walls and are joined together in rows.  The effect was stunning in my camera’s eye.

   

The idea of assigning a class distinction to these houses is now peculiar.  The row of houses on Grosvenor Terrace ranged from sad disrepair to the crisply kept Hilton Hotel!  One of the houses had a marker that identified it as the former home of the wealthy shipping magnate, Sir Willaim Burrell, whose art collection I viewed at the Burrell Collection Museum.

    

I looked up the price for a Grosvenor Terrace house on a UK Zillow-type site:  this property averages 667 pounds, that’s over a million US dollars.  The flats are 2 bedroom, one bath.

That walking route ended up at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, huge and lovely; I took a quick look around, then headed down Great Western Road to Maryhill Road and on to Queens Church, the Mackintosh building that was closed due to the bank holiday the day before.  The door was again locked; I rang that blasted bell hard and a very nice distinguished man answered and welcomed me kindly. It’s not a church at present; the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society owns and maintains the building.  Take a look inside:

                  

The “distinguished man” (no trouble understanding his dialect) encouraged me to press on and see Scotland Street School, the last of Macintosh’s architecture projects in Glasgow. He hailed a taxi for me.   Next post: The Scotland Street School Experience.

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Edinburgh Visit

Let me tell you about my Edinburgh day.  I first had to walk to Glasgow’s city center (about a half hour’s walk) to catch the train that left Queen Street Station headed to Edinburgh, which is less than an hour’s ride away.  It was a “wee” bit drizzly during the walk and I was glad to have my rain jacket.  The train was crowded and I tried to select a good seat opting against a seat near a mother and boy who spoke in loud voices.  I found an empty seat way back in the train and was at ease–until a family with three unruly kids took over a section of seats across from me.  While the mother kept on the two boys, they kept on with their antics.  The father looked to the mother to do the disciplining work.   Where was my ipod when I needed it?  When I arrived in Edinburgh it was summer weather, and my jacket had to be tied at my waist and my wool top was way too hot.  I started to orient myself to this very different city.  Huge ancient buildings, winding street paths punctuated with large intersections of shopping, shopping, and more shopping.  I walked up to the main attraction, Edinburgh Castle, to find a line for tickets to be crazy long–not in that heat. The day was too nice to be inside anyway.  I walked down to  Grassmarket sqaure, looked around at all the cafe goers, then took pictures of the castle from a distance:

Then, wandering around, I found myself on Hanover Street where one of the restaurants recommended in the NYTimes “36 hours in Edinburgh” was located: Henderson’s Salad Table.  Ok, then, time for lunch– really good tomato lentil soup and crispy roll, then a tiny flavorful macaroon and green tea for dessert.  I bought a container of French yogurt “for the train” —  it was in a pretty little gray pottery pot and cost only 1.5 pounds.  The meal gave me energy to keep walking.  Edinburgh was packed with people; I stopped at one crowd on the street and saw that they were watching some street b-boys–I snapped a couple of pictures and dropped a pound in their hat.

I walked further on–up to Calton Hill to view the cityscape:

  

My impression of Edinburgh is a city full of beautiful flowers in the summer, and a host of visitors.   The day was pressing on and I opted out of going to the Botanical Gardens or the National Art Gallery.  I found my way back to the train station and was just in time for the 5:30 back to Glasgow.  Things were going well until the conductor announced “the next stop is Glasgow Queen Street Station, but we won’t be stopping at Queen Street Station because the tracks are flooded.”  Flooded? On such a beautiful day?  Well it wasn’t so beautiful in Glasgow while I was in sunny Edinburgh, it apparently poured like crazy.  The two cities are only 50 miles apart, but Glasgow is inland on the Clyde River, while Edinburgh to the east is on the Northern Sea shore.   The rest of the announcement was that we would now stop at Bishopbriggs station and that taxis would take all the passengers to the Queen St. Station– oh sure.  All the passengers huddled up on the street corners waiting for the promised taxis while empty taxis just whizzed by.  “Why don’t they send for a bus,” so many of us were chattering.  I was constantly curious that people did not ask me, “where are you from?”  I guess that’s an American thing to do.  I noticed a man in a Yankee’s cap and a nicely dressed woman; they turned toward me, and I asked if they were really from New York–they certainly were.  They did the New York thing, took out their cell phone and called a taxi on their own.  Away they went.  After a while, busses were called and we packed into them like sardines.  At Queen St. Station I was ready to walk again and headed to Kelvingrove “West End” and on to the solace of my room at the Alamo Guest House. 

 

 

 

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The immortals

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs are so modern that it’s easy to forget that he was active at the turn of the 20th century.  This 1893 group picture on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum depicts Mackintosh and his circle of friends–they came to be know as The immortals, and indeed, I believe their Glasgow Style will not soon die out, if Glasgow has anything to say about it.  The city literally blooms with the Glasgow Rose, which Mackintosh and his wife Margaret used in so much of their work.   A city needs its icons, they form identities, and draw interested folks to them.

One day I walked toward the city center to the Glasgow School of Architecture. I was scheduled for the 10:00 tour– the only way one can see the inside of this Mackintosh building. Macintosh was a 41 year old “unknown” in 1909 when his design for the Glasgow School of Architecture won the competition for a new building. At the time, Mackintosh was employed during the day as a drafter in an architectural firm and in the evenings he was at the School. The School was instrumental in moving him from “drafter” to artist. There is a famous picture of Mackintosh in artist shirt and bow that represents that change in direction for him. The Glasgow School of Architecture was also important as the place where Mackintosh met his future wife, Margaret Macdonald, an accomplished artist. 

 

The inside tour of the building was full of lovely surprises: twists and turns and tile mosaics in concrete curved stairwells, small geometric stained glass features in doors and entryways, a warm wood carved library with distinctive furniture and lights. There is wonderful use of natural light in the studios and study areas. One bright hallway-like studio was devoted to women students back in the day.  The “Glasgow Girls” as they have come to be known, had a warm, charming area to dream up their designs for jewelry, textiles, and paintings.  Ann Macbeth was a teacher of needlework at the Glasgow School of Art, publishing Educational Needlecraft in 1911, and Jessie M King was a student who created textile and jewelry art in the Art Nouveau style.

   

Pictures were not allowed inside the Glasgow School of Art so I was constantly sketching details in my little sketchbook, hurrying to catch up with the group.  Mackintosh’s winning design for the School had to be completed in stages due to funding. The building façade has classic art nouveau details; I spent a focused time attempting to capture those details in photos.

 

 

After the tour I walked a few blocks to the Willow Tea Room at 217 Sauchiehall St. The word Sauchiehall (sounds like sawhy-hawl); in Scottish Gaelic the word means willows and meadow; there is a decided willow theme throughout the tearoom. Mackintosh and Macdonald designed the building for Catherine. Cranston, a forward-looking tea house proprietor who in 1904 accepted Mackintosh and Macdonald’s fabulous design. Photos are allowed in this working tearoom; I dodged heads to capture these shots.

 

 

I enjoyed green tea and a treat called “Cloutie Dumpling with Custard Pudding,” which turned out to be a piece of gingerbread with currants smothered in a custard sauce—not too sweet.

After tea I set back to walking in the city seeking out more Mackintosh architecture—not too easy to find. The weather was very warm and Glasgow is hilly with some steep streets. I found the Daily Record Building on Renfield Lane, an alleyway, really off Renfield Street, and a tight alleyway at that. It’s a restaurant now, but its features are intact. It was difficult to get any perspective on the building’s facade in its location, but here are some details.

 

 

 

More city walking and I found Mackintosh’s Glasgow Herald Building tucked away on Mitchell Street. It was Mackintosh’s first public building project, built between 1893 and 1895; it’s now the Scottish Architecture Centre and called “The Lighthouse.” It has an impressive spiral staircase and a good exhibit on the Glasgow Style. An outdoor balcony gave me a chance to cool off and view Glasgow’s cityscape. 

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Arrival

I arrived in Glasgow to brilliant weather, quite a surprise. The air travel was challenging, as air travel goes–nine hours from Seattle to Amsterdam and then a mad dash to another gate to catch my connecting flight to Glasgow. The taxi driver from the Glasgow airport to my guesthouse provided a true grit Scottish accent, but I was certainly not prepared to record his voice, given that I had lost a night of sleep. I had to listen hard. My guesthouse is a pleasant 1880 Victorian building that is part of a series of middle class “tenements” in the West End of the city. Here tenement means residences for skilled workers, some buildings have original stained glasswork accents. The ceiling in my room is quite ornate, in clear contrast to the simplicity of art nouveau design.

I collapsed on my guesthouse bed and fell immediately asleep for a few hours, but then in an attempt to get in sync with Glasgow time, I ventured out to the Kelvingrove Museum to see the first of my planned series of Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibits. Mackintosh was an architect, yes, but he was also a furniture and interior design artist. The sumptuous flowers and curves of art nouveau were present in the cabinets and chairs in the museum exhibit. The primary motif in his work is the stylized curving rose, which keeps to the dictum of botanical influences present in art nouveau. Mackintosh used contrasting lines and rectangles to create his signature forms. The rose is so prominent that the term Glasgow Rose appeared in the museum exhibit notes. It was a great surprise to see the work of women in the exhibit, which was called Glasgow Style, Mackintosh being only one of the contributors. His wife (they were students together at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art) designed fantastic works in gesso and fabric. I jotted down the names of other women in the exhibit for further study. Of the many cities that I have visited to document Art Nouveau (the art movement that followed Arts &Crafts) Glasgow is the first city that has provided names of its women artists.

Next Day: Took a train to Helensburgh to see Hill House. The Hill part should have tipped me off; there was a steep half hour walk to the House and the weather remained sunny and quite warm. But, as the tourist info booth man said, “it’s worth the walk.” Mackintosh and Margaret created a highly planned mansion for the publisher, Blackie, and his family. Rooms were arranged so that light hit walls at perfect angles and the windows in the children’s room would get wafts of rose fragrance from the gardens. Many of walls were stenciled with the Mackintosh’s signature rose design. Furniture looked sculpted, fireplaces had mosaics, and the stained glass was elegant. The building is owned and maintained by the Scottish Land Trust. The docents are all volunteers.

It’s good to have my Glasgow Almanac A-Z with me, it offers biographies of all the Glasgow Style artists who, with Mackintosh, make up Glasgow’s art nouveau movement. Mackintosh was not appreciated while alive, I learned, dying in obscurity. Isn’t that frequently the story with the greats? We make them greats when developmentally we catch up with the aesthetic that the artist visioned long before we could.

Over and out.

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Buddha Da

My present reading of Buddha Da, (Donovan 2002) is helping to preserve the voices of Glaswegians in my ear. Glaswegian is also the name for the local dialect. Donovan’s story about a working class family in Glasgow is arranged in chapters named for members of the family; each talk about the effects of the father “Da” taking up a Buddhist meditation practice. The dialogue is all in Glaswegian, which takes a bit of energy to register. Here, for example, is Da talking about how he was introduced to the practice, “Well, ah wis gettin a coupla rolls for ma lunch when ah met wanny they Buddhist guys. We got talkin and ah went alang wi him tae see the centre. It wis rainin, ah’d nothin better tae dae and ah thought it’d be a laugh, you know, folk in funny claes, chantin and that (2).”

And here’s a Buddha I saw at the Burrell Gallery:

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obscurity

Each day I marvel at the distinctive Art Nouveau style that Charles Rennie Macintosh and Margaret MacDonald developed in the first decade of the 20th Century; so it came as a surprise to read detiails about Mackintosh’s life in The Glasgow Almanac (Terry). He developed his style as a young man and completed some major works before the age of forty, but that’s no surprise because is was the norm for Art Nouveau architects and artists to be young. The surprise is that Mackintiosh had few clients in Glasgow and left for France with Margaret (her idea) in 1923. He became a water color artist later in life, but as the book claims, “died in relative obscurity in 1928.”

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Glasgow Art, Food, University and Voices

Another gorgeous weather day in Glasgow, but my feet are aching.  I walked to the Mackintosh building, Queens Cross Church ( his only church design ), to find it closed.  Other people came too, and one assertive woman made some calls and reported that today is a bank holiday.  I took many pictures of the outside of the building, and in the past, I have been satisfied with that, but since I’ve seen his interior work, I want to see the inside too.  I’ll go back tomorrow.  On the way back towards ”my” West End, I stopped at a nice looking cafe and had to try the coconut and jam torte, which was delicious with green tea.  Then more walking, walking through Kelvingrove Park to the University of Glasgow.  It’s an old one: 1450. There too, the gallery was closed because of the holiday.  I decided to try out the voice recorder and found out it’s easier to surreptitiously record people than I thought.  Maybe they think it’s some strange cell phone.  I have a lovely contrasting duo of directions said by a student-type with a briefcase and a construction worker at the University.  Listen here:  University Man Construction Worker

I was getting tired, but pushed myself to go to the Kelvingrove  Art Museum–through the park again and towards the guesthouse.  The museum was OPEN. Even though it’s a no photo museum, many people were snapping, so I spent some energy quickly taking the camera in and out of the case and taking forbidden pictures.  Again, so tired, I sat on a bench and gained some energy to look a bit further into the Museum, amd I’m so glad I did.  I heard about Scottish art, but thought it would be stuffy– not so.  There was a group called the Glasgow Boys who painted and consulted with each other from 1880 to 1895.  Their aim was to  transform Scottish art from it’s sentimental style to a new way with color, texture, light and patterns by using sweeping instead of precise brushstrokes.  George Henry did some beautiful paintings of Japanese women in 1894, and there was a stunning large scale portrait of Pavlova done in 1910 by John Lavery.  Oh, there were so many wonderful paintings by Scots.   I also saw some Glasgow city photographs that reminded me of Helen Leavitt’s work in New York.  The photos were taken in the 1950s by the Partick Camera Club; they called that collection, Glasgow and it’s People.  Strangely, I missed the full exhibit by a week, when I was at the Burrell Museum the other day.  You have to live in a city to catch all that it offers.  There was statement near the photos in the collection that I did see today that referred to the fact that cities and photography go together beautifully.   Then I was REALLY tired and walked to Mother India for a meal–the best Indian food I have ever eaten, and in a nice upscale restaurant decor complete with Bollywood posters, and moderately priced to boot.  Mmmmmm, the thick mango lassi was a real treat.

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A Piper

Geez, how much walking can a person endure?  Maybe (or is it mebee?) my faithful shoes are giving out.  

I thought I might take an umbrella today, I’m glad that I changed my mind and wore my rain jacket.   I started out late and headed out to find the bus stop to go to the House for an Art Lover.  I finally found it and some small print read something about not on Saturday and Sunday ( which at the end of the day, I found out I read in error.). I hailed a taxi and why didn’t I have my voice record with me?  I could hardly understand him at all, but he understood where I wanted to go.  The House for an Art Lover is a mansion sized house that Mackintosh and his wife designed for a German competition in 1901.  The competition challenge was to design a “thoroughly modern house for an art lover.”.  They didn’t win, but neither did anyone else, instead all the best designs received a prize of money.  The project was never realized but the plans were archived.  In 1989 Graham Roxburgh got the Idea to construct the house in a park setting: Bellahouston Park.  After the project got underway, the City of Glasgow joined in and the house was finished in 1996.  Artists, architects, and museum archivists from The University of Glasgow, The Kelvingrove Museum and the Glasgow School of art were employed to build, sew, paint, glaze and otherwise compete the exterior and interior following plans and samples of Mackintosh and Macdonald’s work.  The house is stunningly beautiful.  Minimalistic, natural tones and materials and their signature stylized rose everywhere.  Unlike the other venues that I’ve now visited, I was able to take pictures, and I snapped away at every detail.  The house can be rented for ceremonies and today after closing hours there was a wedding gearing up.  The dining room was already set, each table’s identifier was the name of a Beatles’ album.  A formally dressed piper was piping to greet the guests.  Aye, very Scottish.  

When I left to walk to another park to indulge a non-Macintosh exhibit–the Burrell Collection, it started to drizzle a fine mist, then moments later a downpour.  I ran under a tree to wait it out and talked to a couple who had been to Portland.  They encouraged me to go on a day trio to Edinburgh, and so I will.  —  After viewing the small Burrell art collection in another mansion in another park, I had to walk quite a ways through the huge park to get to a street to hail a taxi.  I had doubts being all alone on the path that I would ever find it, but I did.  Now which way do I stand to get back to the guesthouse?  I asked a bus driver who was stopped and he said (listening hard I could understand) he’d take me to a bus stop where I could get s bus that would drop me close to where I could walk to the guesthouse.  So I switched buses and made it back.  

People are polite here, they say thank you to the bus driver.  I have been treated in a kindly manner.  

Over and out.    I need some soup now!

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