Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast


Old and new – the original Mackintosh building at Glasgow School of Art standing just across the road from the new Art School building on the morning after its official opening earlier this year, and just over a month before the fire which devastated parts of the old building.

Glasgow School of Art

Library windows School of Art

I’m reposting a photo I included in a ‘Travelogue’ post a few weeks ago, after a trip to Glasgow.

Today I’ve been following the devastating news of the fire that seems to have destroyed much of this iconic building, important not just to Scotland and the UK, but also to the world of architecture and design.

The whole building was very much unspolit, with the original features that Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed and crafted. The library in particular, which seems to have been in the worst affected part of the building, was a treasure of design and held an irreplaceable archive of material.

Over the last few hours, as the extent of the devastation unfolded, I’ve been retracing the steps we took on our recent tour of the building, recalling the furniture, light fittings, room numbers, brass door plates and gazing from the windows that are now twisted and broken by the flames. So much of the interior was made of wood!

Part of the beauty of this building is that it is not simply a museum to the memory of Mackintosh, but still functions as a living, working school of art. To make matters worse many students were in the last hours of preparing their final exhibitions – so much hard work lost! So fortunate that everyone is safe!

Already organisations are starting to talk of restoration, but they will never restore the true beauty of Mackintosh’s original work. Such a loss to the beautiful city of Glasgow.

Travelogue 1 – Glasgow

Every so often I like to break away from the humdrum of everyday retirement and explore a bit more of the world beyond Norfolk. As much as I love Norfolk it can be rather insular…… but that’s a subject for another blog one day….

As I’m hoping to move house soon I’m not planning any long trips in the near future, but keeping my wanderlust content by exploring more of my own country. This time my destination was Glasgow. I’m a relative newcomer to the delights of Scotland, having married a Welshman our trips tended to gravitate in a westerly direction.

Glasgow has been a long time coming….. as lovers of all things by the designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh best friend and I have had this trip in our sights for about five years now. My impending departure brought some urgency to the plan and spurred us on to book a three day trip at the beginning of the Easter holidays – whilst I have escaped from the restrictions of the school timetable friend is still very much tied. Local schools breaking up a week earlier than other parts of the country seemed an ideal opportunity to avoid the main holiday rush too. So, a month ago we got together one Friday evening to plan our trip. The bottle of wine may not have been such a good idea – having dealt with the intricacies of the train journey we hadn’t even got as far as looking at hotels by the time her husband arrived to carry her home….. I left that for her to investigate the next morning!

The plan finally came together last Wednesday morning. We left Norwich to arrive in London in time for the 12.40pm from Euston to Glasgow Central. The original intention had been to travel up by Caledonian Sleeper but we didn’t fancy the idea of arriving in Glasgow at 7 am with a day of sightseeing ahead of us so we saved that pleasure for the return journey. Instead we boarded a routine Virgin west coast train – crowded, hot, noisy ….. cue another blog on the UK rail network?

So – after waiting so long to visit did Glasgow live up to expectations? It most certainly did – and more. I’m not sure what I expected really….. the stereotypical image of a tough Glaswegian perhaps? We’d both been warned that we were unlikely to understand anything that was said to us…. that certainly wasn’t true. In fact people everywhere were exceptionally friendly…… from the hotel staff to the lady who stopped us in the street to ask if we were lost, and continued to describe something of the locality for us.

Glasgow is a beautiful city – unexpectedly, incredibly beautiful. Being used to towns and cities with quaint medieval centres I found Glasgow robust, strident, from the dour St Mungo’s Cathedral, looking out onto the Necropolis, to the sparkling Clyde Auditorium. But it also struck me as a city that has struggled for its existence. The city bus tour, which we took on the second day, revealed stark contrasts between the affluent west side and the poorer east, with the newly regenerated riverside sandwiched between. It’s a hard-working city, built by great industrial entrepreneurs who were proud to mark their lasting influence with the grand memorials of the Necropolis, but it’s a city that knows how to play hard too…. we made sure we didn’t have to walk far from the restaurant to the station on a Friday night in Glasgow!

The highlight for us has to be Glasgow School of Art, but the influence of its designers is evident everywhere you look, in the stained glass windows lighting the houses of the west end and in the glass roof of Central Station. Afternoon tea at the Willow Tearooms was also top of our list. The tea itself wasn’t exceptional, although the renowned meringues were very good, but the recreated surroundings of Miss Cranston’s original surpassed any tearoom I’ve eaten in anywhere – and I’ve had a few afternoon teas in my time!

We needed at least a week to taste Glasgow fully but, unfortunately we only had two days. Tired, and completely Mackintoshed out, we boarded the Caledonian Sleeper for the overnight journey back to London.