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United Kingdom Pavilion, 1938 Empire Exhibition

Another black and white postcard of the Empire Exhibition, Scotland, 1938, held in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow. This time, the entrance to the UK Pavilion.

Lovely Deco features; rounded columns with banding at the flagpole supports, vertical dividers, sculptured figures – which, like the lions flanking the steps, were gold painted.

United Kingdom Pavilion Empire Exhibition 1938

The Empire Exhibition, Glasgow, 1938

The zenith of Art Deco (or of Moderne if you must) in Scotland came in 1938 with the Empire Exhibition, Scotland, held in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, and which opened 75 years ago today on 3/5/1938.

Tait's Tower

Its signature building was the Tower of Empire (seen in the above photograph taken from the link) designed by Thomas Tait whose houses at Silver End I featured eighteen months ago. The tower was erected on the hill in Bellahouston Park and dominated the Exhibition.

Tait was in overall charge of the architecture for the Exhibition – some of whose buildings made extensive use of the new construction material, asbestos cement! – and designed many of the buildings himself.

My favourite is the Atlantic Restaurant, a ship-shaped building cresting the wave of the hill on which it was set, two postcards of which I reproduce below.

Atlantic Restaurant

Atlantic Restaurant in Colour

Sadly almost none of the buildings remain. (It was a condition of such events that their locations were restored to their original condition soon afterwards. Moreover shortly afterwards the country was involved in the Second World War and conserving architecture became a minor consideration. The Exhibition itself came to an end in the midst of the Munich Crisis.)

Only the Palace of Arts is still standing in Bellahouston Park itself. It was transformed into a sports pavilion. The Palace of Engineering was taken down and re-erected at Prestwick Airport and can still be found there. The South Africa building was in Dutch Barn style rather than deco or moderne and later became a staff canteen at ICI Ardeer. All the rest were demolished.

Think of what a tourist attraction Tait’s Tower, as it was known, could have been! Glasgow’s answer to Eiffel.

As it is, the main tourist draw in the Park today is the House for an Art Lover built to designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh whose buildings are a sort of bridge between the freer, flowing style of Art Nouveau and the more rigid Art Deco.

You may have noticed that I have added a new category to my list especially for this Exhibition. There is so much more I could, and will, post.

It Was 50 Years Ago Today

…… that the last Glasgow Tram ran along the rails.

The trams were much loved in Glasgow. Thousands turned out to watch their final passing.

There’s film of Glasgow’s trams at the Scottish Screen Archive and The Last Tram appears on You Tube.

Nardini’s, Byres Road, Glasgow

I hadn’t been to Glasgow for a while before last Sunday.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon this in Byres Road:-

Nardini's, Byres Road, Glasgow

This wasn’t a Nardini’s the previous time I was in Byres Road but I can’t remember what shop occupied this building up to then.

They have tried to make it look Deco, certainly. The lettering is Deco; and the top glazing. The interior lighting is like the ones in the re-opened Nardini’s in Largs.

Since it is new I can’t really include it in my Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage series. I wonder if anyone in the future will think it’s 1930s.

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 3: Mecca (later Vogue) Cinema, Balmore Road, Possil

Mecca Cinema,  Balmore Road, Possil

This was on a wet day last summer. I’ve only just got round to tidying it up for showing.

The cinema was once a Mecca then a Vogue but was more lately the location for Allied Vehicles. It looks shut now though.

Its history is on the Scottish cinemas website.

Just In Time

It looks like I may have photographed the Botanic Gardens Garage in Glasgow’s Vinicombe Street at the right time.

Someone got to this blog by searching for “scotlands art deco heritage” (sic) and following it back to the Google search page I found the link to the Herald article from February about the demolition plans for the garage.

I’d be sorry to see it go.

Okay they say they’re going to keep the facade but that doesn’t mean they necessarily will.

Though I suppose hosung is never a bad use for a building the area has a multitude of restaurants already; it surely doesn’t need two more.

Cameronians Memorial, Glasgow

In the gardens surrounding the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, inside a hedged enclosure just behind where I took the picture in the post linked to above there is a memorial to the Cameronians Regiment, also known as the Scottish Rifles, which has a long association with Glasgow.

The statuary is not, like some, a mawkish example of the form, representing as it does members of the regiment in action during the Great War. Indeed it is unusual in that it seems to depict one of the fallen – which such memorials tend to shy away from.


Front view


Side view


Wording on plinth

Kelvingrove Art Gallery And Museum, Glasgow

Over a week ago we visited Glasgow and of course I took some pictures.

This extravagant confection of a building is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

It was constructed in order to house Glasgow’s collection of Art works and was partly funded by using the surplus resulting from the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888.

Another such Exhibition was held in 1901 to celebrate the opening of the Art Gallery which has been a favourite haunt of the Glasgow public ever since. It was much missed when closed for refurbishment for a few years recently.

I’d never really noticed the details above the windows before.

Each of the gallery type windows has the arms of a Scottish county above it. Further along past the (back) entrance is the one for Dumbartonshire. Note the elephant and castle.

A persistent urban myth is that the Art Gallery’s plans were misread and that it was built the wrong way round (the main entrance faces the Kelvin river and not the west end of Argyle Street) and the architect is supposed to have committed suicide as a result. All complete nonsense.

At the time the road (not Dumbarton Road as the link above has it; that starts just beyond the Kelvin, to the right of the Kelvin Hall in my picture below) would not have been considered so important and the view to the Kelvin out over Kelvingrove Park would have taken precedence.

The later (1927) Kelvin Hall, now mainly a sports venue, is just over the road from the Art Gallery.

There are some stylistic similarities between the two buildings.

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 2: The West End

None of these are signature buildings but they are pleasant to come across.

I found this one on Great Western Road. There seems to be a garden on its roof. Probably accidentally.

When it was The Botanic Gardens Garage – you can just about make out the wordage above the doorway on the left by the Arnold Clark sign – I once hired a car from this one (in nineteen hundred and long time ago.) It’s just off Byres Road, on Vinicombe Street, opposite the Salon Cinema as was.

These two are cheek by jowl on Byres Road itself, down past University Avenue. It’s mainly the lettering that’s deco. The chippie is excellent. I can’t remember ever going into the cafe. I suspect they have the same proprietor, though. They are well placed for trade from students. As is most of Byres Road to be fair.

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 1. The University Chemistry Building

This was where I spent the better waking part of seven years of my life; four as an undergraduate (though there were only one lab per week and one lecture per day in 1st year; with an extra lecture and lab per week in 2nd) and three as a research student doing my Ph. D..

The building is in three main parts, oriented like three wheel spokes radiating out from a central hub. This is to reflect the fact that there were three main branches of Chemistry when it was built, Organic (chemistry of carbon compounds,) Inorganic (all other compounds,) and Physical (things to do with properties like melting point, boiling point, dipole moments, dielectric constants etc.)

There are two main entrances, situated between the central and the flanking blocks. This is one of them.

Here’s a close up on the above doorway so that you can see that officially it’s called The Institute Of Chemistry.

This is a (now disused I think) doorway on the end of a block.

This is part of one of the blocks.

Here’s a view from the rear of the building. As I recall the wooden bit at the top is a later addition.

Slightly to the left of this you can see up to the research labs.

Note the gas cylinders kept outside for safety reasons.

There’s a lovely curved end to the building’s frontage on University Avenue. This section is given over to medical research.

The railings separating this side of the building from University Avenue are nice too.

Editorial note:-
I have already featured the Glasgow buildings the Luma Factory, the Beresford Hotel, the Kelvin Court Flats and the Ascot Cinema under the title Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage since they are such iconic structures.

Edited to add an explanation of the designation, The University Chemistry Building:-
The venerable degree conferring institution which I attended titles itself The University, Glasgow. (When it was founded there was no other in the city, nor would there be for hundreds of years.)

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