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.
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.
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.