Saturday, 14 July 2018
The Devil is in the Detail. Urban Artworks in a Different Dimension.
An impressive war memorial/monument I've always liked is this one in Paisley's town centre. I thought at first, many years ago, it might represent William Wallace who was reputedly born in the nearby village/ hamlet/ estate of Elderslie but before the popularity of films like Braveheart that would have been far too controversial and populist in the 1920s when it was erected on its high granite platform, elevated enough to deter most intruders from attempting to touch it.
William Wallace of course was a 'Scottish Freedom Fighter' to some but not all Scots and also a feared 'Terrorist' and 'Traitor' in most of England. Even in Scotland opinions were split. For major battles Lowland Scots didn't fight in kilts, or so I've read, anymore than modern Scots in cities today stride around wearing kilts in every day life (apart from weddings and football internationals that is, where you may see more) I'm sure many Lowland Scots hated WW and Robert The Bruce with a passion as starving out advancing armies by burning the land in front of them wherever it occurred, in England or Scotland, was a desperate but common practice then so many borderland Scots joined the English Army to protect their own interests and so forth. History is often a murky confused place to visit so it's often simplified in an attempt to clear things up. After all, you can't have a film where both armies dress the same... and it's often not so clear cut as simply Scots against English... more every variation under the sun in-between those two separate poles apart. Similar in many ways to the recent Brexit Referendum vote and the in-fighting going on in the present Conservative Party with traditional opposition, the Labour Party, nowhere to be seen. If you made a film of that with such a tangled web of confusion going on and a shifting kaleidoscope of different views and alliances, both political and at street level, opinions often changing month by month, well... you would need to tidy things up a bit to have any chance of understanding it over a two hour slice of entertainment.
You couldn't have a greater contrast in two grand buildings and each architects differing fortunes over time sitting side by side than this. Perfectly illustrated in this link. Worth a read.
I've walked and cycled around the Clyde Estuary for decades- Paisley, Dumbarton, Helensburgh, Rhu, Garelochhead etc and in this area most of the buildings that really captured my attention with the 'wow' factor had very different names attached, none ending in Mackintosh. Nothing against CRM except for the way vast sums of money get continually thrown at his modest output whereas other notable past architects have a less certain outcome if their buildings lie empty for any length of time. The front view of arts and crafts style Morar House is even more impressive but it had some stuff dumped in front of it on my last visit so no photograph. Hopefully, this empty property may be turned into luxury flats so it might be safe from demolition. It is an A listed building... which doesn't really mean much. Meanwhile a giant transparent cage is being proposed to go over Hill House next door to fix major structural defects to the exterior as money is never an issue there seemingly.
Any time on past cycle rides however when I've stopped suddenly - captured by a truly magnificent building appearing round a corner, or one viewed from a distance... CRM has had nothing to do with it...
William Leiper. Architect. A name that arguably should be just as well known to ordinary punters in the street in Scotland as CRM as he designed famous buildings as well.. and numerous grand mansions.
Incidentally, 29 girls killed in a weaving shed here when an early version of this vast outer wall collapsed on top of them. W.L. managed to skillfully sidestep responsibility for the accident on that occasion. A high stakes profession.Maybe WL should have had a middle initial for lasting gravitas?
Seemingly forever doomed to live in CRM's shadow a 1990s retrospective of his work summed him up as 'The Unknown Genius.' Only in the last 40 years is he gaining belated recognition, again through being a supposed influence on Frank Lloyd Wright. Fashionable thing Art and Architecture- who is currently 'in' or 'out' changes frequently. Sometimes, very little to do with... 'is it any good?'
CRM, for all his current fame, has never been an 'OMG! Would you look at that!' architect for me from the outside, looking at his buildings for the first time. The interiors I do like but they were a joint venture with his wife usually who is also normally underrated as an artist of equal merit. From the outside I've never thought of CRM's buildings as being particularly beautiful or elegant- especially the concrete ones.
And a quick look at modern skyscrapers around the world as of 2017. Most of these will be unfamiliar as well. But fascinating. Some have already been overtaken. With modern methods, materials and computer technology London's 95 floor, 300metre, 1000 foot high, Shard will soon be eclipsed as latest projects developing around the world top 1000 metres, 3300 feet, for the first time- an almost unbelievable distance into the air. Skyscraper gardens and high level parks linking multiple towers together are also on the drawing board so it's exciting times we live in. Greater London alone has proposals for another 200 plus skyscrapers yet Glasgow already tried that for family living with the highest residential flats in Europe in the 1960s at 31 floors high and they are all gone now so maybe the new social divide will be upwards, leaving the crime ridden city streets to the ordinary masses with children stuck below. Time will tell.