Friday, 25 November 2016

Autumn in Bellahouston Park. Glasgow. A Gallery of Colours. Trends in Social Housing.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
As I have a backlog of photos all the way back into early summer I thought I'd stick another post up before they get lost or I forget which external drive they are stored on. It's another park-lands post as I have many parks I'm fond of visiting within Glasgow, a city renowned in the past for gangland culture, giant housing schemes, teeming hi rise slums and violence but also one covered in beautiful park-lands, many laid out in Victorian and Edwardian times. This is Bellahouston Park taken from the central hill in the middle looking out over Mosspark, one of Glasgow's early council schemes/ estates and still a desirable area to live in. Many of the houses here are now privately owned. In contrast many of the later tenement and hi rise estates built after that time in the 1950s-1960s and 1970s have been totally flattened and are no longer there. My questions are -Was it the people or the architecture to blame... or a combination of both? And which model of housing works out cheaper in the long run.

Knightswood, certain parts of Pollok, Riddrie, Carntyne, and several others built during the 1920s- 1930s are also still intact and in much the same condition as the day they were built, maintenance and visual aspect wise.  Modeled on the garden suburb formula they contain an attractive mix of different housing types,  semi detached, terraced, or 2 to 4 in a block cottage style with back and front gardens. if you look at the photo in the Mosspark link above you will see they actually improve with age as the trees mature and grow over the decades.
As this model was supposedly unsustainable, expensive, and used up large tracts of land for a limited number of residents later schemes/ estates built during the Second World War and after consisted of long rows of tenements, or hi rise living or a new trend -deck access estates. Due to huge numbers pouring into the cities during a time of social upheaval and unrest, resources were stretched, overcrowding and outbreaks of infection/disease required houses to be built on a much bigger scale and fast. The first garden suburb estates generally catered for the upwardly aspirational working classes on decent incomes, whereas the later estates were open to all. Much brighter folk than me are still debating why it all went so wrong in these later estates/ schemes but I know from experience it' s much easier to keep your own property in a decent condition if you have fixed boundaries built around it. (i.e. a garden with a fence or a hedge, even if small in size)  You also soon see where any anti social properties exist in estates like these rather than everyone, good or bad, getting tarred with the same brush in the open tenement or hi rise version. There is a reason for this train of thought at the end.
I had a feeling the best autumn colours might be around the 'House For an Art Lover', a fairly modern construct erected in the 1990s in the park, it was built using Charles Rennie Mackintosh's original never used competition designs from the early 1900s along with his wife, Margaret Macdonald, who contributed greatly to the look of the interiors. I much prefer this view of the back of the building rather than the front aspect. Much cleaner and warmer lines as for me personally many of his concrete creations in white seem austere and lack a certain warmth or a 'we are at home, honey' feeling. I'm more of an Alexander Thomson or the very underrated William Leiper type. Both these architects are well known in Scotland of course and I see examples of their work everywhere on bike rides but world wide they don't seem to enjoy the same acclaim as Mackintosh.
Front aspect of the same building. For me this doesn't have any 'Wow' factor and is bordering on ugly.
The gardens at the back though are beautiful and this is where I found the best colours. I think these are types of Maple trees.
Red Romance. Vivid red was one colour I had failed to capture this autumn in nature until I spotted this maple. Seems to be a hybrid variety though.
A fallen leaf from the same tree. Canadian and American maples seem to have five or seven points to each leaf though and a straight trunk with a broad crown. Japanese maples have seven usually as a general standard but this has six as you can see. Japanese maples also have twisting trunks usually and rarely gain much height straight upwards. Still guessing it's a maple but an unusual variety... unless someone knows better? I'm keen to find out.
Same trees from a distance.
The back garden. House for an Art Lover.
One captured at the height of summer. Pollok Park from the nearby Bellahouston Park. This is taken in the middle of Scotland's largest city yet it looks completely sylvan in aspect. Pollok Park is Glasgow's largest park and the only one, because of it's size and wooded nature, you can get genuinely disorientated/ lost in... if only temporarily, by following the network of tiny back trails through the dense forest. Even after 30-40 visits over the years if you disappear into the wooded heart on minor animal trails you are never quite certain where they will come out which is part of its charm as it doesn't have as much colour contrast in autumn or ornamental tree displays and flowerbed interest.
'Elephant in the Room'   Bellahouston Park.
Nice mix of ornamental trees picked and planted for an autumn display
Colour blend in Bellahouston.
Looking across at Moss Heights and South Cardonald District. Glasgow.
Animal Life in Bellahouston Park. October 2016.

Social Trends in Housing? I found this video a while ago on You Tube and found it fascinating. Although I can understand the architect's point of view to some degree I grew up very close to a similar deck access hi rise estate like the one featured and it went downhill very quickly without any sectarian elements involved whatsoever as did most of the others scattered throughout Britain. The ones that survive today have been extensively redesigned and mainly cater for young professional types or other folk without children. They are not suitable for families in any way and many had dampness, condensation, security and antisocial issues built in from the start. I personally believe, from first hand experience, that deck access estates were never the way forward for ordinary low income communities as they were scary places at night to walk through with a thousand hidden corners and a feeling of menace, isolation and unseen danger everywhere... even in daylight... and that was definitely as much the fault of the design as any input from locals. Most sensible people stayed in and bolted their doors at dusk unless they had a good reason to go out. Flat roofs are never a great idea in UK buildings with the levels of rainfall we get, especially in the north, and you would need a well paid job to afford the massive heating bills to keep these concrete rain soaked tombs warm in winter where the wind howls at speed through the elevated corridors rattling the letterboxes. A very interesting historical look back at the most infamous of the deck access projects in the UK and really worth seeing in full here. Everyone will have a different opinion of course.. they always do :o) Just maybe, if they had built the more expensive low level garden suburb type estates at the start, and kept going, even with cheaper materials, they would still be around today in reasonable shape and work out far cheaper in the long run when you factor in decades of unrest, ongoing repairs, security funding, stress,illness, drug, drink, depression, less job prospects, and other issues... not to mention the cost of demolition then re-building and re-housing most of the tenants still alive. These estates took a heavy toll on people... not just in Ireland but in communities throughout the world... and unbelievably they are still being built today. Estates like these, more than anything else at the time, helped to break up the old social communities and values politicians like to bang on about restoring.


Mike@Bit About Britain said...

I enjoyed that, Bob. Wonderful colours. My guide/style guru/carer, the long-suffering Mrs B, needs to take me out more the next time we're up. The front of the 'house for an art lover' looks, I have to say, hideous. I suspect the answer to your question is probably a bit of both. Some of the places you see around Britain actually make me feel quite angry - designed by people who would never live in them? But, equally, we are all responsible for our own actions - blaming society entirely is a bit passe.

Carol said...

The difference between the front and back of that Mackintosh house! The front is awful and the back was quite nice. The garden is lovely...

Linda said...

Such a lovely place, and you have captured the colours magnificently!

Linda W. said...

Nice collection of fall colors where you live.

Anabel Marsh said...

You've just reminded me I recently won an annual membership to House for an Art Lover so we really should get over there again! Gorgeous pictures. Re housing, I agree with you that planners really lost their way in the 60s and it's right that so much has been torn down and replaced on a more human scale. I'm thinking, for instance, of the modern Gorbals compared to Basil Spence's ludicrous ideas about the QE flats (ships in sail when the washing was on the balconies - it blew away - or growing peach trees out there. In Glasgow!) Community is important, including facilities such as shops, libraries, somewhere for young people to go, and a place to call your own with, as you say, clear boundaries. I still see places with flat roofs being built. Having worked for 20 years in one which regularly developed interesting water features I find this astonishing.

Rosemary said...

I first learnt about Alexander 'Greek" Thomson from an architect friend of ours who lived in Glasgow, and I then admired his grand pillared and porticoed buildings along the Great Western Road.
Apparently he never actually visited Greece, but very much admired their classical buildings - our friend won the Greek Thomson travel award one year that enabled him to live in Italy for several weeks studying the architecture.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mike,
I noticed in that video that the architect for the Divis Flats project blamed the tenants for not being 'sophisticated' enough to understand them and that they should have had the central heating on far more to help with the severe condensation problems. Does he think folk on the lower rungs who have barely enough money to feed themselves have pots of extra cash to splash on central heating 27/7 for months on end every winter when the fault plainly lies in flat roofs and miles of cold damp surrounding concrete. It's an out of touch attitude I've heard all my life from people at the top, including politicians, who are always ready to dish out advice but have no concept at all of what it's actually like to live on minimum wages and bring up a family. Instead of improving over that time period since the 1970s we are right back again in that land of the have and have nots in 2016.(And the same arrogant ****s always telling us what to do.) Right from the start most ordinary punters worked out that numerous dark stairwells and wide corridors running past every front door and across several different blocks was a recipe for disaster as soon as teenagers and trouble makers discovered them yet this didn't occur to the designers once. That makes me really angry :o)
Same as certain politicians saying nearly every town and village in the UK having food banks is 'just life in an open market' while rewarding the elite with yet more tax breaks. Most of them don't pay any ********* tax anyway :o) That's why they are where they are... or in the White House in one case.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Yes, it's quite a contrast. I prefer the Roman use of concrete.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda.
Thank you.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda W,
The UK, New England, and parts of Japan do seem to get the best plaudits for autumn colours but I'm sure there are other places as good. It's like everything else once you get a name for something... the hype takes over.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Been in the surroundings gardens loads of times but never been inside the house yet. I've seen a lot of Mackintosh stuff over the years so it's no longer new or thrilling to me anymore but I'll go in someday. Did a fair bit of cycling around Glasgow in the summer and the new Gorbals area really impressed me. A post on that sometime... if I can find it.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
Both Thomson and William Leiper designed houses, castles and villas around Helensburgh and the North Clyde Estuary and that's where I really got into their work when cycling and exploring that area. Double edged sword being an architect as everyone in the street has an opinion on your work from the start so you need to be a fairly bold character with a thick skin to last. It's a shame with Thomson that he wasn't better appreciated earlier as some of his best work is decaying or gone completely.

Ian Johnston said...

Great observations as ever Bob - and how good were the colours this autumn?! I'd no idea there was an elephant in Bellahouston Park either.....

Kind Regards