PULLED DOWN OR BURNT DOWN – WHAT IS GLASGOW DOING TO ITSELF?
MARK SMITH SEARCHES FOR SOLUTIONS AT ONE OF THE FEW CONSTANTS IN AN EVER-CHANGING CITY
ROBERT Love is remembering the early days of making Taggart, and what Glasgow used to look like. The grey high-rises of the Gorbals, the red docks of Govan, the blonde townhouses of Pollokshields.
For Love, a TV producer just moved back to Scotland, it was a perfect backdrop for a new crime drama as well as a chance to show off Glasgow to the rest of the country. But even then, in the early 1980s, he remembers watching some of the old tenements being pulled down and thinking: what are we doing to the city? What are we losing? How much have we already lost?
More than 30 years later, if anything, Robert’s concerns about how Glasgow has changed run even deeper. Now in his eighties, the former producer of Taggart lives in one of the city’s most striking and recognisable buildings – Kelvin Court on Great Western Road, which this year is celebrating its 80th birthday. But for Robert, and many of the other residents, the elegant 1930s block of flats is one of the few unchangeables in a city that hasn’t stopped changing – often for the worse. On the day I visit Love, I get caught in the gridlock of traffic around the ruins of Glasgow School of Art. Pulled down or burnt down, what is Glasgow doing to itself?
I’ve come to Kelvin Court to explore that question further with some of the people who live here. As well as Love, there’s a man known for his work on some of Scotland’s most elegant buildings; an artist known for his brutalist style who worked on some of the high-rises that have since been torn down; and a journalist who watched it all happen.
All of them, in one way or another, are concerned about how Glasgow is changing, but they are also keen to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Kelvin Court. Amid all the change, amid all the buildings that have gone up and come down, could this architectural icon be a warning for the future?
I’m meeting Love at his big and bright first-floor flat that looks out onto Great Western Road. For 25 years, he lived in a four-bedroom flat in the West End but always had his eye on Kelvin Court.
Like a lot of his neighbours, he remembers passing the building and thinking “I’d like to live there”, partly because it is so distinctive and different from much of the rest of the architecture in Glasgow. Some people say Kelvin Court is reminiscent of Hercule Poirot’s apartment in the TV crime series and there’s a good reason for that: it was designed and built in the 1930s by the English architect JN Fatkin along the lines of similar blocks in London. It has all the elegant lines of the architecture that Poirot would have known and loved.
Love, who moved here three years ago, says he was always drawn to the art deco features and is aware of the building’s architectural importance. He also feels that he and his neighbours could play a small