Ever noticed that when you’re going somewhere, coming back from some place or have watched people at train stations coming and going, how no one ever stops to look at their surroundings? I mean, why would you? You’ve got a place to be and you want to get there in the quickest time possible. But what if every day you were walking past one of your city’s little treasures? Treasures that very few people know about.
When I lived in Glasgow I used to be like that. Walking to the train station, getting on a train, getting off, and walking to work. And then doing to reverse when it came to home time. Then I started carrying a camera with me and all of a sudden I started to look at this commute in a different light… as an opportunity. But even then I never really stopped to look or think about my surroundings entirely. I was always linear in my thought process. What is ahead of me? What’s behind me?
Then one day I was waiting for someone for a social drink and while walking toward the meeting point I looked up. I still don’t know why but I did and that’s when I noticed something I’d never noticed before. There was a building that I’d walked past so many times on the same side of the street but now here I was standing on the opposite side looking at this building from a different angle and I was just amazed at how easy it had been to miss this architectural feature.
I’m talking about the Glasgow Lion Chambers building on Hope Street. The top half of this building could easily have been used in a teen horror flick. It’s almost like someone has taken a haunted house from a Hollywood film studio and dropped it on top of a building in Glasgow. There are gargoyles, spikes, arched windows, bay windows, external ironwork and a host of other architectural features that you just wouldn’t notice unless you looked up.
I decided to do some ‘Google’ research on the building to find out more about it as it looked unused and found a great article on the Independent website.
The top half of the building was made up of lawyers offices while the bottom half was used as artist space. It seems to have been a bit of an experimental building.
Lion Chambers was built by the Yorkshire Hennebique Contracting Co Ltd of Leeds, using the system pioneered by Franois Hennebique and promoted in Britain by his agent, LG Mouchel. The reason for experimenting with it was the small site, 33ft by 46ft; conventional masonry construction would have restricted the internal spaces. Hennebique’s system was also fireproof, and obviated the necessity of erecting scaffolding in busy Hope Street.
The building, in consequence, is entirely framed with 21 continuous columns, rising from 13sq ins in the basement to 8sq ins on the upper floors. The intervening non-loadbearing walls are only 4ins thick, permitting the maximum amount of well-lit internal floor space.
But Glasgow is full of features like this. You’d be forgiven for doing a double take when seeing unfinished motorway overpasses and pedestrian crossings that lead to nowhere. Even roads that end abruptly with a building that looks like it’s been dropped there such as The Atlantic Chambers in Glasgow.
My point is every city constantly evolves at eye level. Shop fronts come and go, doors and windows get replaced, things get painted and signs change. But above eye level it seems things rarely change and, for me, that’s where the gems are. But they are to be found everywhere if we just took a moment to stop in our tracks to take a look at our surroundings when going from A to B.
Would love to hear about some of your uncovered architectural gems.