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Viewpoint: Have your say on local things that matter to you  Picture: Glasgow West End Today
Viewpoint: Have your say on local things that matter to youGlasgow West End Today

Why building stories matter

Have your say on local things that matter to you

A new exhibition opening this week highlights Glasgow’s derelict buildings through the words of its people. Thierry Lye, chair of New Glasgow Society, explains why storytelling matters


The people of Glasgow are no strangers to derelict buildings.

We are 'accustomed‘ to living among them; broken windows with buddleia growing on facades, or covered openings with plywood panels and wire mesh, exposed to the weathering of Glasgow’s rain and shine. The pandemic has made the situation worse with the changing habits of how we live.

Derelict buildings can be found in the West End of Glasgow and also city-wide. Why are these buildings important to us, and why do we need to save them from falling apart?

In the West End, many heritage buildings have survived dereliction and demolition thanks to the strong awareness of residents and community groups who have rallied to protect them.

Luckily

Take the Category A-listed Botanic Gardens Garage at Vinicombe Street as a recent example. This fine building became derelict from 2006 to circa 2014, with a plan to demolish it for residential, retail and commercial use. Luckily the plan was scrapped and it is now retrofitted to house several restaurants and a gym.

The former Church Street School swimming pool and janitor's house, off Byres Road
The former Church Street School swimming pool and janitor's house, off Byres Road

But not all of our buildings have been so fortunate. The former Church Street School swimming pool and janitor's house, off Byres Road, doesn't share the same fate. The category C-listed building, located at the prime site between Church Street, Torness Street and Byres Road, has laid vacant for years.

According to the Building At Risk register, the building's condition is poor and the risk is high. The recommendation is for urgent remedial work to be carried out or the building structure will sharply deteriorate before it is too late.

This is one of the many examples of derelict buildings across Glasgow. While they are not as historically significant as, say, Kelvingrove Museum or the former Kelvinside Parish Church, now Òran Mór, these buildings hold fond memories to many Glaswegians who grew up around them, and utilised the buildings during their heyday.

 

In the West End, many heritage buildings have survived dereliction and demolition thanks to the strong awareness of residents and community groups who have rallied to protect them.

Thierry Lye

 

These day-to-day stories, largely unheard or seldom told now, bring richness and collectiveness to urban living. And it was for that reason that the Society wanted to encourage people to share their stories of our unloved and neglected buildings.

We believe that storytelling is crucial to the city. It offers a discourse about the past, present and the future of our buildings and the wider built environment that we live in.

The process allows people to gather thoughts about a specific building, to add intangible values with personal stories, and to raise interest among the community in saving the derelict building. It doesn't mean that the city should turn its back on new developments.

"We believe that storytelling is crucial to the city."
"We believe that storytelling is crucial to the city."

Instead, we envisage harmonious Glasgow streets where the city celebrates the juxtaposition of old and new architecture from different periods. It's all part of the DNA of our beloved city.

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