By Niall Murphy, GCHT Deputy Director
A SYMBOL OF URBAN NEGLECT
The former Leyland Motor Company building, on Salkeld Street in Tradeston, caught my eye decades ago. As I still sail past it on the train every day on my commute, I have watched over recent decades as a tidemark of graffiti barnacled around its flanks. Tucked alongside the West Coast Mainline and the main approach to Central Station, this ‘B’ listed building has become a symbol of urban detritus and neglect in Glasgow. As it is so prominent, its sad decline does not reflect well on Glasgow particularly when you think of its 1930s heyday when the Art Deco tower would have attracted a fashion conscious clientele to this top-of-the-line motor car garage.
The building, which opened in 1933, was probably designed, at the end of his career, by the great Glasgow commercial Architect, James Miller. There is something nautical about its lines, appropriate when you consider that Miller was one of the few Glasgow Architects who worked on the great Liners. Miller’s career spanned a half century with its associated waves of fashion all of which he successfully surfed. As such, he has a rich and varied oeuvre, and this is him going out on a high. Miller was a stylistic chameleon, producing a string of brilliant essays in a range of styles. However, he really admired and mastered American Classicism so inevitably he would be attracted to the siren song of its successor style: Art Deco.
A BEACON IN THE DARK
The building has long low horizontal ranges to Salkeld Street and Mauchline Street, the facades of which are subdivided by fluted faience pilasters separating bands of metal framed windows. The slow beat of these facades gathers pace into the bow wave of the curved corner tower the junction of which is announced by tall octagonal windows to each side. The soaring four storey tower originally had 3 tiers of curved windows. Fully illuminated, its modernity would have stood out like a beacon in the long dark streets of 1930s Glasgow.
ART DECO AT RISK
After it ceased to be used by the Leyland Motor Company, the building was taken over by the Strathclyde Police Mounted and Dog Branch as a stable block and kennel. Unfortunately, when work started on the completion of the M74 motorway, the police moved out. Though the garages to the rear are now occupied by mechanics and wedding businesses, sadly the offices along Mauchline Street and the tower itself remain unoccupied. Art Deco buildings in Glasgow are rare, and this one is unfortunately now on the Buildings at Risk register.
FUNDING BUILDINGS AT RISK
Glasgow City Heritage Trust’s Development Grants are for finding solutions to challenges affecting Glasgow’s historic or neighbourhoods. Applications can be made for projects that increase the resilience of Glasgow’s historic built environment, for example projects aimed at encouraging the re-use of Glasgow’s vacant historic buildings.