Scotland: Day 5
By Aaron Britt / Published by Dwell
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On my final day in Glasgow, and alas my final day in Scotland, I got straight up, tossed a handful of dirty clothes into my now very rumpled suitcase and was out the door like a shot. Not only was I moving hotels, but I had a rather busy morning in store including a long wander round the West End, a stop into a delightful shop, and a quick crisscross of the unimaginably charming University of Glasgow.
The man pissing on the tree in the Glasgow Toile cushion shows the wit on display at Timorous Beasties.

The man pissing on the tree in the Glasgow Toile cushion shows the wit on display at Timorous Beasties.

The only picture I could lawfully get of the Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Museum on the campus of the University of Glasgow.

The only picture I could lawfully get of the Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Museum on the campus of the University of Glasgow.

Rather hard not to be impressed with the University of Glasgow. Take that, Princeton!

Rather hard not to be impressed with the University of Glasgow. Take that, Princeton!

But first it was straight into a cab to head over to the Blythswood Square. I'd stopped in the night before with Jim Hamilton and Ross Hunter of Graven Images for a pint, and now I was set to move in, if only for a night. Graven Images did the interiors of the hotel, which just opened at the end of last year, and my favorite bits are the Harris tweed chairs in the dining room. There's quite a bit of Harris tweed in the hotel, and another dominant motif is Scottish auto racing and the building used to be home to the Royal Scottish Auto Club. Rare is the hotel that manages to marry the old and the new without feeling like pastiche. The Blythswood fills the bill while still offering a bit of hotel flash.

After a wander around and a quick breakfast I was off to the Glasgow showroom of Timorous Beasties. But before I could get there my cabbie let me know that it would be "an utter shame" to have missed the Mackintosh church just blocks from where I was heading. Protests be damned (I was on a tight schedule!) he dropped me off on a traffic island where he said I could get the best photos. And damn if he wasn't right. Queen's Cross Church was a stunning evocation of Mackintosh's ideas of Scotland heroic past rendered in red stone. My cabbie loves it because it looks like "a castle if you asked a child to make one." Hard to disagree, and though I lost a few minutes in my already rushed morning, I'm so glad we made the detour. On to Timorous Beasties!

Timorous Beasties has been turning out witty, wonderful wallpapers, chairs, upholstery, cushions and the like for ages now. I popped in to meet Angela and have a chat about what's new.

I rather liked the Glasgow Toile with its cheeky graphics. Another good bit is a fabric and wallpaper covered with moths. I took a handful of the little badges they'd had made up and immediately stuck one on my daypack.

After my pop into Timorous Beasties I was off again, this time on foot down the Great Western Road. I jogged left into the neighborhoods after about a half mile in search of Kelvingrove Park. I missed by a bit, but did wind up at the University of Glasgow. I decided that I'd pop into the Mackintosh House (a recreation of the house Charles Rennie and his wife, and fellow Glasgow School of Art bohemian, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh lived in just a road up), which is attached to the University's Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.

No photography inside, I fear, but as a chance to see the whole of a Mackintosh design from light fixtures to furniture it was first rate. And as a resource just sitting on campus (a totally amazing campus that felt just a wee bit like Hogwart's) little can match it.

I hoofed it across the school's grounds and down the hill onto Argyll Street just west of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. I continued my walk back toward downtown and made my final stop of the morning at Crabshakk, a rather delicious seafood joint owned, operated, and designed by architect John Macleod.

Though it's shut now, the collection of Glaswegian Transport on display until just last week was incredible. I felt as though I were in some PBS special on planes, trains, and automobiles.

Though it's shut now, the collection of Glaswegian Transport on display until just last week was incredible. I felt as though I were in some PBS special on planes, trains, and automobiles.

Macleod hails from the Hebrides (islands off the northwest coast of Scotland and home of Harris tweed) and told me about the lineage of boat builders in his family, his penchant for fresh seafood, and the about-face his architecture career has taken since opening the restaurant. He also recalled with some fondness a trip to San Francisco and noted that if he had to tip his hat to any restaurants as a guiding light for his own, it would be Swan's Oyster Depot here in the City by the Bay.

I noshed on a trio of crab cakes as Macleod described his design, which manages to squeeze 55 seats into 750 square feet of space while still having a bar, kitchen, and service area. All told it was a great spot, and one I'd return to in a heartbeat the next time I'm in town. As it happens Macleod is just months from opening a new joint down the block called Table 11. Keep your eyes peeled, Glaswegians.

A quick cab ride and I was back at the Blythswood where I met up with Gordon Moag of Glasgow Culture and Sport to have a look at the various incarnations of the Museum of Transport. The old building, just opposite the Kelvingrove Art Museum, has shut down and is awaiting a new space to be completed in the middle of 2011. The architect for the new Riverside Museum: good old Zaha Hadid.

After a quick wander through the old space in Kelvin Hall, we walked to the construction site of Hadid's new building. Dressed and shod in fluorescent gear and hard hats, we took a tour of the snaking building.

Granted, it's hard to say how the whole thing will come together, but Hadid's form, a wavy ripple that heads straight for the water, is a fitting evocation of the River Clyde, which is just yards behind it. I also rather liked the peaked, glass facade which faces back toward the city and seems to be some kind of abstracted skyline.

I'm sure the zinc panels on the exterior of the building will catch and refract what little sunlight Glasgow gets, and I'd be very curious indeed to see the finished project. As it happens, Glasgow has been reinvesting in the banks of the Clyde for the last dozen or so years now.

The concert hall by Sir Norman Foster which is now widely known as the Armadillo.

The concert hall by Sir Norman Foster which is now widely known as the Armadillo.

Here's a snap of the Tramway from the Hidden Gardens out back. Quite a lovely spot for a stroll.

Here's a snap of the Tramway from the Hidden Gardens out back. Quite a lovely spot for a stroll.

Other high profile buildings we walked past as we headed downstream include the Clyde Auditorium concert hall by Sir Norman Foster (archly dubbed The Armadillo), a new headquarters for the BBC Scotland by David Chipperfield (interior by Graven Images), the Glasgow Science Center by Building Design Partnership and a pair of bridges which the local wags have named the Squiggly Bridge and the Squinty Bridge respectively.

From there Gordon and I hopped a cab to head for the Tramway on the south side of the river. Now the Tramway is an arts space, and previously it was the original home of the Museum of Transport. I was most impressed with the Hidden Gardens out back, where Gordon and I discussed the finer points of UK sports and his (despite his best efforts) failure to truly feel a passion for baseball.

We parted ways on a sunny Friday afternoon and I headed back to the Blythswood for a drink, dinner, another stellar whisky--Bowmore 15!!!--and a plate of cheese. I reposed for a moment and then wandered off to the Center for Contemporary Arts for a concert. There I met up with Mary Knox of the Lighthouse and between her friends and me we managed to stay out too late, drink too much, wander over the the bustling Glasgow club Nice N Sleazy. I got to bed far too late and had an early flight to London the next morning. Ah the life of an honorary Scot!

 

I rather liked these Harris tweed-covered chairs by Graven Images at the Blythswood Hotel.

I rather liked these Harris tweed-covered chairs by Graven Images at the Blythswood Hotel.

Aaron Britt

@aaronbritt

Aaron writes the men's style column "The Pocket Square" for the San Francisco Chronicle and has written for the New York Times, the Times Magazine, Newsweek, National Geographic and others.

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