Lighthouse vision Alan Dunlop on the legacy of 1999
17 Apr 2007
Lighthouse vision Alan Dunlop on the legacy of 1999 Looking back, the honour of being City of Architecture and Design has, like tell–tale scorching on a pair of heavy–set velvet curtains, left its indelible mark on Glasgow. The year–long festival certainly encouraged a new sense of fellowship among architects in the city and promoted community debate. Reticent by nature, The City of Architecture title gave ordinary Glaswegians the confidence to offer their informed opinion on modern architecture and supported their eagerness to debate new work. It is not unusual nowadays, for example, to have upwards of 800 people objecting to any new development in the west end. But fellowship and informed opinion aside, the physical legacy of Glasgow’s festival year remains the busy looking but often empty Lighthouse. The Vitra furniture showroom and cutting–edge exhibition space inserted into Mackintosh’s old Herald Building has now appointed a new executive director. After seven hard years jollying around the world and staying in top-class hotels while promoting the UK’S top architecture destination, the previous incumbent surprisingly jumped ship, leaving behind a vacuum bigger than that at the entrance foyer. Trouble was, a dynamic person was now needed to take his place. Someone able to lead a team of 80, lobby parliament, organise international exhibitions and, in a dramatic change of direction, come up with new ideas. It was a radical move by The Lighthouse to look for someone who understood design and architecture in Scotland, which no doubt limited the candidates Nick Barley from The List magazine got the job, but unfortunately didn’t get off to too good a start, telling 150 architects and their clients at a dinner to present the best building in Scotland, that he thought there could be three architects in that very room who could be considered world class. In fairness, Barley has spent most of his time helping Nick Serota to set up Tate Modern in London – so how much he knows about architecture in Scotland is anyone’s guess. He also loves Zaha Hadid (my goodness, don’t we all?) which is a necessary tick box requirement for all budding design directors. Barley continued his good form recently by posing in The Herald in biking leathers, astride a moto guzzi, trying to kick start interest in the ruin of St Peter’s Seminary while setting out his vision for the future of The Lighthouse – a vision which could have been set out five years ago by his predecessor, highlighting the same architects, but without the macho man imagery. Talking about macho men and leather, you don’t hear much about Homes for the Future these days in Glasgow, except when a taxi driver tells you it is now the city’s cultural quarter – in other words, its gay enclave. Bit of a turn around for 1999’s flagship project. To be fair, Homes for the Future did as was intended and changed the attitude of Glasgow’s architects towards the design of residential buildings in the city. The chance to learn by playing second fiddle to an international superstar means we no longer have second–rate house designs based on a tired reworking of the tenement. There are now cedar–clad, white–rendered, boxy, cantilevered penthouse apartments aplenty. Yes, 1999 left a true legacy and The Lighthouse a palpable effect on the psyche of the city. As I write I’m starting to think 1999 represented Glasgow’s modern architecture zenith. On second thoughts, that was when Gavin Stamp left for Cambridge three years ago.
Read previous: Len Grant’s Our House
Back to April 2007
Browse Features Archive
For more news from the industry visit our News section.
Features & Reports
For more information from the industry visit our Features & Reports section.