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Kirsty Wark's happy place

27 Feb 2009

The leaky roof may depress its janitors, but the Burrell Museum has been selected by presenter Kirsty Wark as her contribution to a RIBA book on buildings that make people happy. She argues itÕs great for a day trip (as opposed to a day drip). Just bring a bucket.

The leaky roof may depress its janitors, but the Burrell Museum has been selected by presenter Kirsty Wark as her contribution to a RIBA book on buildings that make people happy. She argues itÕs great for a day trip (as opposed to a day drip). Just bring a bucket.

There are so many buildings that make me happy it was a tall order to choose just oneÑand often I am captivated by a chimney, an elegant tall window, the shade of sandstone, or the finish of concrete.

I have settled on the Burrell Museum in Pollok Park for a whole host of reasons, not least the way it sits in the landscape. It is a building which hasnÕt got what my friend Flora calls Òa hit for itselfÓ. It is modest and elegant, and function and form are in perfect harmony, and it is an undeniably Scottish building, with its huge fa¬ćades of ashlared Locharbriggs red sandstone. It is full of light which floods through glass walls in the courtyard and allows a different view to the woods, just metres beyond, every day.

The Burrell Collection finally opened in 1983 following a competition 12 years earlier which was won by Barry Glasson, out of more than 200 entrants. He had to come up with a design for the museum which could show off an ever-changing selection of the 9,000 items left to the City of Glasgow in 1944 by Sir William Burrell, a wealthy ship owner and voracious collector (some might say plunderer!)Ñartefacts and sculptures from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, Chinese pottery, tapestries and carpets, three whole interiors from BurrellÕs home, Chinese and Islamic art and so it goes on. Barry Gasson said that it was to be  Òa collection in a park not a cityÉ these thoughts suggested that the building be placed alongside and close to treesÉ the primary route of the building. It was a walk in the woods and the woodland is linked to the tapestries at the centre of the building.Ó

As you approach the entrance to the museum you immediately know what joys lie ahead because you pass through the Hornby Portico, an eight metre high English Renaissance doorway which weighs 26 tons. Inside, the great Warwick vase greets you and there are treasures all around, ancient stone window frames set high in the walls, and beautiful stained glass panels set into the glass walls, throwing jewelled light onto an old oak bed with the Stuart coat of arms on the headboard. I love the fact that Glasgow people have real ownership of the Burrell, and particularly at the weekend you can see kids racing around in and out of the rooms, enthralled by artefacts such as the lion headed goddess which I heard one little boy describe as ÒDarth VaderÓ. In the summer families picnic in the parkland beside the fields of Highland cattle and drift in and out of the Collection where there is always something new to see... well something old really.

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