Glasgow’s architecture is quite distinctive, being a wonderful melding of buildings which can only be described as space-aged (Glasgow leads with world with its contemporary designs) sitting comfortably within the framework of Victorian and twentieth century Charles Rennie Mackintosh ‘Glasgow Style’. Oddly, there isn’t much of the original medieval Glasgow around, with the exception of St Mungo’s Cathedral (thirteenth century, also known as Glasgow Cathedral of St Kentigern’s and an example of Scottish Gothic architecture) and the Provands Lordship (a fifteenth century house now a museum at the top of Castle Street).
Most of Glasgow’s buildings are Victorian, early twentieth century, or very contemporary indeed.
The central hotel is a wonderful example of the Victorian style, being opened in 1884, its classic clock tower dominating the area around Central Station. And of course, the station itself, dating from 1879, is also a notable piece of Victorian architecture. Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson designed the St Vincent Street Church and Holmwood House. He died in 1875 putting him firmly in the Victorian era, and gained the ‘Greek’ nickname owing to his reminiscently classical Greek style. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Glasgow City Chambers are also fabulous examples of architecture from this period.
Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style
Charles Rennie Mackintosh lived from 1868-1928 and in this short time he really put his mark on the city of Glasgow. His Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau designs were lent to many buildings – the Willow Tearooms, Scotland Street School and the Glasgow School of Art, to name but a few. He even designed a church – the Queen’s Cross Church near Maryhill. The Free Church commissioned a church of simple and unpretentious design for this corner plot, and Mackintosh’s construction fit the bill admirably.
The old Glasgow Herald building on Mitchell Street is also a wonderful Mackintosh designed structure, completed in 1895, with spiral staircase in the Lighthouse, and many other indications of his unique style.
Dating from 1896, the St Enoch Railway station in St Enoch Square, designed by James Miller, combines Art Noveau and Scots Baronial styles quite wonderfully. Miller was a contemporary of Mackintosh though he isn’t as well known nowadays but his American-influenced style is best seen in the St Vincent Street Union Bank. A building which shouldn’t be missed if you’re interested in architecture of Mackintosh is the Glasgow School of Art. Or try the House for an Art Lover, South of the city, which recreates a Mackintosh design. Or further afield still, Hill House in Helensburgh was also designed by Mackintosh.
Spectacular modern developments
From Dalmarnock Station in the Commonwealth Games district of the city (modern, light, airy with an angled peak roof, part of the transformation of Glasgow East), to Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, the armadillo shaped Clyde auditorium, Glasgow’s Science Centre, buildings at the harbour and university and many more, Glasgow’s innovative modern architecture has rightly earned it a reputation and commendation for architecture and design.
Certain tour companies offer tours, taking in the famous architecture of Glasgow, and these are definitely worth trying if you’re even remotely interested in architecture. You’ll see a lot that you otherwise may have missed.
The complexity of Glasgow’s style is described perfectly on the Artchitectours website as "an architectural paradise. The red and yellow sandstone of the Victorians, the Italian-style towers and the medieval steeples live in harmony with the neo-gothic towers, the sensuality of modernism by Mackintosh and the titanium, glass and steel structures of the contemporary city".
Where to stay
We can’t promise you’ll be staying in a listed or architecturally spectacular building, but we can offer great facilities, good value and a wide choice of places to stay in and around Glasgow, so take a look at our lists below and book today!