Derelict Glasgow, a photographic show currently on display at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s national centre for design and architecture in Glasgow, takes a critical look at urban blight. Architecture graduate Joe Shaldon, has loaded his show with scores old buildings, some vacant and some abandoned as they slowly evolve into urban ruins. “It’s not urban exploration. That’s not my angle,” he says of his work. “It’s a look at urban isolation.”
Artists have known about decay’s visceral appeal for decades. Ruins add colour, texture and randomness to the palette. The works of Sven Fennema come to mind. So do the photographs of Yves Marchand and Roman Meffre and their book The Ruins of Detroit.
Abandoned buildings are both creepy and poignant. Shaldon adds another element. Context. Every city has its urban blight but what makes Glasgow unique is its architectural and historical past. Shaldon’s ruined buildings are over a hundred years old. Some of them were once grand edifices in, what was called at the time, the Second City of the Empire. It was the late 1800’s and Glasgow was an economic powerhouse fuelled by textiles, steel and shipbuilding. The city was flush with pride and confidence. The rusting cranes along the River Clyde tell another story. A story of loss. The great liners were built here – the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth as well as half the Royal Navy – but those days are gone. Only the cranes remain to remind us of the once-bustling shipyards.
And here’s the paradox. Sure, ruins speak of death but perhaps in death they remind us of life as well. Imagine the grand parties that went on at the now derelict estates or the families that filed through the blue-fronted funeral parlour, united in their grief but unaware that the city would be mourning the passing of the parlour itself in the years to come. Ruins, with their emotional impact and symbolism, continue to fascinate.
All Images © Derelict Glasgow