Sometime last week on a day I foggily remember, the dulling December skyline of Glasgow’s city centre lit up. As I looked on, safely perched three storeys up in a history soaked tenement, I realised with dismay that yet again another one of Glasgow’s most original buildings was burning itself out.
A week later, with black scabs licking up its grey sides, the structure is still recognizable as being the old, well renowned Co-Op Funeral Services building. It is quite possibly otherwise known as “that building you pass when yer aff to Harry Ramsdens or The Quay”, since these recent erections are now more commonly in use and are often occupied with happy customers.
Not that anyone in their right mind would use a funeral service gleefully. But the sorry point of the matter is that The Co-Op building, standing for as long as I can remember, has been sorely neglected for a long time. The derelict structure has always fascinated me a little bit. With its eerily serene whitewashed facade and a clock on top that’s probably been dead since Thatcher flew into the House of Lords, the place has a strange presence. Built in the 1870s, it has survived heavy usage as a warehouse, two world wars, and hosted many funerals right until the motorway snaked itself around its frame.
Now, after it has been gutted out by a very angry fire, its fate hangs in the balance. Amongst the scattering of media coverage, it has now come to pass that the building will be demolished. And this one goes out to all the pun lovers – the company carrying out the operation are called Burnfield. How swell.
Sadly, this building’s days are numbered. Its dignity and old world grandeur have been stripped from the inside out, and all that remains is a carbon shell that will be hitting ground level in the near future. I walked past it the other day and its sooty windows looked straight into my heart – I’m pretty sure it would’ve cried if all the water hadn’t been spent putting the fire out. I had to just walk on, because a dying building breaks my heart more than watching Titanic on a plasma screen ever could.
There’ll be a grace period for berveavement, I’m sure, but on to progress! In its place I can only imagine a pants-itchy property developer, standing there with his well-fed face turning into the most inane of the MSN emoticons – the :D face – ready to get his gums and palms and legs over this acre of land. He’ll have The Vision and Clear Foresight to turn it into a multi multi bajillion award winning LUXURY HOMES venture, with Exciting New Business Opportunities on the ground floor. Which will end up flooding really easily, or have walls made out of soft cheese and cardboard.
Et voila. Of course I’m not suspicious of any kind of ulterior motives, because neglected historical landmarks in this city rarely fall prey to mysterious fires. In all seriousness I don’t know enough about the owner to make such a claim, and wouldn’t, but if you look for threads on Skyscrapercity and Hidden Glasgow you might salvage some interesting tid bits of information. What I have learned since our dearly beloved recession is that B-listings don’t quite make the grade. Buildings like this beautiful example are too high maintenance, and so turn to dust. My love for this building has indeed become a funeral pyre. The land this building was laid on will, in contrast, become a goldmine from which scanned copies of Houses We Should Be Living In can emerge from the ashes.
The skyline of the city is changing, which is nothing new. What I would urge properly builders to consider is the longevity of development. When you consider how many high rises are being pulled after just 30 years of existence, you’ve got to admire buildings like the Co Op building which have tenaciously stood the test of time. Look on your works, Ye mighty, and Despair.
(And before you do that, check out this stunning picture by Stuart Crawford of the blaze: http://www.stuartcrawfordphoto.com/fire/e147a855c)