Wednesday 22 October 2008

36 Jamaica Street

It’s curious how certain unremarkable images can haunt the imagination for decades becoming lodged in some remote cranial recess. An image of this building has fascinated me since I first came across it when studying A level History of Architecture many years ago. It seemed to represent a tangible link between Victorian technological ingenuity and the austere geometry of Modernism. The affinity with Paxton’s Crystal Palace led to the glazed facade that must have looked quite extraordinary when the building was completed in 1856. Prefabricated cast iron sections made it all possible and enabled the interior to be flooded with natural light. Even on a day of Glaswegian rain, the sight did not disappoint. The subtle sense of interval and proportion that guided the structural elements in the design combine with the wealth of ornamental surface detailing constrained within the structure to create a richly satisfying visual experience.

The design of the patented iron-work structure was the work of R McConnell. John Baird was responsible for the delicate ornamental scheme. For most of its existence it operated as a furniture warehouse, initially under the name of J Gardner, until 1985 when it was taken over by Martin & Frost of Edinburgh. After extensive refurbishment it opened as a J D Wetherspoon pub in August 2000. Another step in the evolution of the Wetherspoon chain as custodian of the nation’s architectural heritage.

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