Glasgow begins year of architectural celebration

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The Independent Online
A YEAR-LONG, pounds 34m celebration of architecture through a collection of shows, tours, workshops and lectures begins in Glasgow this week with an opening exhibition on the role of design in the world of sport.

Scotland's second city is expecting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the shows celebrating Glasgow's rich architectural heritage.

More than 300 exhibitions will be staged throughout Glasgow's year as the UK City of Architecture and Design, promoting the achievements of local heroes such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh as well as taking a wider view of international achievements in building and design.

The organisers believe a mixture of the city's grand Victorian legacy and ambitious avant-garde efforts make Glasgow well qualified for the title - an accolade bestowed by the then Arts Council of Great Britain, whose judges included Sir Terence Conran.

The scheme is part of the Arts 2000 initiative, which aimed to associate every year in the 1990s with a British city and one of the arts. The 1996 year of Visual Arts in Tyneside, for example, provided the impetus for Antony Gormley's Angel of the North.

The organisers of Glasgow's celebration hope that this year will complete a transformation begun with its successful year as European City of Culture in 1990. They hope finally to lay to rest the reputation Glasgow had of being home to gang warfare and urban deprivation.

"People saw Glasgow in terms of derelict shipyards and Rab C Nesbitt," said Deyan Sudjic, director of Glasgow 1999, a charitable company set up to co-ordinate the year's events, "but it has a fantastic Victorian heart and classical buildings. We want to change the way people see design and the way they see Glasgow."

Among the highlights of the year will be an exhibition on "The architecture of democracy", held to coincide with the creation of Scotland's new assembly. The show will explore the design of parliamentary buildings, including that of Enric Miralles for the new assembly in Edinburgh.

The work of the artist, architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) will feature heavily throughout the year. Mackintosh is often described as "Glasgow's Gaudi" and his first significant public building has been restored as the flagship building of the 1999 celebrations. The Lighthouse, formerly a newspaper office, has stood empty for 15 years.

Other buildings testifying to the hold that Mackintosh has over the city include his masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art building, and the Mackintosh Mansion House for an Art Lover, which was completed in 1996 from plans the architect drew up almost 100 years ago, embracing most of the techniques and touches that were his hallmarks.

Organisers are also using the year to present the work of the city's other architects and designers. Those include Alexander "Greek" Thompson, who is being promoted as the city's "unknown genius". Thompson was renowned for using classical, as well as Egyptian and Hindu, designs and the classic villa of Holmwood House is viewed as the greatest of his legacies.

There will also be an international element to the festival, with exhibitions on the American expressionist architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the leading contemporary designer Philippe Starck, a Frenchman renowned for innovative designs of just about every household product.

"We're working with local Glasgow and Scottish designers but also embracing European and international architects," said Caroline Newson, a spokeswoman for Glasgow 1999.