The Mercat building is head and shoulders above every other build structure in Glasgow in my mind. The sleek grey lines complimented by deep green finishing and flashing on the windows. It whispers rather than screams Art Deco. It was designed by Andrew Graham Henderson. The building is a triumph a welcoming proud structure which leads to one of Europe’s most deprived, and impoverished areas. The juxtaposition is not lost on me. The Mercat is as magnificent as it is because of the unique sculptural partnerships which Henderson formed with:
They have given the Mercat some of the most handsome figures that I have seen on any built structure with perhaps the exception being the Hoover Damn. These are some of my favorite details in the handsome carvings:
It was designed by Andrew Graham Henderson who lived and worked in Glasgow having been born in 1882 and lived to the ripe old age of 81. He worked at the Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh (yes that C R Mackintosh) firm which he joined in 1904. They collaborated on a number of specific competitions and buildings including the Ingram Street Tea Rooms. For the most past his work was in the Beaux-Arts idiom and his work included commissions for the Royal Family’s Deeside residence. Having been seriously injured during the first world war he had to re teach himself to work and draw with his left hand upon return to Glasgow having lost the use of his right hand. For me this perseverance and dedication alone is amazing.
The Mercat building was, obviously, not part of the original Glasgow Cross. The grand plans to re-imagine the cross after the turn of the century were put on hold when war broke out but then in the 20s the crescent bank of Scotland Building and the Mercat building were introduced as part of a huge regeneration programme which picked up pace again when peace returned. It is difficult to imagine now but the regeneration involved the demolition of the tollbooth which had previously stood near this spot and the programme of works was never finished with the bank of Scotland building due to be echoed by another crescent. The steeple of the tollbooth still stands tall on a tiny traffic island in the middle of the road and it is illuminated with blue and white light every night. This short video shows some of my favorite architectural and sculptural details from the Mercat building.
The building now houses a furniture shop, supports a railway line and there is a small bar called Mackinnons which is tacked on at the back left side. It is hard to imagine that Henderson would have ever imagined this use for the building. It is well preserved but deeply under appreciated. It has recently been improved with the creation of a ‘temporary’ public park to the rear which was put in place as part of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games programme of works. I hope that this means that more people can enjoy and discover this handsome building and the beautiful sculptures that adorn it. You can find out more about the businesses that call this beautiful building their home below.