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“Great stone thinking machines…”

By 16/04/2014December 11th, 2018No Comments


An incredible event last night, exploring the intersection of architecture and literature.

Former SWC Chair, Jacqueline Smith, hosted the evening expertly (while giving due credit to former Director, Ellen McAteer – this SWC/GSA collaboration being a long-standing project). Mark Baines explained its roots in a brief which he had devised previously for the fourth year architecture students at The Mackintosh School – and which finally blossomed into a fully fledged international symposium last year at The Fruitmarket (featuring such delights as Alasdair Gray, Alan Riach, and a ceilidh!). Slides were shown of some of the many excellent student designs from architecture schools across Europe, coinciding with the SWC’s objective to secure funding to construct its own dedicated building in Glasgow.

Douglas Thompson concisely explained the context in which he was asked by Gustavo Crespo Fernandez and Sinéad McGhee, of GSA fourth year, to commission four short stories that would speak eloquently of various districts in Glasgow (encompassing the designated sites for which the architecture students had to design their own Literary Institutes). Douglas began by reading his own piece – a mysteriously deranged meditation on his winter morning walk to work through the areas of Garnet Hill and Woodlands.

Magi Gibson then followed with her powerful evocation of the fearful effect that dehumanising architecture can have on people, in the story of a heartbroken mother searching hopelessly for traces of her disappeared daughter among the homeless sleeping under the motorway pilotis of Anderston. After a brief pause for free wine, GSA lecturer, writer, and Drouth Editor Johnny Rodger regaled us all with a fascinating exposition of the very 18th century Scottish practice of building elaborate stone monuments to our greatest writers. Johnny characterised these as “great stone thinking machines”: the Scott Monument (designed to evoke the ruins of Melrose Abbey, as featured in Sir Walter Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel) being only the most famous of nearly a dozen built to commemorate such writers as David Hume and Robert Burns.

The evening then concluded with Brian Whittingham’s moving story of Central Station, and a woman’s wistful memories invested in its atmosphere, as well as Donal McLaughlin’s subtly disturbing tale of a man hiding from himself, his past, his wife, and Celtic Football matches, in the Tron Bar and The People’s Palace…

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