All cities are inchoate, none more so than Glasgow. Since its origins in the sixth century, when it was founded by St Mungo with the establishment of a church on the Molendinar Burn, it has been in a state of flux, as the bucolic Dear Green Place metamorphosed into the thrumming Second City of the Empire.
The immense wealth of its ‘merchants’ was reflected in its architecture. To stroll today through the city centre is a thrilling, uplifting and enlightening experience. However, in the aftermath of the Second World War and the decline of industrialization, Glasgow’s problems were writ large in its buildings, with the replacement of ragged tenements with estates and high rises that promised a modern and bright future for the inhabitants of what had become slums. But a lack of proper investment, a dearth of amenities and the poor build quality soon lead to neglect, despair and anger. Photographer Chris Leslie, in Disappearing Glasgow: A Photographic Journey (Freight Books, £20), edited by Johnny Rodger, Professor of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, documents this decline and fall with steely-eyed honesty and unsentimental empathy. The result is both distressing and beautiful, an essay in what might have been and a lesson to learn for anyone involved in the planning process.