The Glasgow Garden Festival
Glasgow was host city to the 1988 Garden Festival, one of five festivals intended to kick-start the redevelopment of former industrial sites in the UK. For five months, the site on the banks of the River Clyde was adorned with landscaped installations, temporary architectural features, sculptures, theme park rides, and a working recreation of Glasgow’s once-sprawling tramway.
Page\Park, still a fledgling practice in the late 1980s, made a significant contribution to the festival through the design of the Countryside Commission for Scotland pavilion, located in a garden designed by Ian White Associates Landscape Architects and Planners.
The garden presented a gently mounded countryside scene with a burn and pond running towards the dock. All the elements that Ian White utilised in his practice’s work are captured here in embryo: big areas of water, clear edges set against rocky and soft edge planting, and overlays of gentle paths and woodland. Ian White’s vision for the pavilion was a simple building that anchored this garden.
Page\Park’s response to this brief, led by David Page, Chris Mummery, and Paul Clarke, was for a pavilion stretched vertically, with diagonal X trusses bracing the structure internally. The ‘lean-to’ side structure provided a covered external space and braced the high pavilion.
The structure and the glazing were conceived as one; a challenge given the open nature of the site and the stress that wind might put on the structure. The structure was anchored in galvanized steel shoes, and carefully detailed from its steel plate connections down to the choice of compound used to seal the glass rebated between the huge vertical double timbers, themselves lightly stained to enhance the sense of woodiness. The timber was Iroko hardwood, a material with the ideal strength characteristics for the slender sections, but which was hard on saws. Paul Clarke recalls the contractor commenting: “it was like trying to work with stone.”
David Page recalls the design
To prevent overheating within a glasshouse environment, high level ventilation louvres were provided each side of the ridge with input airflow between the double posts at floor level. Around the building’s edge, a special detail revealed every structural connection at ground level, along with the rain chains, which Paul Clarke recalls the site agent predicting would break loose and smash the glass.
The glass remained intact, but the project was not without its hiccups; the entire concrete slab requiring to be broken out and re-cast in the initial weeks of construction. However, the fast programme and temporary nature of the building allowed the design team to utilise off-site fabrication techniques, and details and materials – for example single glazing – that might not otherwise have been possible in a permanent building, but which here resulted in a purer, more unadulterated, design.
David Page recalls of the design:
“The simple but high barn form took its formal inspiration from E Fay Jones’s remarkable Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which had been published in the Architectural Review a few years previously. My memory of it is it being slender and light in this open landscape, which was our hope, and a feeling of total craftsmanship – every detail and joint worked out.”
The pavilion was fully-demountable, meaning it could be sold and re-purposed elsewhere. This was the ambition for many of the Garden Festival’s features. The Pavilion can today be found in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park, in the David Welch Winter Gardens, hidden from public view but with much of its original detailing intact.
Thank you to David Page, Brian Park, Chris Mummery, and Professor Paul Clarke, for their contributions to this article.