Through our own exploration of the site, the most prevalent points visually, were the abundance of textures. Including the wall engulfing graffiti, the peeling wood, crumbling brick and rusting metal.
We feel a story can be told from this. That the character of what Howdens once might have been and what is now, is captured well through this. For example, on a case of gradually disintegrating stone stairs you can picture the workers ascending them to start their day, just after entering through the tall steel gates. Or maybe rushing down them to attend to a machine break at the very back of the factory.
The brick walls too likely hold so much history and knowledge if they could speak. From the people who first laboriously laid red brick onto red brick, through sweat, tears and rain. As well as the workers who would have lent on them for maybe a quick, or only possible break they may have during a 12 hour work day. The walls they saw every day, that housed such a famous company back in the 1900s, that is barely, if even, known by today’s generation.
Now these stairs are hanging by their final thread, one step away from demolition. Forgotten and disused. Though the character persists. Parts of missing staircase allow us to explicitly see the negative growth of the parts of this machine that was Howdens. Although a sorry sight, the timeline is still evident and portrays just how abandoned and un cared for this building has been for so long. 100 years ago no Howdens worker would have guessed it would be so empty, and that it’s story would not be one of high movement, high noise, success and futures, but instead it would tell one more harrowing, of unkempt, abandonment and ignorance.
To the walls, who still experience the painstaking work, but by a different type of craftsman. Whose tool is not a trowel and mortar but a spray can and a mask. The graffiti artists who’ve claimed their territory on Howdens Works have also added a bright spark of life to it, transforming the dulling red brick into waves of texture that accentuate the journey through the site – whilst the rest seems to be falling apart around you. It may not have been intended for this, but even the simplest of art and texture has given this site a purpose, for its modern day engineers, whilst it was ignored by everyone else.
This also adds to the debate over listed buildings. With the view that they are listed for reason being to retain their history. Older buildings are under more attack from weathering and destruction as the materials are already under stress, becoming weaker with every gust of wind and every drop of rain. Being listed means these materials are to be protected and kept alive at all costs. But why? From this perspective, it is seen that these sorts of buildings hold in their walls a lot of history and a lot of stories. From simply the style of the period, to the intricate stone carvings, each building has a right to tell its story. Each building has a place in Glasgow’s history. A city should not look fake and manufactured. Glasgow was not built entirely in the 21st century so why should it look as so? Modern buildings should show the development of this period, but just as equally as existing buildings from pre-21st century should show their’s. Keeping them enhances the fabric of the city, it gives it layers and depth, which all contribute to its atmosphere and sense of character, showing life back then, as well as what it has become.