Glasgow Mackintosh School of Architecture MSA Stage 5

Connor Doyle

Connor began his architectural education at Nottingham Trent University before joining the Mackintosh School of Architecture. Prior to arriving at the school, Connor worked at practices in New York City and London.

The Final Design Thesis project focused on addressing existing architecture and historical references within the urban fabric that do not reflect the collective consciousness of today’s society. Monuments and place-names across Glasgow give an insight into the cultural hegemony of a past era, celebrating the city’s now unsavoury links with the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The city actively distanced itself from its past, creating a historical narrative that led to a ‘cultural amnesia’. In the words of Celeste-Marie Bernier, ‘dead men and women tell no tales. It’s the victors that tell the tales’. In the city of Glasgow, there is only evidence of the victors of slavery.

With a now changed social consciousness nearly 200 years after the abolition of slavery, how do we address historical references that put Glasgow’s blurred, often hidden, involvement with the slave trade on a misleading pedestal?

“It Wisnae Us” : Rewriting Glasgow’s Historical Narrative

“It Wisnae Us” : Rewriting Glasgow’s Historical Narrative

The thesis project sets out to rewrite Glasgow’s historical narrative, creating a museum to educate and ‘fill-in the gaps’ of the city’s mercantile past which it has distanced itself from. As Glasgow’s most iconic building with links to the Slave Trade, the GoMA (originally built as the Cunninghame Mansion – the townhouse of Tobacco Lord, William Cunninghame) is transformed to create a provocative response inspired by British artist, Rachel Whiteread. Three sides of the building are cast in concrete before being demolished, leaving an imprint of the existing facade. Without the concrete, there is be no representation of the existing building, just as without slavery, there would be no GoMA (Cunninghame Mansion).

The museum is paired with a conceptual ‘counter-monument’ – a push back against the elitist symbolism from Glasgow’s mercantile era. The counter-monument takes the form of a piece of public art aimed at forcing users to challenge what the existing historical references across the city’s urban fabric represent. Incorporating the same principles as the cast concrete facade of the museum, 31 hollow resin columns represent the 31 ‘slave voyages’ with direct links to Scottish ports. Just as with Whiteread’s work, absence becomes presence as the negative space around the column becomes the object itself.

The combination of ‘rewriting the historical narrative’ and the aims of the ‘counter monument’ intends to recontextualise the city’s place-names and historical references from Glasgow’s mercantile past.

The site acts as a gateway to the Merchant City, linking Gordan Street, Buchanan Street, and Ingram Street - all streets with links to the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
While the new concrete wall reveals an imprint of the existing facade on the cast concrete’s interior face, the exterior of the building appears as a simple concrete block. This is a complete breakaway from the ornate and elitist architecture of the existing building.