Labour and the Barras
Once an important area for making, trading and selling, the Barras Market brought together many diverse forms of labour and craftmanship. At the heart of Glasgow, the site was famous for producing everything from carpets, fabrics and furniture to clay pipes. The Calton Improvement Scheme during the 1930s resulted in a radical loss of density, and over time the tenement flats above retailers were stripped away; removing domesticity from the site almost altogether, whilst eroding much of the urban identity.
The market continued to be of great importance until online retail started pushing out the need for many of the goods sold at the market. As a consequence, exchanges are lost and shutters stay down most of the week; the site, once buzzing with activity, struggles to attract footfall despite its proximity to the town centre.
The project embraces the area’s patchwork-style and aims to reinforce the fundamental link between living, making and selling/displaying that was once implicit with the site.
Craftsmanship and apprenticeships; Domesticity and the fruits of labour
Through the careful placement of three buildings, a new avenue is created. On one side the resident joiners, carpenters, brickmakers and potters can be witnessed at work, while on the other the fruits of their labour are displayed and sold in a public gallery. The building can also be used for lessons, workshops and events on the upper levels. High-density housing is reintroduced to the site, and facilitates both social and professional exchange. Wide access decks and loggias create a communal environment, and joker rooms between the adaptable flats allow for apprentices to live within the family homes on a temporary basis. Flats can grow and shrink to accommodate the ever-changing needs of the residents. Modern ways of living meet traditional ways of working in this nostalgic project which aims to to re-unite the seller with the craft, the buyer with the maker, and the apprentice with the master.
Affinities with Dance in the Barras: Centre of Movement and Dance
Maggie MacIver’s original Barrowland Ballroom formed a key part in creating the local identity of the people; it was a place for coming together, dancing, socialising and joy. Amongst the many clues of the former vibrance in the area, the Shuggie Bain Mural reads, “You’ll not remember the city, you were too wee. But there was dancing. All kinds of dancing.” The idea that the memories of the city had become so synonymous with the notion of dance and movement form a bleak contrast to the context of today; a midweek stroll through this part of town would result in few encounters and many closed shutters. Although the dwindling markets still open every weekend, without the hustle and bustle the area could quickly lose its charm, and more importantly, its identity. The Ballroom’s function has already changed; it now acts solely as a concert venue for expensive gigs at night. Could the magic of the Barras be reinvigorated through a public building that closer meets the needs of the local people? A new landmark open to the public throughout the week could serve as a more organic and adaptable space could forge new identities in the Barras area. In order to increase the footfall to the area, there is a need for a public building which further celebrates the coming together of people, music and movement.