ROBERT Love is remembering the early days of making Taggart, and what Glasgow used to look like. The grey high-rises of the Gorbals, the red docks of Govan, the blonde townhouses of Pollokshields. For Robert, a TV producer just moved back to Scotland, it was a perfect backdrop for a new crime drama as well as a chance to show off Glasgow. But even then, in the early 1980s, he remembers watching some of the old tenements being pulled down and thinking: what are we doing to the city? What are we losing? How much have we already lost?

More than 30 years later, if anything, Robert’s concerns about how Glasgow has changed run even deeper. Now in his 80s, the former producer of Taggart lives in one of the city’s most striking and recognisable buildings – Kelvin Court on Great Western Road, which this year is celebrating its 80th birthday. But for Robert, and many of the other residents, the elegant 1930s block of flats is one of the few unchangeables in a city that hasn’t stopped changing – often for the worse. On the day I visit Robert, I get caught in the gridlock of traffic around the ruins of Glasgow School of Art. Pulled down or burnt down, what is Glasgow doing to itself?

I’ve come to Kelvin Court to explore that question further with some of the people who live here. As well as Robert, there’s a man known for his work on some of Scotland’s most elegant buildings; an artist known for his brutalist style who worked on some of the high rises that have since been torn down; and a journalist who watched it all happen. All of them, in one way or another, are concerned about how Glasgow is changing, but they are also keen to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Kelvin Court. Amid all the change, amid all the buildings that have gone up and come down, could this architectural icon be a warning for the future?

I’m meeting Robert at his big and bright first-floor flat that looks out onto Great Western Road. For 25 years, he lived in a four-bedroom flat in the West End but always had his eye on Kelvin Court. Like a lot of his neighbours, he remembers passing the building and thinking ‘I’d like to live there’, partly because it is so distinctive and different from much of the rest of the architecture in Glasgow. Some people say Kelvin Court is reminiscent of Hercule Poirot’s apartment in the TV crime series and there’s a good reason for that: it was designed and built in the 1930s by the English architect JN Fatkin along the lines of similar apartment blocks in London. It has all the elegant lines of the architecture that Poirot would have known and loved.

Robert, who moved here three years ago, says he was always drawn to the art deco features and is very aware of the building’s architectural importance. He also feels that he and his neighbours could play a small part in preserving it.

“One of the interesting things about here – and I think a lot of people feel it,” he says, “is they feel they have a role in preserving this, especially with all the things that have been happening recently such as the Art School fire. Glasgow doesn’t have a great reputation – we have neglected Greek Thomson for instance – and I feel committed to keeping the building in good shape.”

Robert saw Glasgow’s bad reputation in action when he came to the city from Thames television in 1979 to set up STV’s drama department. One of the first things he did was come up with the idea for a series about an older cop and his younger, better educated sidekick, which became Taggart, and by the mid-1980s it was filming regularly all over Glasgow.

“The city was pretty grim,” he says. “You can see that in some of the earlier Taggarts where they were pulling down tenements. We filmed in the Gorbals and Sighthill, but we always wanted to reflect the fact that there was a whole range in Glasgow – in Pollokshields for example. Some people didn’t believe it was Glasgow because it’s so elegant.”

The Herald: Thinking back to those days, Robert says he could already see that, in the name of modernisation, too much of Glasgow was being sacrificed. He remembers coming back from his national service in the RAF to work as a presenter on a nightly BBC magazine programme called 6.10 and seeing the beginning of the change.

“I can remember two terrible things happening at that time,” he says, “One was the disappearance of the trams in 1962 – they brought a character to the city that has never been recovered. The other thing was St Andrews Hall burned down and that was the finest concert call in the UK. We’ve pulled down too much. We’ve maybe just stopped in time, but we’ve lost a lot.”

Robert’s neighbour, Christine Martin, agrees with this. Christine lives a few floors up in a flat that has even more art-deco touches, including a beautiful round window featuring two stained-glass birds. Christine is originally from Lewis and, as a child, remembers being driven past Kelvin Court and thinking there was something magical and mysterious about it. The 1960s and 70s were a bad time for Glasgow, she says. “The 60s and 70s decimated the city just for the purpose of moving cars about. They knocked the heart out of the city.”

Christine tells me about what the architects originally intended for Kelvin Court. At one point, there was a plan for tennis courts on the roof; the idea too was that the owners and renters of the 100 flats would live in an integrated way – there’s a communal heating system and to this day there is a committee of residents who make the important decisions.

Christine acknowledges that there are costs associated with the building and that many people wouldn’t be able to afford to live here – it’s also true that the residents do not always get on. But on a smaller scale she thinks it can be a model for communal living. “We have younger people moving in and they have to be encouraged,” she says. “A successful society has to be mixed in ages, sexes, in sexual orientation. We’re being driven to become increasingly insular.”

One of the younger people who’s moved in is 45-year-old Nikolaj Gadegaard, a professor of biomedical engineering at Glasgow University, who has lived at Kelvin Court since September last year. Nikolaj is Danish and says he was drawn to the building’s art deco features and clean lines. “I think this is my Scandinavian genes,” he says. “I like sleek and functional. And the building stands out against a lot of the red sandstone.”

Nikolaj is also a fan of the idea of communal living, although, in common with his neighbours, he says there are sometimes practical problems and rivalries (Kelvin Court is divided into two blocks and apparently the residents of one of them think it is better built than the other). “The concept of communal living is a Scandinavian thing,” says Nikolaj. “And I think it is a good model – there is a social aspect to it, and you respect your neighbours.”

The Herald: Nikolaj thinks the model could perhaps be replicated on a cheaper, smaller scale but, as someone who came here from another country 16 years ago, he is aware of the great differences in Glasgow. “It’s a city of two populations,” he says, “the difference between the top and the bottom is quite dramatic in Glasgow compared to some other places.” However, there are principles to be learned: young and old living in the same building, small flats and big flats, and a mechanism for communicating with each other. There are some people who keep themselves to themselves, but much of Kelvin Court is integrated and close-knit. Some of the residents talk nostalgically about how Glaswegians used to live. “The Gorbals is a case in point,” says Christine Martin, “They pulled own an entire social infrastructure when they pulled down the Gorbals.”

Someone who knows a bit about that process is Christine’s neighbour, the sculptor and artist Charles Anderson. Anderson, who is 82 years old, was for a time one of the most prolific sculptors of large, some would say brutalist public works in Scotland and was involved in the creation and design of many of the multi-storey flats that went up in the 1960s and 70s and came down over the last 10 years or so.

Anderson, who grew up in Greenock and moved to Kelvin Court four years ago, understands why this has happened. The feedback from the residents, he says a little euphemistically, was not enthusiastic and he says the same mistakes should not be made again. However, he also thinks it’s important Glasgow continues to innovate as well as maintain the best of the past. There are some exciting new buildings going up he says, and cites the multi-storey carpark near the Hydro which is clad in sheeting punched through with big holes. However, he is also gutted at the loss of the Art School. He went there. His son did too. And he felt the loss of the building deep down, he says.

The Herald: The emotional power of buildings, for good or bad, is something that many of Charles Anderson’s neighbours feel. Upstairs on the top floor I meet Ken McCulloch, the hotelier who founded the Malmaison and Dakota brands, and his wife and colleague, Amanda Rosa, who have one of the most elegant of the apartments in Kelvin Court. All of the original art deco features have been retained, including a fireplace made of a wave of white stone. “When people modernised the apartment, they tended to rip these things out,” says Ken. “It’s such a shame.”

However, Ken loves more about Kelvin Court than the architecture – in fact, he believes the building helped get him through some of the most difficult parts of his career. “I very nearly killed myself with the pressure,” he says, “There have been lots of struggles, particularly before I met Mandy. It was quite lonely at times – it was a very lonely place at times particularly when you’ve pushed the boat a bit further than you should have pushed it. I don’t know how we did it. It was pretty horrible. And this place helped me through.”

Ken’s downstairs neighbour, the journalist Charles Duncan, has had exactly the same experience. Charles and his wife Olive have lived here since the 1980s and Charles says he used to joke that they were the only non-famous people in the block as the comedian Jack Milroy used to have a flat here as did the singer Kenneth McKellar and various sheriffs and sirs. But it was the building Charles loved, he says: it was warm, lively and beautiful.

In recent years, Charles, who is a former senior editor at The Daily Record and The Scotsman, has also discovered that it has a therapeutic quality. He is 75 years old now and has suffered from a number of health problems – he has recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and three years ago had to have a leg amputated after burning his foot on a brazier. Surprisingly perhaps, he found that the building was part of the cure.

“I spent a lot of time in hospital when all this happened to me and I wasn’t well until I came through that door and suddenly I was fine again,” he says. “The building helped make me well.”

Charles’s longer-term concern is that we maintain buildings like Kelvin Court and he is not entirely optimistic. “I love Glasgow,” he says, “but Glaswegians haven’t always looked after it. We’ve torn down large parts of the city and we shouldn’t have.” Maybe when we build flats, we should think about living together more? Maybe, in a city that has lost so many of buildings, we should learn some lessons from the ones that are still standing?