It’s not my usual way to do a column, but could I take you on one of my runs round Glasgow? We’ll be starting on the south side of the city and heading out to Glasgow Green and then back along the river and the reason I’m suggesting we do it is I’ve been reading the stories about all the rubbish piled on the streets, and the cash the council is spending on old buildings, and I’ve also been speaking to a man who knows a thing or two about what happened. And I see it myself. I run along the streets, past the buildings old and new, and think: could we do this better?

So here we go. We’re beginning the run in Kinning Park, near the Grand Old Opry. Behind us are two long avenues that used to be lined with tenements. We run down past Pacific Quay: cinema, casino, burgers, pizza. Ahead of us, and above us, is the Kingston Bridge. We run towards its great concrete stanchions and for a second or two, we’re in the bridge’s shadow. In a way, the whole of Glasgow is in the bridge’s shadow.

You’ll see what I mean when I tell you about John R Hume. Mr Hume used to be a principal inspector of Historic Scotland and was responsible for recommending which buildings should be listed and which shouldn’t. He was also an industrial archaeologist and took 25,000 photographs of Glasgow in the 1950s and 60s as the tenements were pulled down and the canals were filled in and the tram-lines were pulled up. Some of the photographs appear in a wonderful new book, A Life of Industry, and the pictures are hypnotic and beautiful and disturbing: frozen glimpses of what’s gone at the moment it was disappearing.

Mr Hume was also there with his camera when the Kingston Bridge was being built and, when I spoke to him, he was very clear about the consequences. The idea that you can sweep away great chunks of the city’s communities at one time, he said, and replace them with something better was wrong then and it’s wrong now. A belief had grown in the 1960s, he said, that old was bad, and so in went the bulldozers and down came the tenements of Kinning Park and up went the Kingston Bridge. It wasn’t the answer.

But let’s run on a bit further. We’re heading further down the river and up ahead is the new office complex that Barclay’s is building. They’ve called it Buchanan Wharf and it’s massive. Eleven storeys. It dominates the river bank and it looks completely out of place and Mr Hume feels the same way when I mention it to him. It’s often the problem with modern architecture in Glasgow, he says: it’s too tall and wide and big and doesn’t fit in well with the buildings around it. Big is not always beautiful.

We run on further, past the sheriff court and the distillery and on to McNeil Street opposite Glasgow Green. There’s a fantastic picture in Mr Hume’s book of a grand building that used to be on this spot. It was the Co-op’s UCBS Bakery and it was inspired by the great architecture of Venice and it was functional and beautiful. But in the 60s it was pulled down and it wasn’t the only one and it’s a tragedy. No one is suggesting, of course, that demolition can never happen – in fact, Mr Hume is pretty realistic about the fact that there comes a point when some industries are past their time and have to go. But we should have preserved the beauty. We should have saved the best bits.

We’re heading back now. Over the bridge to Glasgow Green, then down past the Clutha bar, along the river and into the office district on the Broomielaw. In a way, this, more than any other, is the place that tells us what has happened to Glasgow and what might happen in the future. Just look at these things. Big, ugly, offices that in some cases have been empty for 18 months because people have been working from home. Mr Hume thinks a lot of the big offices in the city centre will close for good in the future and he’s not unhappy about it. Many of the buildings are dull, he says, and harmful, and energy sapping and he thinks there will be widespread demolition in the next few years. Bring it on, I say.

But we’re getting towards the end of the run now. We head along the north bank of the Clyde, then it’s over the Squinty Bridge and back to Kinning Park. I think about the city I can see and yes there does seem to be rubbish lying about the place and I do wonder why the bins aren’t being emptied more and why mattresses and old fridges can lie about on the street for days. But I also think about the city I want to protect and I’m pleased that the council has signed off £240,000 to be spent on 130 buildings that are at risk, although I think: is it enough? I doubt it.

Finally, I think about the city I want to see in the future: the Glasgow of years to come. In my conversations with John Hume, we talked about the mistakes of the past: pulling down the likes of the UCBS Bakery, building the Kingston Bridge, filling in the Forth and Clyde Canal. But we also talked about how we could make it better. The great demolitions of the past were a mistake so let’s do the demolition right this time. Let’s pull down those big, ugly offices that no one needs anymore. We can also build worthy replacements: buildings that do not seek to dominate or show off - rather buildings that are respectful of their older neighbours and want to fit in.

And one thing, more than any other, sticks in my mind from my conversation with Mr Hume and it’s his belief - his certainty - that Glasgow is the finest Victorian city in the world. But he also said this: the beauty of Glasgow is a beauty scarred because of the decades of flawed and thoughtless development it suffered.

I’m at the end of my run now and I can see it for myself: the concrete towers, the ugly offices, the disappeared tenements. But I can also imagine it getting better; I can imagine the beauty restored.

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