I should’ve seen it coming. For a couple of weeks now I’ve been working on a piece for The Herald, speaking to leading figures in architecture and heritage about the buildings in Glasgow that are at risk of disappearing. One of the names on the list was the India warehouse on Bridge Street and what do you know: part of it has just collapsed and it will now apparently have to be demolished. Rubble and dust and bulldozers and another one disappears. Wake up Glasgow!

In many ways, the India building wasn’t the most interesting, or the most beautiful or fascinating building on the list, but that’s not the point. Ian R Mitchell, the architectural historian and writer, chose it for The Herald’s list because it’s typical of a certain type of building that’s all over this city. Its location, and its current state, can also tell us a lot about what’s going badly wrong with the protection and promotion of Glasgow’s architecture. The India building was trying to tell us something and all we did was stand back and let it rot.

Let me pass on some of the interesting stuff Ian told me about the building. It was built in 1876 as a warehouse for the stationers Robert McGregor and the upper floors was where they manufactured the stationery and the ground floor was where they sold it. “Factories looked like houses in those days,” Ian told me, and all the better for it. Check out the carving and the chimneys and those four little numbers embedded in the sandstone. Created in1876. Erased in 2024.

To be honest, it’s been going wrong for the building for quite a long time. The upper floors have been vacant for 25 years and the shops on the ground floor ceased trading in 2009. What’s extra frustrating is the street has great potential to be part of a regeneration of Laurieston and Tradeston, which is starting to resemble an imagined landscape from the mind of JG Ballard. If there is a sign of hope, it’s the famous fantastic Laurieston bar just opposite the India buildings, so my advice is go in there, order a pint of something nice and contemplate what’s gone wrong with Glasgow, and tell me what you come up with.

Having spoken to the experts who’ve been helping me draw up the list of the city’s endangered buildings, a number of reasons for the crisis become clear. Ian Mitchell says one of the problems is that the system mitigates against trying to save the India building and others like it. The cost of restoration, he says, is inhibited by the VAT laws; quite simply, it costs more to restore an old building than put up a crappy modern one.

The other problem is class (isn’t it always?) Most of the buildings the experts nominated are in areas of deprivation and that’s not a coincidence: in the words of Ian Mitchell, it’s the squeaky, middle-class axle that gets the grease. “In middle-class areas,” he says, “a building that closes gets turned into luxury flats but in another area what happens? It gets demolished. So working class areas are losing their heritage much quicker than middle-class areas.”

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You can detect something similar in the fact a lot of the architectural heritage that’s in trouble is linked to Glasgow’s dirty, sooty industrial past, in parts of the city that in many ways are hidden from view. Ian Mitchell says the problem is many people just don’t know their city. “Springburn, Govan, other places,” he says. “you meet middle-class Glaswegians who’ve never been there in their lives. I honestly think most of them blotted it out and were unaware of the dereliction.”

That kind of wilful blindness is no longer possible though, so bad has it got; the dereliction and neglect isn’t just confined to the outermost reaches of the city; it’s on a street near you. One of the experts I spoke to said structural issues are at work: we simply don’t have the good people in place in Glasgow. We used to have a director of planning but the role was abolished about 30 years ago. There also used to be strategic local plans for all the areas of Glasgow prepared by the planning department, which meant there was a real focus on particular areas that needed help and a will to find the money that was necessary to make it happen.

Are there signs of hope? A few. About 30 years ago, there was a presumption in favour of pulling down old buildings and putting up new ones; now, the presumption works the other way around: if you can, and you have the funding, you should restore an old building and across the city there are some good examples of that approach in action.

We’ve also seen how a focused approach can work to regenerate some parts of the city. Look at Dalmarnock – 20 years ago it was a wasteland, then the Commonwealth athletes’ village helped to turn things around. The Gorbals too: nowhere in Glasgow suffered more from the planning mistakes of the past, but step-by-step, the regeneration – focused on good, creative design and architecture – has helped to create a new community from the old.

What it proves is that it can be done, and Laurieston and Tradeston are the next logical places to try something similar. Walk around these areas, as I often do, and on street after street you’ll see buildings that have great potential for conversion into housing. The old telephone exchange on Centre Street, for example, is a very fine building and because it's just a short walk from the new Barclay’s Bank HQ on the riverside, it could be the next step in the regeneration of that part of the city.

But it’s hard to be hopeful isn’t it? Stuart Robertson, the director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, said this weekend that parts of Glasgow look like they’ve been bombed and he’s right, they do. It’s also significant that Mr Robertson has invited Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, to address a symposium on the future of Glasgow’s buildings in June. Glasgow has a lot to learn from Manchester (and Liverpool too) so please start learning.

In the meantime, I suppose all we can do is continue to highlight the plight of buildings like the India warehouse. Chances are it’ll be gone this week (decay is slow, demolition is swift) which means I’m going to have to remove it from that list I’ve been compiling for The Herald; from risk of disappearing to disappeared in the space of a week. We’ll also have to ask ourselves one important question as we stand and watch it happen: how many more of the buildings on the list are likely to survive?