One method which I have not seen done, but which would be most interesting to work out, is to use nothing but steel . . . building the walls as a steel ship is built . . . .

—James Salmon Junior, lecture to the Glasgow Institute of Architects, 1908

James Salmon Junior and John Gaff Gillespie were a pair of young experimental architects studying and working in Glasgow at the same time as Mackintosh. Both worked as draftsmen at the architectural firm Salmon & Son, progressing in 1899 to become the named partners at Salmon, Son & Gillespie, where they created civic amenities, commercial premises, and private homes.

Beginning in the late 1890s, Salmon and Gillespie forged an innovative architectural language for Glasgow, working along more organic continental European Art Nouveau lines. The leaded roofs and stone exteriors of many of their buildings were massed with gentle undulating curves and carved with Glasgow Style plant-inspired forms. Some critics felt the way Salmon and Gillespie treated stone “as if a plastic material” was disrespectful of building tradition.

Salmon and Gillespie’s finest buildings are two turn-of-the-century city-center Glasgow “skyscrapers,” which were innovative both in their design and as remarkable feats of engineering. The St. Vincent Chambers was completed in 1899 and nicknamed “The Hatrack” because of its spiky roof line. The Lion Chambers was completed in 1907, the same year Mackintosh embarked on the second phase of The Glasgow School of Art.

Elevation drawings for the British Linen Co. (later Bank), Govan Cross branch, 1897
Designed and drawn by John Gaff Gillespie (1870–1926)
Salmon & Son Architects
Ink on linen
Glasgow City Archives: Glasgow Dean of Guild Court, TD1309.G.2.1

Salmon and Gillespie designed many of the new bank branches in Glasgow, which were typically street-fronting premises on the ground floor of residential sandstone apartment blocks (called tenements in Scotland). The Govan Cross bank building, in the heartland of Glasgow’s shipbuilding district, reveals many of the characteristic features of their architectural designs. There is a variety of window treatments, an elaborate spiky-cupola roof with a metal bird-topped weathervane, decorative ironwork employing stylized plant forms, and figurative stone carvings that evoke medieval or Renaissance models.

Armchair for the Agents’ Office of the British Linen Co. (later Bank), Hutchesontown branch (later Gorbals), ca. 1899–1900
Designed by James Salmon Junior (1873–1924)
Maker unknown; carving possibly by John Crawford
Ebonized oak
Glasgow Museums: Bought with grant assistance from the National Fund for Acquisitions, funded by the Scottish Government and the Friends of Glasgow Museums, 2015, E.2015.11.1

The Agents’ Office of the British Linen Co. (later Bank), photographed ca. 1900–1901
Designed by James Salmon Junior (1873–1924)
© Historic Environment Scotland

This photograph provides a rare look into one of Salmon and Gillespie’s fully furnished and decorated interiors for the financial sector. The fine yet spiky details, such as on the light fitting, are typical of Salmon’s contribution to the Glasgow Style. The bank’s monogram, B.L. & Co., forms an integral part of the design, centrally placed on the chair-backs and stenciled around the upper walls. The chairs feature finely carved plant tendrils which curl back upon themselves to form the top back rail, evoking the otherworldly lines of the Spook School.

Elevation and section drawings for The Lion Chambers, Hope Street, April 1904
Designed by James Salmon Junior (1873–1924) and John Gaff Gillespie (1870–1926)
Salmon, Son & Gillespie Architects
Ink and wash on linen
Glasgow City Archives: Glasgow Dean of Guild Court, B4.12.2.806.7

This drawing shows the street-facing facade and a cross-section of Salmon, Son & Gillespie’s last major commission, The Lion Chambers. To meet the needs of the restricted footprint of its location, the partners collaborated with a French structural engineer to use the new material and technique of reinforced concrete to reduce the exterior walls to a thickness of only four inches. With this pioneering approach, they were able to design an eight-story modern building with many glass windows. In this drawing a graded wash represents light hitting the gray concrete of the Lion Chambers, while the cross section on the right shows the organic Glasgow Style lines of the black metalwork elevator casing.

James Salmon Junior & John Gaff Gillespie: Solid, Void, Detail
© Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums), 2019

This film presents some of the most important and recognizable buildings in Glasgow created by the architectural firm of Salmon & Son (later Salmon, Son & Gillespie):

“The Hatrack” (The St. Vincent Chambers), 1898–99
The British Linen Bank at Govan Cross, 1897–98
The Glasgow Savings Bank at Anderson Cross, 1899–1900
St. Andrew’s Free Church Hall, 1898–99
79 West Regent Street, 1900–1904
The Lion Chambers, 1904–7
Rowantreehill, Kilmacolm, 1898

The elaborate carvings on these buildings were executed by the talented sculptors Francis Derwent Wood, Johan Keller, and Albert Hodge.

Running time: 17 minutes, 24 seconds

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