The Lighthouse, Scotland’s centre for design and architecture, is a multipurpose visitor centre in the heart of Glasgow city centre. The building, designed in 1895 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was a warehouse at the back of the printing office of the Glasgow Herald. Mackintosh designed the tower – a prominent feature of the building – to contain an 8,000-gallon water tank. It was to protect the building and all its contents from the risk of fire. It was his first public commission.
I was lucky enough to pay this a flying visit a few years ago. Knowing how much I love Andrea Bocelli, my husband used to treat me to a concert ticket and a night away in Glasgow. It seems a tad bizarre, but it was cheaper to fly to Scotland and stay in a hotel than to take the train to a London venue. It also meant I could take my old film camera with me and explore the city for a few hours before heading home.
That day, the weather wasn’t on my side and by the time I had made a diversion to the nearest Post Office, it was already beginning to rain. I was annoyed about the extra work, but the airlines had just brought in extra security measures and I had to buy the necessary toiletries in duty-free to take with me on the plane. Clearly I wasn’t going to leave them in Scotland, so I came up with the idea of posting everything back home. From there, I wandered around the city centre for a while, but finding nothing of interest I decided to circle back so I could be close to the station. My flight wasn’t until late afternoon, but I was tired and I didn’t want to stray too far.
I had just entered a narrow street when the heavens opened. Looking around for cover, I saw the entrance to The Lighthouse and walked in. It was the answer to my prayers. I could stay dry, find something for lunch and maybe even take a few photographs. I had no idea how fruitful that visit was going to be.
My first port of call was the incredible helical staircase spiralling all the way up from the third floor, to the top of the building on the sixth floor. Arriving out of breath and with knees turned to rubber, I found a small group of boys had beaten me to the view. This was a school day, so I imagined they were playing truant, but they were a friendly bunch, enquiring after my health (I was still wheezing), before dashing off. One had the bright idea to see what it would look like if someone had fallen down the centre of the staircase. He arrived at the bottom before the rest, who followed at different speeds. I remained at the top thinking that something very interesting was about to happen. The image featured here is entirely candid. I think they were aware of me taking photographs, but nothing was said and they seemed happy for me to continue. It remains one of my own personal favourites.
The next image was taken on one of the rarely used back staircases. I liked the almost abstract feel, but I had to mimic a contortionist to get in exactly the right position.
The last photograph was taken as I was leaving – I think it was still raining outside. I lingered a bit, waiting for it to ease, when someone appeared at the top of the curved stairs.