This stretch of the River Clyde’s waterfront is a shiny chrome new world that has displaced a crumbling concrete old one.
There is a digital media hub, ambitiously hyped as a creative quarter by the kind of job that depends on declaring it so. Landscaped clear water sparkles in the mirrored windows and chrome tiles of the Science Centre. There are the ubiquitous docklands style flat developments, squinty bridges, various conference and concert centres, the sleek digital and glass centre for BBC Scotland and the pleated roof of Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum.
The design of these shrines to leisure and media borrow heavily from the old industrial and ship building heritage of the past. The Science Centre’s titanium-clad crescent shape structure represents the canted hull of a ship, a reference to the adjacent canting basin, where vessels were brought to have the marine growth removed from their hulls. In the middle of this assortment are monolithic slabs of what is left of the canting basin and granite docks, an abandoned relic surviving from an increasingly bygone era of ingenious engineering and shipbuilding. Few Clyde docks now survive as many were filled-in to make way for modern housing developments.
Graving or dry docks carry out repair work to parts of the hull normally submerged under water. The Govan docks helped maintain and repair hundreds of Clyde-built ships and were built between 1869 and 1898 under the direction of James Deas, a talented civil engineer responsible for improved development of the Clyde. They were the deepest docks in Britain at a time when Glasgow led the world in shipbuilding. There are still crane tracks, bollards and rusting machinery but little remains of the sheds and buildings apart from the shell of an old pump house.
The docks remain Category A-listed and is on the Scottish Civic Trust’s Builings at Risk register. Various consortiums have planned to turn the docks into an urban watersports centre, apartments and leisure facilities. Recently a campaign has been launched to turn the docks into a shipbuilding heritage park.
For the moment the docks are an accidental ecology for wildlife and an abandoned extended playground for the Govan youth as the New Glasgow continues to grow around them.
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