The Clyde and the city of Glasgow have always been intertwined when it comes to historical development. Once leaders in shipbuilding now more people are employed in the arts than in this once integral occupation. The rivers architectural heritage is a unique legacy with the site situated where the Kelvin flows into the Clyde. Hadid’s steel encased building flows from the city to the river. It symbolises a dynamic relationship where the museum is both a reminder of Transports importance to Glasgow while allowing the museum to be the transition from the past to the future. The museum places itself in the very context of its origin and encourages connectivity between the exhibits and their wider context.
The project broke ground on site in 2007. By October 2008 the steel skeletal structure was taking shape. During 2010 the building’s skin and landscaping works were put into place. The work was completed late autumn 2010 and work is continuing to prepare the interior finishes. The building is a tunnel-like shed, which is open at opposite ends to the city and the Clyde. In doing so it becomes porous to its context on either side. However, the connection from one to the other is where the building diverts to create a journey away from the external context into the world of the exhibits.
The museum is located in a former shipyard on the banks of the famous River Clyde and its architecture draws direct inspiration from the rich industrial heritage this dramatic naval setting provides. The interior path becomes a mediator between the city and the river which can either be hermetic or porous depending on the exhibition layout. Thus the museum positions itself symbolically and functionally as open and fluid with its engagement of context and content.The facade facing the water is the museum’s most distinctive external feature. A glazed curtain wall is encased within a thick steel frame. While the walls of the frame are perpendicular to the ground, its roof profile explodes into a jagged, asymmetrical ripple of pleated zig-zags and plunging crevices. It is a dramatic yet cryptic gesture and instantly recalls a whole range of surreal metaphors, ranging from an overturned ship-hull to a mechanical shed. The steel and zinc roof, with its rippling jagged edge, may have the effect of a Guggenheim type spiral, but it actually looks like a heartbeat graph, or crashing wave – compressed by the sort of ocean liner that used to be produced on these shores.
Hadid was in Glasgow today to celebrate the opening of the £74 million museum later this month. She arrived fashionably late to the sound of camera flash-drives. She recalled going clubbing in the city 20 years ago and talked about how important the museum was to her on a personal level.
The Riverside Museum is Opening 21 June 2011.