Some books just feel really good. "Exploring Glasgow: The Architectural Guide" by Robin Ward is a joy to handle: as it is to read. It is clearly superbly researched, but the initial positive impressions come more from the stiff covers, complete with fold-out placeholding flaps; from the outstanding colour photography throughout; and from the clear and full colour mapping at the back. This a book that simply exudes quality. It is also a book that provides a guide to its subject that is both definitive and practical. We can see ourselves keeping it to hand as a work of reference. And while it is some way from being a pocket guide to anything, it is a book that is just about sufficiently portable to be used when out and about, while, as the title suggests, "Exploring Glasgow".
It is hard to challenge the publisher's claim that Glasgow is one of the most architecturally exciting cities in the world. It comes complete with a wide range of building styles, reflecting a history that was at times ambitious and wealthy, and it offers the surviving work of two great "home grown" architects, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Alexander "Greek" Thompson. The result is a city that is forever fascinating, offering a Gothic Revival university, grand Victorian public and civic buildings, Art Nouveau, tenements, and tower blocks.
This book covers almost 500 buildings in Glasgow. For each it includes a colour photograph and descriptive text providing a brief history and an indication of why the building is significant. What really brings the content to life is the way the buildings have been organised into ten "tours", some of which are walkable while others require public transport, with the buildings ordered to key into the maps at the back of the book. Each tour is given an introduction and then you are into the buildings themselves. These include everything you would expect from an architectural guide to Glasgow, as well as quite a few novelties and surprises. As an example, "Tour 7" covers The West End. The Mitchell Library and St Andrew's Halls are covered as you would expect (as, of course, is Kelvingrove and Glasgow University), but for us the real value of this book comes from all the architecturally, socially or historically significant buildings it includes that we've not encountered before. "The Hidden Lane" off Argyle Street looks fascinating, as does Otago Lane. We will certainly be using this book as a means of expanding our knowledge of the city it covers, and suspect many others will do so too.