Zaha Hadid's Riverside Museum


The Riverside Museum in Glasgow exists due to the city's infinite nostalgia for its lost industrial past and chest-beating zeal for a new cultural and tourist-driven present. Relocated and upgraded from the museum's original home, what was once the Museum of Transport now occupies part of a derelict stretch of land between banks of the Clyde and a thundering dual carriageway close to Foster's armadillo-like conference centre and Chipperfield's BBC.

Zaha Hadid has made much of the dynamism and energy the building draws from the tensions of industrial ruin, the river and motorway. Indeed, in plan the Z-shaped train-shed design zig-zags across the site and its heart-beat roofline poignantly faces both city and river.

Internally the dynamism is less convincing. For a collection of machines it feels pretty static despite the ubiquitous pale chartreuse interior, which adds a cool 'dentist waiting room' or 'primary school corridor' backdrop. The 11,000sqm building is stuffed to the rafters with 3,000 objects, double the number at the former museum. Bicycles loop around overhead in the vast columnless expanse as cars, models of paddle steamers, motorbikes, replica gliders and a 150 tonne locomotive all seem to be in stasis, coexisting but unaware of each other's presence. Congested in an endless traffic jam.

"A museum is not about the space around the objects, it's about the objects and the stories," says project architect Jim Heverin. "For the objects to work the building has to be robust and strong. It also needs to become background at lower level."

Externally, the shell is a sharp neat grey. The engineering, plants and services are stored in the roof so the building is public-facing on all sides and joins onto a riverside path. The pixellated landscaping is provided by Edinburgh-based Gross. Max, but the tidy site is flanked by a grim looking chunk of undeveloped land. Heverin says the building is part of a move to 'connect the dots' in this area.

"The river has changed to a vacuous leftover industrial to something about the future. This project is just one of a whole lineage with Glasgow is involved with."

It is a fact that there are now more jobs in retail and tourism in Glasgow today than there ever were in shipbuilding and engineering. The professions that used to be the pride lifeblood of Scotland now replaced by a wooing and entertaining a transient fickle mass may not seem a cause for celebration, but there is good reason for the positive mood around this project says Heverin. "The city can only build what they need. This is not something like an idea that never existed before—it's a sure bet. It's the best-visited non-art museum in Scotland. They already know they have something that is amazingly successful; they're not taking a gamble like Sheffield did. It's not something where people are trying to reinvent art or culture. For this time of post-recession, this is a great story."