The Scotia Bar is argued to be the oldest pub in Glasgow. It has altered and amended over the years since its opening in 1792 however the current layout and design still shows traces of its origins and characteristics of a previous era of pub design.
In the late 18th and 19th Century there were predominantly 3 main type of drinking establishment. One of these is most linked to the idea of a 'Public House' - The Tavern was, in effect, a house with sitting rooms and a kitchen where drinks were prepared and served from by the publican. Another, The Inn would have a smaller amount of spaces in the 'pub' although could accommodate guests in private 'hotel' rooms. The final of these earlier pub typologies were 'Gin Palaces' which proved a popular escape for the rising demographic of the working class. Although somewhat tackily or cheaply decorated the lighting and atmosphere in these pubs gave relief from every day grind in an overcrowded city which was suffering from poor health, sanitation and living conditions.
It was the 'Gin Palace' or 'Gin Shop' that became most prevalent in Glasgow, in part due to the increasing volume of tenement housing with this 'shop' format most suitable within this. The 'shop' layout usually consisted of a counter or bar as you came in from the street which allowed some standing room. A more common practice, however, was to buy your drink from the counter and retreat to the snugs, small rooms or booths that would be located to the rear of the premises. A further escape from the realities of the street.
Although altered, in the 1920's especially, The Scotia Bar still shows traces of this typology. The bar welcomes you on approach and leaves a small amount of room for standing between it and the entrances. To the sides and corners there are strong thresholds into small rooms. These still have doors which separate the bar space from the sitting space and although these are now permanently open the feeling of sitting in these spaces is separate from those facing the bar, you feel hidden away. This feature was a major attraction of this pub typology but would eventually contribute to its demise.
The Horseshoe is arguably Glasgow's most famous bar and at one time was rumoured to have the longest bar counter in Europe. The bar changed its name and design in 1884 when John Scouller, a keen equestrian, took over. His other bars, The Snaffle Bit and The Spur continue this horse related interest but in The Horseshoe he married this concept with one of functionality and innovation with the horse shoe bar shape.
The reason for the evolution in layout was chiefly due to legislation and pressure to combat the growing problem of drunkenness in bars and on the streets. Glasgow had experienced a massive population growth and change in conditions around the city which meant many more people being affected by anti-social behaviour.
The changes in pub layouts at this time saw a move away from a series of rooms for drinking in to open plan spaces. This was a direct response to pressure from the licensing authority who wanted publicans to keep a closer eye on the punters and not let anyone get too drunk. An oval bar in the centre of the space was popular allowing the bar tenders a 360 deg view of their pub. A graduation from rooms to snugs to open plan with table and seats was the norm for these Victorian pubs.
In 1828, The House Drummond Act was passed and required every publican to hold a certificate from the Local Licensing Authority meaning the authority had a greater level of power and a greater say into how pubs were run. This power and monitoring of licences and pubs continued to increase in the mid 1800's with the Forbes Mackenzie Act passed in 1853 restricting opening times most notably on Sundays.
The Horseshoe solved this problem while tying it in with its brand concept. This pride and awareness in a pubs brand was becoming common place with private landlords sharing the pride in appearance demonstrated by the city wide, municipal restoration starting with The Glasgow City Improvements Act passed in 1866.
Glasgow was marketing itself as an international city, the Second City in the Empire, and In 1888 Glasgow held it's first International Exhibition which epitomized the style, exuberance and intent of the time. Victorian values of aesthetic were strong and (cheap) labour was of a very good standard with joiners, metal workers and glass workers gaining experience in the booming ship building trade.
In the pubs this aesthetic value manifested itself in a number of ways. Seating areas, bar counters and gantries were celebrated with intricate and elegant wood carvings with the gantry being another distinct Scottish (and Irish) feature due to Spirits being a more favoured choice of drink.
Many walls were clad in large decorative mirrors with advertisements for brewers or beneficiaries of the establishment. The mirrors gave a sparkle and shine in a step away and above that of their sawdust floored predecessors. They also gave a depth and grandeur to the interiors. These features are well preserved in The Horseshoe Bar with the bar staff still having a 360deg view of the interior.
The Steps Bar
The Steps Bar is apparently called The Steps Bar because it has steps up to the front entrance. It was established in 1938 in a post Victorian and post WWI era when Glasgow had lost it's perceived shine and leading aesthetic status.
The city was experiencing a multitude of changes and the effects of The Great Depression as well as overcrowding in the city made it a largely unpleasant place to be. Some of the changes in the city had a more direct effect on the culture of drinking in pubs as well as the design and layout of their interiors and aesthetic.
One of the changes in culture was perhaps welcomed somewhat by publicans looking to refurbish their bars to move away from what would have seemed like faded, fusty and run down Victorian decadence. The preference for drinking whisky changed from the landlords 'special blend' from the barrel to how we would now expect to be served a whisky from the bottle. This meant that elaborate and celebrated gantries could reduce in scale and grandeur and, of course, cost. The scaling down of the gantry to a slim, sleek wall behind or in the centre of the bar was a big step away from the carved timber structures of the Victorian age and fitted in with the efficient, streamlined layout as well as new drinking habits.
Another, wider, shift in the city saw a surge in cafe culture during this period which was largely due to an influx of first generation Italian immigrants bringing their continental traditions. These newly formed cafes naturally took on the style of the time in Art Deco and many played up to it's stereotype of cocktail glass motifs and glamorous names such as The Rio Cafe in Partick. Inside, though, they played an important social role as an escape from overcrowded conditions of densely populated tenement life. High backed booths for 4 or 6 people, such as the ones in The Rogano or The Rio, provided a welcome escape for many to catch up with friends away from family life. Most importantly it gave opportunity for women to get out of the home to socialise. Women's emancipation was furthered with equal voting rights with The Representation of the People Act 1928. Although still frowned upon the idea of women in pubs was starting to show under pressure from cafes and more equal rights and many establishments built separate snugs or 'ladies rooms' that adjoined the main space, providing shelter for delicate ears.
In The Steps Bar the features of a streamlined gantry are highlighted by the sweeping, simple curves of the bar surrounds taking influence from the cruise liner ships being built on the Clyde. The interior of The Steps being modelled on a bar on The Queen Mary. The 'ladies room' is to the rear of the pub and largely original. The bells used to gain attention of bar staff to avoid a trip to the bar can still be seen however this such obvious divide between the sexes in pubs would continue to slowly erode.
The Laurieston is regarded as one of the friendliest bars in Glasgow and has been owned by the same family for many years. It was selected as CAMRA'S Glasgow Pub of the Year 2013.
While there has been a pub at this location for many more years the most recent refurbishment of this premises was in the 1960's. At this time many bars and pubs were being refurbished as part of a wider city regeneration on the back of The Bruce Report, 1948 and The 1957 Report. These reports paved the way for the motorway around Glasgow and also for the clearance of a huge amount of tenement housing in poorer areas of the city. This in particular caused many pubs, which would have been situated in the ground floor shop units of these buildings, to be uprooted and relocated sometimes to other parts of the city.
The investment and wholesale renewal of the city's fabric allowed many bar owners to modernise both internally and externally. The Laurieston's distinctive 'type-writer' style font and tiling was introduced at this time and remains largely intact. With this change in physical structure there was also an opportunity to develop increased social changes in pubs. Most importantly, the introduction of the bar and lounge typology. This developed the concept of going to the pub and moved it on from a place where men would escape to have a drink into a place where it was more socially acceptable to go as a couple or mixed group. The Lounge would become the place for this while The Bar would still allow traditional pub goers to enjoy their 'peace'.
This typology moves on from 'the ladies room' layout as can be seen in The Steps Bar with The Lounge offering more comfortable accommodation such as more seating. In The Laurieston the floor coverings change; bare floorboards for the bar, carpet for the lounge.
The materials and finishes in the pub are very to true to the original 60'd refurbishment and in many ways similar to previous era. Ship building in the city still provided the basis for many trades, materials and influences and these have been retained in the modelling of the interior with the wood veneer and sweeping curves of the bar.
The Laurieston is especially interesting in the context of this study taking the principle developed around the time of the Horseshoe Bar with a central bar island and integrating it with a division designed to split the bar and the lounge areas of the pub. This plan is successful as it allows bar tenders to observe and serve both areas and reduces the 'special treatment' given with a typology such as a ladies room or snug with bells for gaining attention of bar staff.
Bar Ten was Glasgow's first style bar and was designed in 1991 by Ben Kelly Design (BKD), who most notably designed The Hacienda club in Manchester. BKD's brand of everyday industrial aesthetic was combined with higher end materials for the refurbishment and marks a distinct move away from the known aesthetic of the pub which had previous been linked to decorative timber carving and mirror or latterly timber veneer and formica. This, in Glasgow, had usually been closely associated with the ship building industry and the trades and materials fostered there. A combination of this industries decline in the 1980's along with a general change in tastes as well as a disassociation of the pub purely for the working man brought about a refreshed pub aesthetic.
The layout also continued to evolved and while the bar and lounge typology had generally relaxed views on equality in pubs it wasn't until the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act that it became legislation. This coincided with the emergence of the discotheque in the 1970's which would move more towards club (and drug) culture in the 1980's. This evolution to clubbing (DJ format) from 'the dancing' (live band format) had an affect on pubs with the idea of a pre-venue emerging.
This emergence of style bars, generally, saw the pub revert to have one main space with a bar. Other physical aspects of the pubs typology would change with this evolution such as the views between inside and outside becoming more open. The tradition high window sills of the pub are removed in favour of a lower sill contributing to the style bar and clubbing image of going out 'to be seen'.
This type of pub had fully moved away from the idea of a place to 'escape' to and had become much closer associated with the idea of a 'venue'.
The commission for Bar Ten advanced this concept with the introduction of a hairdressing salon. These two premises, as drawn on the plans, were envisaged together and aimed to combine the experience of 'getting ready', 'going out' and 'clubbing' under one aesthetic. The bar, designed in 1991, typified Glasgow's rebranding and personality shift from an industrial powerhouse and ship building capital to a cultural centre. BKD reference the "industrial elements and natural materials which referenced Glasgow’s mercantile and cultural heritage" in the design for Bar Ten while working with a typology that now, with less need for articulation and separation, could focus on the 'image' more closely.
Drygate is Glasgow's newest craft-brewery and pub. It opened in 2014 and was designed by Graven Images. The design of the pub has responded to many prevailing cultural shifts and legislation and has placed itself at the forefront of the design evolution of this typology in Glasgow.
Evolving from an era of style bars and growing from the idea that a pub has to be more than just a place to drink, Drygate describes itself as an 'experiential' craft brewery. The ground floor layout, drawn here, shows the variety offered to its visitors. This floor contains views of the brewery (where brewing workshops also take place), a restaurant area, beer hall style bar, private seating as well as a bottle shop. This diversity is held together carefully by the new internal walls and interventions within an existing, older structure.
The diversity continues upstairs with a lager bar and gallery / event space. The external spaces are planned to make the most of a sunny day but and also respond strongly to the Smoking, Health and Social Care Act (Scotland), 2005 - The Smoking Ban. With the luxury of flexible external space (unlike many city centre bars) the design focuses strongly on providing sociable external space as well as internal.
Aesthetically the pub moves on from the break between traditional pub decor and craft to address Glasgow's stronger identity and links to creative and cultural industries. The identity and graphics of the interior run through with the identity of the bottled beer the brewery produce and all marketing that goes with it.
Dress for the Weather
23 Acorn Street