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Glasgow's Riverside Museum

A Beguiling Time Machine

Glasgow's new Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel is a stunning 21st-century
building that whisks visitors effortlessly back to bygone eras.


If I had wanted my first view of Glasgow's new Riverside Museum to match those of the countless photos that appeared long before the doors opened on June 21, 2011, I should have been on the opposite bank of the River Clyde. Or better yet, aboard a boat in the middle of the river. Instead, I chose the easy route, hopping on a special bus in the city center and alighting in a misty rain near the museum's back door. It being not quite opening time, I walked toward the river alongside the glistening zinc-paneled wall that seemed to rise like a great swell in an undulating sea. Reaching the bank of the Clyde, turning and looking up, I finally saw what I had anticipated -- the great glass façade with its zigzag peaks pointing skyward like cresting waves. A perfect reflection of the tall ship, Glenlee, moored at the foot of the Riverside, filled the mirror-like expanse.

I had long ago been enchanted by the nostalgic Museum of Transport at Kelvin Hall with its wonderful exhibitions of early Glasgow travel and life. I knew this successor would far exceed the grand old place, but nothing could have prepared me for the stunning experience that awaited. The soaring space, the warm, lime green interior, and the blending of daylight with long, winding ribbons of artificial illumination beckoned me into a world of giant steam engines, double-decker buses, walls full of automobiles and, high overhead, a circular bicycle velodrome. The first impression was simply of size, a powerful setting for powerful vehicles. Yet, because of the curving design of the building, the visit soon resembled a pleasurable road trip as I moved around gentle bends that revealed a new vista at each turn. Some were wide open and lofty, others intimate and personal.

The full text of this article is available in the Summer 2012 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photos: Exterior © Chris Robson/Scottish Viewpoint; Interior © Donald Macleod