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The Knight Map, Glasgow

In 2022 I won the commission from Glasgow City Heritage Trust to update Thomas Sulman’s aerial map of Glasgow, dating from 1864. Information on the original drawing can be found here

Adapting Thomas Sulman’s use of an aerial view to my repertoire of plan, section and elevation was an exciting and challenging technical opportunity which has extended my practice.  Taking my lead from Sulman’s drawing and the Trust’s brief I welcomed the opportunity to contribute to Galllus Glasgow.  I was confident that I could produce a work to encourage and enable people to see the city of today afresh, with its’ changing skyline, busy motorways and bridges, and pedestrian thoroughfares. To see across the whole city from ‘the gods’ and yet, at the same time be able to be place oneself within each and every street to view its life and buildings, is the joy of such a drawing. 

I proposed to use Sulman’s drawing as the base layer, ensuring that the commissioned work  is the same physical size and scope as Sulman’s original and will align with it. The brief for me was about paying homage to the original map, rather than strictly accurately mapping Glasgow of today. There will be digital models, and satellite imagery that does this already; rather, I wanted to make the most of Sulman’s Drawing, and allow the viewer to reflect on the city today, the city of 1864, and propose the city of the future by seeing the tow comparable drawings.

To accommodate the timescale and complexity of producing a drawing – showing buildings at scale, accurately placed in perspective onto the complex topography of the city; the Sulman drawing was used as the ‘framework’ onto which the present day city was ‘grafted’. Many roads and buildings depicted in the original remain, so it was a case of working out how the intervening infrastructure and buildings fit within this. This allowed me to engage with the scale and detail of Sulman’s drawings of buildings, ensuring that the similar detail is possible. Physically tracing Sulman’s hand offered an even greater opportunity to understand the original and for it to inform the production of the new work, achieving detail and making marks at the same scale as the original. Working from the original means that this new work is effectively a new layer, whereby buildings and roads that were in the original drawing, are in the same place in the new work. Creating a physical drawing also enabled the two works to be hung alongside one another, allowing the viewer to draw comparisons, as well as adding a new layer digitally to the Gallus Glasgow Website. This can be found here

Bird's eye view of Glasgow in 1864
Thomas Sulman
Illustrated London News, 1864

(1160mm x 540mm)

Response to the Brief

Sulman’s drawing is of a city in time; Glasgow. Recorded with the same forensic detail and accuracy that my work seeks to achieve. His drawing hums with life, the urban stage set and props, dealt with carefully and artfully with the same hand.  The buildings and streets between them recognisable not just by their form, but by the life and that animates them; horses, pedestrians and boats on the Clyde show the city as a place of movement and congregation, and change – depicted by the numbers of gap sites in construction. Likewise, the cranes and smoking chimney stacks and stockyards show a city of trade and industry; growing and groaning with Victorian life. 



Layer 1. Street Names from 1857 Town Plan _ OS Map 1:500 / 1528 Towns 1840-1890s

I traced the street patterns on the original drawing, and labelled the street names in red pen, to understand and clarify the accuracy of Sulman’s Drawing, allowing me to locate exact places within the drawing, and check the context of these places drawn by Sulman. It was this exercise; cross referencing the detailed 2 dimensional 1857 Town Plan of the city, with Sulman’s Drawing, that confirmed the forensic detail achieved by Sulman. Each building plot shown on the 2 dimensional OS map, with backcourts, stair towers, spires and chimneys was accurately depicted in 3 dimensions on the Sulman Drawing. 

Layer 2. Contemporary Streets and Railway and block plan traced over Layer 1

(1160mm x 540mm)

This layer is effectively a contemporary 2 dimensional OS Map, draped over the topography and perspective set by the Sulman map. Many of the streets set out in the 1864 map are the same today, with the noticeable introduction of the M8 Motorway, and railway lines crossing the Clyde. Central Station also impacts the layout of the city. Contemporary flattened block plans infill the gaps between streets, and show the change in scale of buildings, with larger plots filling a block, rather than the previous dense rows of plots with pends and wynds breaking the blocks. I added street names in red to Layer 2 to ensure I understood exact locations to cross reference when adding massing to the blocks in the subsequent layer.

Layer 3. Massing Drawing traced over Layer 2.

(1160mm x 540mm)

I calculated the approximate scale used by measuring a building that exists today from Sulman’s drawing, and measuring it’s relative height in the drawing. This gave a scale of approximately 1/3000. The exercise was then to extrude buildings up to their accurate height, and scale them; this ensured that buildings were accurately plotted and drawn, regardless of their location on the drawing, ensuring consistency throughout the drawing. Having a scale also enabled me to put the complex city infrastructure around the M8, where roads and pedestrian bridges overlap tunnelled roads and ramps.

Layer 4. Pen Drawing traced over Layer 3.

(1160mm x 540mm)

With this drawing I added each building’s elevational detail on the massing information, with surface treatment, windows and the city’s roofs cape all added. This gave a further understanding to the scale of the drawing, as floor heights could be seen and understood from some of the buildings. Information at ground level, such as pavements, green spaces and trees were also added, as well as people and vehicles.

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Layer 5. Watercolour added to Layer 4.

Watercolour added to the pen line drawing enabled me to show light and shadow impacting the city, giving the drawing the a similar sense of depth and perspective that Sulman achieves. I decided to faithfully colour each building, showing the wider range of building materials seen across the city today. I also decided not to colour the roads, to retain clarity where possible. Building heights increasing across the city means that some of the street visible in Sulman’s drawing aren’t seen in the contemporary version. The sky and distinct profile of the Campsie Fells were added, to give a familiar backdrop to an ever changing skyline.

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