Grain Silos : With Special Reference to Meadowside (2000)





This was a research on the importance of grain silo icons to figures such as Gropius, Corbusier and Mendelsohn etc., including an exploration of the relevant art and engineering histories and the comparisons of the Clydeport’s former Meadowside granaries.


The mothballing of this site had allowed RCAHMS to survey it in the 1980s.  One of the additional silos on the site was listed by DOCOMOMO in 1993 to recognise it as one of Scotland's sixty most outstanding examples of post-war modernism.  The unoperated site was a backdrop for several film sets and the Stormy Waters web-cast before reverting back into its original function in the late 1990s.  


Design workshops published by the RIAS, at this time, had brought the local community and numerous architects together to examine the site's future during the build-up to an outline planning application decision [ps: in 2001, resulting in eventual closure and demolition in 2002-05; with masterplanned redevelopment completed by 2005-07], creating a separate topic during the research.  


It was rewarding to discover how the Meadowside granaries were conceived and devised from within the Clyde Navigation Trust, while exploring the Trust’s HQ for my thesis. 


Links to full document and added info, updated 16/12/12:


It can be viewed here with belated acknowledgements.  Also download a high or low resolution pdf at my new academia.edu profile here.  The actual dissertation is held at the Mackintosh School of Architecture library (ADIS2000TON).  Any investigative photos/images are, or will be, uploaded here, which also explains the possibly permanent loss of the original [Lotus WordPro] electronic copies of my dissertation...


In postscript:


What can be done for such ‘industrial archaeology’ of this scale locale and calibre when it is subject to periodic redundancy and eventual doom if it has no adaptive reuse (?)  Their "significances" (historical, cultural, technical, etc.) i.e. ICOMOS-UNESCO maxims are generally not yet enough to ensure their protection from demolition.


Meadowside Granary was lost to redevelopment in 2002-7 despite having Docomomo recognition and gaining architectural attention and publicity ("Bringing the city to the river" from 1996) in the run up to the UK City of Architecture 1999.  If it were in the city of Buffalo it might have stood a better chance as that city has naturally and interestingly now begun to challenge such losses in the first decade of the millennium.


Since Buffalo's recent Grain Elevator Project initiative of 2001 etc, silos have begun to be recognised as heritage for the first time.  For example Buffalo Preservation Board will attempt to reinstate a demolition injunction to save and designate a landmark silo www.preservationnation.org 3 May 2011 in lieu of redevelopment during 2011. 


Reconsidering Concrete Atlantis: Buffalo Grain Elevators” from 2006, which may still be viewable online, was a milestone appraisal that soon followed after the above initiative.  This title was of course in reference to Reyner Banham’s “A Concrete Atlantis” 1986. 


In my dissertation, I referred to Buffalo in the 1920s/30s as being a "Grand Tour" for a time.  Banham aptly called it an Atlantis !


Despite the symbolic impact on the evolution of architecture, the significance of silos is generally overlooked because they are uninhabited, rarely architected, works of engineering.


Owen Hatherley’s article “Architect’s must lose the Silo MentalityThe profession’s indifference to the industrial icons of Buffalo shows its true detachment” from 13 May 2011 has argued that “...the most pivotal buildings of the last 100 years, anywhere” are beyond the regard of architects on the presumption that “...a silo isn’t architecture.  And architecture is art...”


Architectural theorists' discourse on silos did however cross paths with the Art discipline.  Demuth’s “My Egypt” 1927 on the front cover of "Modern Art and America" from 2001 was one such example among many intriguing others.  


Despite there being undeniable reference made to the icons in much pre-war modern architecture and occasionally beyond, the tenet that silos are merely engineering with no place in architectural history has continued indefinitely.


The iconography of silos spearheaded the ‘International Style’.  Gropius, Mendelsohn and Le Corbusier et al compared the monumentality of silos with that of antiquity, e.g. “Old Egypt”, “Silo Castles”, “First fruits of the new age...”, etc.  Silos are therefore part of Architecture’s ‘hall of fame’ as would be some of the modernism within their wake including perhaps the Cardross seminary praying chapels as a late example.


However, whether such symbology proves relevant enough to help save or sufficiently document living exemplars (despite their importance as images) remains to be seen.


Perhaps silos “...the true temples of our age...” [Minnucci 1926] are not yet generally envisaged as built heritage - despite their underlying influence upon modernism - because of their relative infancy (low age-vallue) when compared with actual antiquity.


The romantic notions of Laugier 1753 helped to establish neo-classicism as  ...the true rustic huts of our age, i.e. an even earlier analogy that continues to inform our architecture.  The potency of the 'grain silo' compares with that of the 'rustic hut' in the anthology of architecture theory.  Something that may take more time to be accepted!



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