April 27, 2010 Mitch Miller

In which I get round to actually drawing something.

I post this – the first dialectogram from Red Road – with a sense of genuine relief. I feel like I have been gnawing at the edges of the project for weeks, but now I’ve been able to take some roughs and realise just a portion of what will be the drawing for the Concierge’s station at 10 Red Road Court.

This is somewhere between an initial sketch and the final drawing – a rehearsal, if you like, concentrating on just one part of the whole concierge station. This drawing shows the reception and CCTV scanning area of the station as it was just before Christmas. The reception is where the duty concierges answer public queries through the counter, and keep an eye on the CCTV screens. Here are some pictures I took during the visit.

The popular notion of jobsworth voyeurs in uniform robotically scrutinising every aspect of what a citizen says and does is something of a received wisdom, but Jacky and Grant (misrepresented as ‘Graham’ on the diagram) gave no such impression; they glanced at the screens here and there during the interview but clearly maintained a sense of discretion and tact in what they did. The station had the relaxed, easy feel of a mail-room or workshop; tomato soup was cooking on the stove in the kitchen and copies of The Daily Record were yellowing in an in-tray. It felt cosy, and human. The concierges I met that day were impressive in their knowledge, tact and understanding of their job, and the very diverse group of people they serve. They knew every inch of Red Road and could speak at length about the buildings, what they had been used for, and the many tenants who had passed through. Both Grant and Jacky had worked there for about 20 years and could recall many of its past tenants by name – and even knew where many of them had subsequently gone since. Not very far, as it turned out; many old tenants had shifted to the new GHA flats and houses across the road, out of a desire to stay in the area their families had lived in before Red Road was built; the concierges, and many of these tenants are North Glasgow people who clearly retain a strong sense of place and belonging.

This set me wondering; would it be possible to draw where, and when a selection of past tenants had gone since they left Red Road – and perhaps where they or their ancestors had been before?

An interesting idea, but there is still the small matter of actually drawing spaces such as the concierge station, which proved to be a rather difficult task. Missing from the above image is a good chunk of the station itself; no waiting room, side offices, locker room, storage areas showers, toilets or corridor is found in this representation of flat 1/04. I had attempted to do full drawing of the flats but soon found myself running into difficulties. I’d taken loads of photos, but when I got back home, I found it very hard to piece them together into a coherent structure; rooms were in the wrong places and the scale was shot to hell. When I can renegotiate access to this and other flats, a small camcorder will be essential, so I can join all the different points together in my head.

I had looked at the plans drawn by Bunton architects in 1962, which can be found in the Mitchell Library, and attempted to use my sketches from here as the basis of a floorplan. However, it was evident from the very beginning, that matching up the original drawings to the present would be difficult, given that renovations and even the process of making the plans (excuse the pun) concrete would change the layout. The ‘orientation’ capsule in the right of the image was taken from one such drawing from Bunton’s original plans, but I think that I would like in future drawings, to work from the blocks as they actually are, as they have no doubt changed even more since then.

What I wanted to do with this drawing was try out some techniques and ways of presenting information, narratives and ideas. I’ve tried using some comic strip elements and cutaways to open up the view of the station and use, as much as possible, visual cues to explain what is here and why. I think some of them work, and some of them NEED work, but I would be interested to hear any comments or ideas on progress so far.

A true dialectogram should always list its mistakes and I had no space on the drawing proper, so shall catalogue my errors here! I am not at all happy that I got the names of two of the concierges mixed up, and I think the CCTV cutaways are pretty dull and awkward looking. I also need to work on drawing people from a bird’s eye view. My first instinct was to be quite abstract and ‘symbolic’ as is evident with Jacky, but by the time I was drawing Grant, I was dissatisfied and trying for a more organic approach. None of the three figures look entirely right at the moment, and look out of scale to me. I know that nothing on the balcony is entirely in the right place either, and referring to pictures after the fact showed a whole raft of mistakes around the counter area – the clipboard with tenant’s details was placed INSIDE the reception, not outside as my drawing has it. Also, none of the men ever smoked inside the office, staying outside to do so, which is why I have noted it on the comic strip to the left – I would not want anyone to get in trouble as a result of a doodle! More important though are the questions and ‘to-do’s’ I am left with. Getting bird’s eye right is one important task for the next drawing, but there is still so much to find out; what exactly are all the keys for? What do the consoles do? What is shown on the CCTV? What other stories do the concierges have to tell (and what is on and off the record)? Why are there Beano stickers stuck to each of the lockers (not shown in the drawing)? And should I attempt to do a ‘key’ for everything you might find in one of these interiors? How long will that take? The answers will, I hope, be forthcoming…

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