As I approached the building that is home to Glasgow’s prized Burrell Collection, my first thought was that I was about to waste precious hours of sunlight by going indoors. I could see how much glass there was to the structure, but it still looked to me like some enormous and jagged main course served on bed of flat green fields. I was disheartened before I had even begun.
Suddenly all those hours I had spent swooning over the television programme Grand Designs imploded into a single fragment of perception. In that moment, I understood light.
Everywhere I went, light was there: pouring, splashing, sifting through spaces and around corners. Taking nearly all of Sir William Burrell’s more than 9,000 assembled pieces of art and treating each one as if it were on a pedestal. Some doorways are framed with Romanesque arches, while others are clad with warm wood. Here, ornate frames and glass simultaneously separating and connecting two sections of exhibition space while around the corner, a nibble of shadow that gives way to a cavernous room filled with dark furniture.
Obviously most people come to see the collection itself and must be awed by the number of items that this one (very wealthy) man managed to amass during his lifetime. Medieval tapestries, ancient pieces from Rome, Greece and China, paintings by European masters, and elaborately carved English oak furniture, including a four poster bed from the 1600s, the sight of which made me groan with jealous pleasure. But as I wandered through the floors, I knew that this amazing compilation of works would not wield the same power were it not for the complimentary nature of the building that houses it.