Whether at home or in his studio, Toby Paterson has a way of arranging the space so that inspiration flows and fellow creatives can’t help but follow
Before Glasgow artist Toby Paterson even contemplated moving into his flat on Southpark Avenue, he thought it was one of the most amazing places he’d ever been. He didn’t know it in its first incarnation, the headquarters of envelope-pushing architecture firm Gillespie, Kidd & Coia. It was as a party venue and the home of Toby Webster, founder of the influential Modern Institute, that Toby first encountered the extraordinary property.
“Toby and his wife April Crichton lived there in the mid-1990s,” he recalls. “I had recently left art school and was involved with Transmission [the artist-run gallery in the Merchant City], and Toby was working there too. Most people were living in total middens – and then here was this place.” He grins at the memory. “Looking back on it now, it was so spartan – basically an office space they were living in. There was no heating, what walls there were were half-glazed hardboard office partitions. It was pretty austere. But at the time it seemed like the most unbelievably glamorous thing.”
Transmission was the nursery slopes for many of the successful artists who have lived and worked in Glasgow over the last few decades, winning five Turner Prizes in the process. And they all liked to party in Southpark Avenue, meaning that everyone from Douglas Gordon to Simon Starling and Martin Boyce have passed through its door. Toby recalls one party with David Harding, founder of the department of sculpture and environmental art that is credited with nurturing so many of these talents, sitting in an armchair in the middle of the vast space, holding court. The talent of a generation has drunk wine and made big plans within these walls.
The property was originally a three-bed tenement above the garage of funeral directors and cabinetmakers Wylie & Lochhead on Great Western Road. Gillespie, Kidd & Coia moved there in the 1960s. With no permission that exists on record, they knocked down all the internal walls and replaced them with steel beams and a pole. (Toby has been reassured by a structural engineer that the building is safe. The engineer’s actual words were: “That looks like hell but it’s not going anywhere.”)
Isi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan took over the company in the 1970s and worked in Glasgow, as well as Scotland’s new towns and further afield, creating modernist concrete-and-glass buildings such as St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross. Later, when they were winding down in the 1980s, the property was rented out to various artists, designers and architects.
Toby first took possession in 2004. Rhona, who is now his wife, recalls an early date when he had just moved in. “We met in a bar, he had just got the keys and I remember him talking about it, drawing me a sketch of the layout.”
Toby adds: “The first time you came round, there was nothing here but two chairs and a sheet of plywood.”
As a couple, they continued living in the flat. They wanted to buy somewhere, but every property they viewed fell short of the place they were actually living in. Toby had improved the living conditions over the years, adding heating and refurbishing the windows. He had also asked Isi Metzstein, the owner, if he could buy it. He was not alone in asking this and at first his request, like those before him, was refused.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 130-136, issue 97.
Words Anna Burnside
Photography Neale Smith