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Billy Burgess

Unspoken History

This project celebrates Glasgow’s rich and intertwined histories of tobacco trading and tattooing. In the mid-eighteenth century, Glasgow’s international tobacco trade was at its highest, with forty to fifty per cent of all of Europe’s tobacco imports arriving in the city along the River Clyde. Such was the wealth of Glasgow’s four ‘tobacco lords’, all had streets in the city named after them.

The scheme refurbishes and expands the historic Customs House, designed by John Taylor and completed in 1840, before later refurbishments by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. Currently derelict, the building enjoys a prominent location on the River Clyde, close to Jamaica Street and visible from trains arriving in Glasgow Central Station. The new museum will re-purpose the Greek-revival Customs House, with new openings and discrete services providing light and ventilation to create world-class exhibition spaces.

The scheme includes a sensitive new extension to the building, providing a new public entrance oriented towards the busy St. Enoch Square. Here, the history and practice of tattooing will meet in a hybrid museum, one that combines galleries for education and state-of-the-art tattoo parlours for practice.

Stephen Johnson