- Steel Window Association -

How a laboratory helped restore an art deco masterpiece

If Egyptian pyramids had windows they'd probably look something like the India of Inchinnan in Renfrewshire! It is a category A listed building, a status reserved for architecture of international importance and the highest grade available under the Scottish system. Yet boiled down to its basic ingredients it is mostly flat, mono coloured walls, with green steel windows. But what windows!

To see it is to understand immediately what is meant by the architectural style known as Art Deco. It was designed by Thomas Wallis of architects Wallis, Gilbert and Partners in 1930 for India Tyres on a site that had previously been used to build airships during World War 1 for the Admiralty.

It has a white stuccoed facing, stucco being a fine plaster used for coating wall surfaces, with two storeys of steel windows. It also has red, black and green tiles.

The steel windows are W20s and in all there are 110 of them. The story of how they were refurbished after the building fell into dereliction, is quite a remarkable one.

In 1981 India Tyres closed and despite the fact that the building was widely regarded as the most important surviving Art Deco architecture in Scotland, it was left almost derelict.

For many years the India of Inchinnan stood neglected. It was vandalised and partially burnt, but after a £7m refurbishment it became the head office for an information technology company called Graham (now Sword Ciboodle). As a result the building got the "Best Re-Use of an Historic Building" award at the Scottish Design Awards in 2005. It is the only category A building in commercial use in Scotland.

The windows were restored by Steel Window Association member Rea Metal Windows as Barry McCabe of Rea recalls: “It was a listed building and our remit was to replace the original windows with 110 new, galvanized, polyester painted and double glazed W20 steel windows.

“We were not only challenged to replicate the original window fenestrations but a section of the original window frame was laboratory analysed to determine its precise colour, with the new frames and polyester painted in accordance with BS 6497 to present an identical match.”

What appears to be two storeys from the outside is actually a very light and airy atrium. Clearly the original designer was so much in love with the steel windows one set of them was not enough.

The design was by Gordon Gibb of Gibb Architects. He kept the original India Tyres office building but added a contemporary extension inspired by the airships formerly built there. The roof of the extension is a replica of a section of an airship.

“We have created bespoke and speculative office developments and industrial architecture throughout Central Scotland,” says the architects web site. “Our most notable commercial building is 'India of Inchinnan', the £6.5m renovation and extension of the category A listed Art Deco masterpiece.”

The main contractor was Hunter & Clark Ltd. Of Glasgow.

Sword Group acquired Graham Technology and continues to use the building as Sword Ciboodle's headquarters. It is also the head office of the business technology company Amor Group and another company, Geotronics, has a substantial presence.

There is also a fine restaurant, the R34 (named after the airship) used for conferences as well as providing facilities for businesses in the building and anyone else who happens to drop in for a bite to eat or a drink.

Finally Rolls Royce built a new, purpose designed £85m plant at the site, maintaining the long established link with transport and the motor trade.

The India of Inchinnan tyre factory was built at a time of high confidence in technology and speedy progress of the motor industry to which it was dedicated.

It was not tucked away on some industrial estate, but created deliberately as a singular landmark building on the main Glasgow coast highway.

It is spacious and designed to make a statement and the fine detailing in the windows is utterly integral to this concept.

The Steel Window Association is the representative trade organisation for steel window manufacturers, distributors and installers in the UK.



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Steel Window Association

The Steel Window Association (SWA) represents the great majority of UK steel window manufacturers, ranging in size from the smallest of craft-based companies through to large, multi-site companies. There is not a steel window project of any description, anywhere in the UK, that one of the SWA members cannot handle.

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