John Alfred Taylor Houston

Architect; JHKM employee

Glasgow architect John Alfred Taylor Houston (1878–1927) was better known professionally as J. A. T. Houston, although as a student he initially used the name 'Alfred Houston'. 1

Houston was apprenticed to H. D. Walton (former clerk of works to Glasgow City Chambers) from 1894–8 and studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1895–8. 2 From May 1898 until May 1899, Houston was an assistant in the office of John Honeyman & Keppie, and won a bronze medal in the Department of Science and Art's National Competition for a design for a concert hall (1898). He then moved to two other major Glasgow practices, working with Robert Rowand Anderson for a year, and then for John Burnet & Son. He eventually joined Glasgow Corporation's Office of Public Works, in April 1901. 3

Houston's manager, city engineer A. B. MacDonald, wrote in 1904 that his department prepared plans for Parliament, revised Ordnance Survey maps, and built roads, sewers, quays, wash-houses, libraries, parks, fire-stations and 'dwellings for the labouring classes'. 4 Consequently, much of Houston's output is credited to A. B. MacDonald's general office, but Houston identified two bridges in Kelvingrove Park (possibly including the 'Humpback' foot-bridge of 1908), and the amateur rowing-club boathouse, Glasgow Green (1905), as his own work. 5

Houston returned to the Art School in 1904 for a year's further study. 6 Also around 1904 he started teaching 'ornamental metal work' in the Industrial Arts (later 'Decorative Trades') Department of Glasgow Technical College. He later added perspective drawing and 'hammered metal work design' to his repertoire, remaining a part-time staff member until the department was discontinued around 1915. 7 Houston's other projects during this period included roofing over the municipal market complex at Albion and Bell Streets, a highly-placed competition entry for London County Hall (both 1907), and alterations to Glasgow City Chambers. 8

Houston took on occasional private projects, such as a house at Standburn, near Polmont, Stirlingshire, for Dr A. F. Garrand in March, 1909. 9 He also joined the Glasgow Institute of Architects c. 1909, in his Corporation Public Works capacity and thereafter listed his practice at his various home addresses. 10

During the First World War, Houston was commissioned in the Royal Engineers c. 1915, and worked on the construction and layout of military camps at Gailes, Kinross and Dunfermline. He officially left the Royal Engineers, on completion of service, in September 1921, having been a captain and temporary inspector of works. He had rejoined the Corporation as principal architect prior to this date. 11 Among Houston's best-known post-war works were the public library added to the pre-existing Couper Institute, Cathcart (1923–4), and Mearnskirk Hospital, Renfrewshire (1921–30). The latter had been designed as a tuberculosis sanitorium to be built in a plain, red-brick Queen Anne style, before the war interrupted its construction. 12

Houston died on 19 December 1927. 13


1: Census information, [accessed 23 March 2014].

2: Student Registers, information kindly provided by the Glasgow School of Art Archives, 12 March 2014; 'John Alfred Taylor Houston' and 'Henry Denison Walton', Dictionary of Scottish Architects,; Valuation Rolls 1895, 1905, [both accessed 23 March 2014].

3: Glasgow Herald, 27 July 1899, p. 7; 'John Alfred Taylor Houston', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, [accessed 23 March 2014].

4: A. B. MacDonald, 'Engineering and Architecture', in Glasgow Corporation, Handbook on the Municipal Enterprises, Glasgow: Robert Anderson, 1904, p. 100.

5: Glasgow Botanic Gardens Heritage Trail, [Free Booklet], Glasgow City Council: Land and Environmental Services, c. 2007, p. 30; 'John Alfred Taylor Houston', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, [accessed 23 March 2014]; 'Glasgow Green, West Boathouse', Listed Buildings Description, Ref:33834,; 'Glasgow Green, Boathouse', Canmore I.D. 172761 Site No. NS56SE 1170, Canmore [online architectural database], [accessed 24 March 2014].

6: Student Registers, consulted by Archives Assistant (personal communciation), Glasgow School of Art, 12 March 2014.

7: Name misprinted as 'George T. Houston', 'I. A. T. Houston', Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1904–5, p. 133; 1907–8, p. 1755; 1914–15, p. 1820.

8: 'John Alfred Taylor Houston', Dictionary of Scottish Architects,; 'Listing Text: 60–106 (even nos) Candleriggs, 3–31 (odd nos) Bell Street and 69–97 (odd nos) Albion Street, Candleriggs, Glasgow', Historic Scotland Building I.D.: 32647,British Listed Buildings: History in Structure, online database, [accessed 23 March 2014].

9: A867/red/1906/08, 'House, Standburn, J. A. T. Houston, 3 March 1909', Stirling County Council, Building Warrants, Finding Aids: Stirlingshire, Falkirk Archives,

10: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1908–9, p. 336; 1909–10, p. 1731; 1911–12, pp. 334, 1739.

11: London Gazette, Issue 32578, Supplement, 16 January 1922, p. 447; 'John Alfred Taylor Houston', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, [accessed 23 March 2014].

12: 'Mearnskirk Hospital, Former Nurses' Home, Administration Block ...', Listed Buildings Description, Historic Scotland Listed Buildings Database, Ref: 19215; '84, 86 Clarkston Road, Couper Institute and Library', Listed Buildings Description, Ref: 22918, Historic Scotland Listed Buildings Database, [both accessed 24 March 2014].

13: Valuation Rolls 1920, [accessed 24 March 2014]; Glasgow Herald, 20 December 1927, p. 8; 21 December 1927, p. 1; 27 January 1928, p. 12; Scotsman, 20 December 1927, p. 11; 27 January 1928, p. 11; Western Daily Press, 20 December 1927, p. 11.