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Learning from Glas Vegas: ZCD, Reiach & Hall, Denizen Works

Dinah Bornat, Zoe Smith, Lyle Christie, Neil Gillespie & Murray Kerr

Petula Clark, in her smash 1964 hit Downtown, sang about the restorative and transformative powers of light, the city, energy and people. Local heroes Blue Nile seek similar distraction in their single The Downtown Lights.

The East End of Glasgow, in physical terms, is challenged and degraded; whole communities and their once-solid tenements have merged with the ground as industry has vanished. Yet, within this blighted landscape there are beacons of a surviving spirit, physically epitomised by the Barrowland Ballroom, the Barras and Celtic Park. The Barras, that almost mythical market area where anything thing can be bought, a twilight zone between here and there, right and wrong, urban fabric and gap site - is the scene of our thinking. Our proposal seeks to tap into the latent energy of the market by creating a chimera of the market itself; we had a strong feeling that we did not want to ‘civilise’ this part of town, but to capitalise on its ‘hidden’ wealth.

During the day the Barrowland has the air of being hungover, drained of life and shabby; come darkness, with a live band, the venue is totally transformed through its glad rags of neon and people.

Rather than approach the charrette as a way of exploring a cultured, considered intervention, our approach was simply to plunge into the crepuscular landscape of the area and light it up. A new Barras is proposed - one that literally spans the old, offering an alternative to despair and creating a reason for the city to flock to the East End. The space, if offered, was up in the sky, a lightweight Blade Runner structure of translucency, neon, colour and commerce, leisure, kebabs and pie rolls, gaming, casino, electrical goods, virtual reality, cameras, video, electronics, rain and reflection, laughter and music: Tokyo’s Akihabara in the North.

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