GLASGOW 1999: HOMES FOR THE FUTURE
A direct result of the 1946 Abercrombie Clyde Valley Regional Plan has been the dispersal of Glasgow's population to its edges. That process has congealed the old and new edge towns into a vast urban conurbation linked by a network of post-war motorways and upgraded Victorian rail links. The ease with which that dispersed population moves through the conurbation, and its proximity to relatively wild landscapes, would seem to confirm the success of the post-war vision. But it is sometimes difficult to slow down or reverse a tendency, and in Glasgow's case the conurbation's success continues to suck away population from its core. As a result the satellite residential centres find themselves facing ever greater demands to expand into their landscape hinterland. The pressure to endlessly extend the encircling ring of cul-de-sacs, apparently to meet all social choice and preference, culminates in only providing one - the house - in all its semi and detached versions.
'Homes for the Future' advocates an alternative. In the absence of a reverse, unrealistic, conurbation implosion policy, the city proposes that contemporary architecture and collaborative planning can offer a choice of living environments that is not available to the suburban edge dweller, and promote the return of some of the city's lost population.
A framework of mechanisms has been established through collaboration between the 1999 Project Team - led by Deyan Sudjic - the city council planning and roads department, Glasgow Development Agency, the Housing Agency, Scottish Homes and Thenew, the local housing association. The aim is to establish a mixed typology and tenure of housing offering co- ordinated and considered choice.
The original 'Homes for the Future' plan developed with Mike Lowe of Arup Associates focused on repair and reorganisation of the road and block layout of three edge blocks near Glasgow city centre and adjacent to its historic green. Urban blocks were used to frame private internal court landscape space. It is characteristic of the incapacity of current facilitating mechanisms or attitudes to good city rebuilding, that, whereas in the 1960s substantial tracts of the city could be bought up with almost irresponsible ease, today new, tiny land holdings present immense obstacles to inner- city development. Here it postponed and limited the achievable 1999 development to one block and court of housing. This focused concentration of effort has not diluted the variety of developer/architect approaches nor the client determination to exhibit a range of approaches to housing type and style. After a bruising competitive process, seven architects and five developers are now striving to complete the exhibition project on time.
The early masterplan identified three types of development: flatted blocks, terrace, and a row of houses arranged round a central court. The flatted blocks align with the green, maintaining the independent and detached nature of, on one side, the existing 1960s listed Gillespie Kidd and Coia School, and on the other, the soon to be restored Hide Skin and Tallow building.
At one end, Dickie Construction's architect, Elder and Cannon, has twinned its glass-fronted skin and Rick Mather's rhythmic balcony cantilevers by linking the two with a high-level sky-walk of exuberant rooftop dwellings. The bridge pend between them frames a pedestrian route into the tapered inner court defined in part by Elder and Cannon's terrace block. Mirroring this, Ian Ritchie's steel-framed tower for Thenew Housing Association within an extended walled enclosure suggested by the adjacent school is echoed by Ushida Findlay's free-standing elegantly curvilinear slab for the Burrell Company. This 'his' and 'her' gate marks the vehicular route into the site, the former by an extending wall to embrace the individual houses behind, the latter by stepping the slab into the garden court.
Site ownership constraints defined an 8m strip which, by extending the Ritchie walled enclosure, has been used to edge a series of houses and gardens. The first, by Wren + Rutherford for MacTaggart and Mickel, is a three-storey tower house surmounting a ground-floor disabled person's flat which echoes, at the other extremity, a 'green'- roofed, timber-clad variation on the theme by rmjm for Logan Construction. Both houses frame a central twin block comprising a rendered stacked double maisonette - the 'introvert' house - and its four-storey 'extrovert' variation also by rmjm for Logan Construction. McKeown Alexander has designed a stepped row of houses which links to the Elder and Cannon terrace as well as a split-winged, free-standing group of flats which terminates the tapered court. Both projects are for the Burrell Company.
These 100 houses are a drop in the urban ocean when compared to the current rate of conurbation perimeter landscape depletion, but much of their importance lies in the embryonic machinery put in place to enable the project to happen quickly. In addition to the energy of the combined client-liaison and infrastructure team led by Eleanor McAllister with Hunter Reid and Norrie Innes, the city council planning Department under George Campbell initiated a design day for all developers and architects on planning and building control issues, which enabled planning permission to be granted for the whole scheme six weeks from submission date, on the basis of a co-ordinating set of drawings of all the schemes by project manager Rock dcm. Facilitating on-going discussions with the statutory authorities has further smoothed processes through.
'Homes for the Future' will create interest for the innovations: fast- track in-situ concrete construction, innovative glazing techniques, new material specification and alternative lifestyle settings. But there is an equally important 'not seen' lesson in creating a pro-active environment where there is an implicit obligation on each party to deliver solutions not problems. Such a collaborative model anticipates that in time the promotion and redevelopment of city centres could match the pace, scale and profitability of the easy-option greenfield developments. In such a scenario, in the city of Taggart and No Mean City, 'Homes for the Future' could come to be known as Glasgow's 21st-Century Cul-de-Sac Killer.
David Page is a partner in Page & Park Architects