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Credit to Glasgow's city architect

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Isi Metzstein presents a well argued view of Glasgow's urbanism (aj 7.1.99), but he fails to acknowledge the key role of the city architect, John Carrick. It was largely through Carrick's persistence that the Glasgow grid and tenement persevered as the main elements of urban form in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Although the orthogonal grid existed well before Carrick was appointed city architect in 1862, he exploited its potential for social and sanitary reform in the centre, and used its efficient geometry to create new settlements at the city edge. Many in Glasgow argued for a more relaxed street layout - one with English picturesqueness - but Carrick's view held sway in the City Chambers.

The same is true of the debate between tenements and English terraced housing. After the Great Exhibition of 1851 with its model houses, there was pressure in Glasgow to abandon the flat. Carrick again won the argument, building for the City Improvement Trust in 1870 some of the first multi- storey tenements in Europe. Rather like Haussmann in Paris, Carrick co- ordinated development across the city on behalf of the town council until his death in 1891.

If Thomson is a convenient starting point for the celebrations, then Carrick's skill as urban designer and public official should not be overlooked. Carrick employed Thomson (as he did Honeyman and Salmon) to put in place his vision of a great urbane Classical city. The grammar was one of a collective will, essentially anti-Gothic and anti-English. It is a pity that so many housing projects under the banner of the City of Architecture and Design, as Isi rightly points out, seem to have forgotten the lessons of Glasgow's past. Glasgow does not need to borrow from Berlin, Amsterdam or Barcelona; it has enough pedigree of its own.


Professor of architecture, University of Huddersfield

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