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'Crude' Glasgow hotel plans attacked

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Plans for a huge extension above an historic hotel in Glasgow’s main civic space have alarmed some of the city’s leading architects, with one branding the proposals a ‘crass piece of urban thuggery’

Concerns about the high-rise addition to the Millennium Hotel on the city’s George Square were raised after a fresh architectural image of the plan emerged last week.

These show a series of glass-fronted blocks looming over the Georgian hotel’s rare Mansard roof. The plans aim to mask a giant multi-storey car park, due to be built behind the hotel as part of a separate development, and replace rooms lost from the demolition of a 1970s extension.

Planning papers lodged at Glasgow Council by London-based architects Hamiltons, describe the hotel building as ‘not particularly distinguished’ but admit it ‘should be valued as a part of the city’s architectural heritage’.

The documents read: ‘The additions are being designed as sympathetically scaled elements that are compatible with the materials and scale of building form of the existing hotel building.’

However Christopher Platt, professor of architecture at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow slammed the proposals as a ‘crass piece of urban thuggery’.

‘To give an existing building new life for a new future is an important activity which require the very best architects’ involvement,’ he added.

‘This goes beyond a crude statement of ‘contrast’ between old and new. The image published suggests none of these have been employed as the end result has the effect of weakening the presence of a decent Georgian building and making it look inadequate and stupid.’

Platt concluded: ‘There is no discourse visible between the Georgian and contemporary elements. One does not appear to need nor want the other.’

Controversy over the redevelopment of the Millennium Hotel is the latest surrounding the redevelopment of the historic George Square. In 2013 Glasgow City leader Gordon Matheson made headlines after scrapping a design contest, originally won by John McAslan + Partners, for a £15million overhaul of the square (AJ 23.01.13).

Meanwhile, last month, Glasgow City councillors approved plans to tear down the iconic steps outside Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall to make way for a £390 million, BDP-designed extension of a neighbouring shopping centre.

The approval came despite a wave of protest including an online petition signed by more than 14,000 people and a further 2,000 letters and emails.

Unlike the concert hall development, plans for the Millennium hotel development will only be considered by council officers, Glasgow Council confirmed to AJ.

Councillors only review applications when six or more objections are lodged, a spokesman said. Only two were received against the hotel plans, which were officially submitted late last year.

Alan Dunlop, director and principal of a Glasgow-based practice Alan Dunlop Architects, said the hotel extension would ‘further undermine’ the city’s public realm.

‘After the decision to allow the demolition of the Concert Hall steps for a ubiquitous glass rotunda entrance to Buchanan Galleries…the city seems to be on the brink of giving approval to another project [which] will further undermine the public realm, confidence in the planning system, and will have a profound and detrimental effect on it most important civic and pubic space, George Square for the next 100 years.’

Millennium Hotels, the owner of the Glasgow hotel, declined to comment.

Comments:

Paul Stallan of Glasgow’s Stallan-Brand:
‘The historic building on the north side of George Square should be removed to make way for a new public architecture. The existing building although old is not of great merit.

‘Adding a super scale extension to this Georgian pile makes no sense and is plain shabby. The grandeur of George Square could be reinforced with more appropriate contemporary classical rationalism. Glasgow is a city of St.Vincent Street not Sesame Street.’ 

Babak Sasan of Glasgow’s Sasanbell:
I am all for progressive, new and innovative architecture that can coexist with historic buildings. However calling the proposal ‘futuristic’ is a bit of a stretch of the usual architectural vocabulary.
The design if anything, is what Americans call ‘cookie cutter architecture’ which has been popping up in the past few years. It is the latest trend - a fashionable design like ‘the checkered window formation’ we saw a few years ago.
I am not sure if this is a style that is promoted by the planners - or just flavour of the month. It is a pity and a missed opportunity that the proposed scheme is being considered for approval. It lacks ambition and innovation. Even if you were to consider this as a ‘safe’ design, it shows no relevance to its setting nor context.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The plight of George Square is even worse than stated - the massive car park behind the hotel is part of the Buchanan Galleries retail mall expansion into a mega-mall, and this structure is being built on the area of the station car park, in conjunction with the expansion of the station - which is to adorn one corner of George Square with a new sloping glass curtain wall topped by an enormous eaves projection, utterly out of character with the Square and more akin to an airport terminal building (the initial facade proposal was far more in keeping with the Square). The massive new car park is needed because the retail mall expansion is at the expense of the existing multi storey car park, that was built as part of the Buchanan Galleries development.
    Sustainability? - don't even think about it, and so much for the notion of master-planning (at least, in Glasgow city centre) - the new car park was initially proposed to be located on top of the very large Buchanan bus terminal, as part of a massive 'air rights' expansion of the retail mall. What's the betting that this won't still happen in the not too distant future?
    The demolition of the adjoining concert hall steps, at the head of the pedestrianised Buchanan Street, just adds insult to injury in what is fast becoming an ill-fitting jigsaw of missed master-planning opportunities, opportunistic commercial conflict and civic myopia.
    Glasgow deserves miles better.

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