The steps outside Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall are to be torn down to make way for a £390 million, BDP-designed extension of the neighbouring shopping centre
Earlier this week (24 February), councillors approved the controversial plans despite a wave of protest against the demolition of the iconic steps, including an online petition signed by more than 14,000 people and a further 2,000 letters and emails.
Designed by Leslie Martin, the architect behind London’s Royal Festival Hall, the concert hall opened in 1990 as part of Glasgow’s year as European City of Culture and the steps soon became a popular lounging spot in the city centre, as well as a place protests and street performers.
Opponents claimed the plans ‘valued commercialism’ over Glasgow’s citizens and destroyed a public asset that promotes freedom of speech in the city.
Aileen McKay, 22, a masters student and spokesperson from the Save Our Steps campaign, said that the proposed ‘indoor atrium’ was no replacement for the outdoor gathering space. She said: ‘It is absolutely vital for public space to remain in the hands of the public. The demolition of the steps completely bulldozes this.’
The city council voted in favour of the revamp plans by 11 votes to four. A report from planning boss Richard Brown, read: ‘The existing concert hall steps are esteemed and, on occasion, well used and as such make a positive contribution to the area.
‘[But] as a means of entrance to the Concert Hall they are unsuitable for certain members of the community and from a townscape perspective, they are of little value.’
Supporters of the BDP plans say the changes will make it easier for disabled visitors to access the concert hall, as the new entrance will provide step free access up to the venue’s foyer.
The flattening of the steps will also allow for the extension of Buchanan Galleries in the city centre, which is expected to create 4,600m² of new retail space in a bid to maintain Glasgow’s position as the UK’s second biggest retail destination after London.
Council leader Gordon Matheson, said: ‘The expansion of Buchanan Galleries will improve the city centre’s public realm and infrastructure, and generate 1,500 jobs’.
The revamp will include creating a new ‘entrance atrium’, cycle parking and pedestrian access, and will be constructed on the car park to the east of the site, with an adjoining footbridge to link the shopping centre with a replacement car park.
Work is expected to begin on site this summer with a planned completion date in 2017.