Plans to blow up the remaining Red Road housing tower blocks in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony have been slammed as a ‘bizarre’ idea
Five of the six remaining 30-storey towers are set to be blown–up in a global TV spectacle for what the Games’ has described as ‘a bold and dramatic statement of intent’.
The move has come under heavy fire with critics saying it sends out the wrong message to the rest of the Commonwealth as well as being insensitive to local people and for being a potentially dangerous demonstration.
Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight, architect Alan Dunlop described the plans as ‘bananas’. He said: ‘It could have been a sketch from Hugh Bonneville’s Twenty Twelve - except it’s just so wacky that they would have probably dismissed it as being something so crazy they couldn’t put it forward. It is a crazy idea. The city council are taking on such a responsible. What if something went wrong?’
He added: ‘How does anyone in Delhi, Australia, or Canada, or any other place in the world know anyting about or care about what has gone on there? People who are living under the sheets of tarpaulins in Delhi will wonder why we are blowing up social housing. They will have no idea what the background is or what the architectural or social history is of the red road flats.
It just seems like a bizarre PR stunt
‘I don’t think it has been thought through properly. It just seems like a bizarre PR stunt which has the potential to go very wrong.’
Gordon Duffy, of Edinburgh-based Studio DuB agreed: ‘I think this is a most inappropriate way to herald the games and it seems a bit of a negative message to send out to the world.
‘I expect - and hope - there has been much research by the best people about what to do with these buildings, tearing them down does not prove that tall blocks of flats were a bad idea.’
Architecture critic Jonathan Meades has also slammed the plans: ‘Even the most half-witted elected representative knows that there is no surer means of earning populist brownie-points than by having a mortally ill child (leukemia does nicely) press the button to bring down a “Concrete Monstrosity”.
‘Instead of committing yet another act of municipal vandalsim Glasgow’s appalling council (which has a lot of form in this area) might have asked itself why it didn’t maintain the structures it built. High rise works well in the private sector for the rich and even the modestly well off - their buildings are defended, serviced, cleaned. The public sector has shown over and again that it fosters neglect and all the problems that come with it.’
Defending the plans, leader of Glasgow City Council Gordon Matheson, said: ‘ It is a wonderful thing to do. It is a very brave and bold statement. It says Red Road flats were better housing at the time when they were built, but that is in the past and most people now want low rise living.
‘Red Road has an iconic place in Glasgow’s history, having been home to thousands of families and dominating the city’s skyline for decades. Their demolition will all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area and is symbolic of the changing face of Glasgow, not least in terms of our preparations for the Games.’
He added: ‘The message that will come across is that this is a bold redevelopment, it was happening in any event, and it encapsulates the regeneration that is ongoing within the city of Glasgow.’
Designed by Glasgow Corporation architect Sam Bunton, the estate is being cleared as part of site owner Glasgow Housing Association’s (GHA) plans to regenerate the area. One block was demolished two years ago and another in May last year. The final block – which will not be razed to the ground as part of the ceremony currently houses around 300 asylum seekers.
Built between 1964 and 1969 on the site of a former cabbage patch, Red Road was constructed to address the Glasgow’s growing housing needs and once provided accommodation for almost 5,000 people.
Residents living in the nearby housing estates will be evacuated from their homes whilst the demolition takes place on the 23 July.
Alan Dunlop, Alan Dunlop Architects
‘Glasgow is a brilliant city for the potential of high rise. But they have to be done properly. They have to be done properly. They have to be built properly and maintained. You have to have the right architect for the job.’
Neil Baxter, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
‘In brief it’s a looney tunes notion that sends out a very negative message about Glasgow and Scotland. This is in the context of an international celebratory event which could be seen by a billion people. Talk about ‘shooting yourself in the foot’!
‘Any idea that viewers will comprehend that it’s about regeneration is ill-founded.
‘Mind you this is from the council that brought you the extended farce of the George Square competition.
‘And just think how it will be received in New York!’
Kieran Gaffney, Konishi Gaffney Architects
‘There is no imagination applied to high-rise blocks in the UK. These are massive, reinforced structures with huge embodied energy. Blowing them up doesn’t make any sense; replacing them with suburban noddy boxes even less so. There are precedents for radical refurbishment, such as the Parisian La Tour Bois le Prêtre by Lacaton & Vassal and Frederic Druot which shows what is possible with flair. So far in Glasgow we have had two options, re-clad in beige and pink with a classical pediment or Vegas–style demolition. There is a petition at Change.org to demolish the flats with ‘dignity’ and the authors make a good point.’
Gordon Duffy, Studio DuB
‘This reminds me of the demolition of of some rather plain buildings in the Edinburgh suburbs captured in ‘Bright New Future’ a video by Ewen Meldrum. I got him to present at Pecha Kucha Edinburgh (I’ve been curating from the off since 2007) and we played this during the interval to stunned silence. I think the audience got the point that the buildings -like Red Road- held many life memories for people good and bad, it was not a celebration.’
Paul Stallan, Stallan-Brand
‘When I was sixteen someone shot at me from the Red Road flats or rather the bus I was travelling in smashing the rear window I was sat at. That said as giant works of perverse land art they have a certain quality but as monoliths to live in barbaric. It’s best they go.’
Previous story (AJ 7.5.13)
In pictures: 60s Glasgow tower bites the dust
Another high-rise tower on Glasgow’s Red Road housing estate was demolished last weekend
Designed by Glasgow Corporation architect Sam Bunton, the estate is being cleared as part of site owner Glasgow Housing Association’s (GHA) plans to regenerate the area.
Demolition of the infamous Red Road housing estate in North Glasgow began last June with the controlled explosion of a 25-storey block.
The latest tower demolition took place on Sunday (5 May). The structure was demolished through a controlled explosion in front of a crowd of hundreds.
The bottom 10-storeys of the flats remains intact due to its steel-frame structure which will be demolished in the coming months. The steel frame will be recycled and the rubble used for hardcore.
GHA’s director of development and regeneration, Alex McGuire, said: ‘The demolition of the second block of flats at Red Road is another step in the ongoing regeneration of Glasgow’.
Six remaining multi-storey buildings on the estate – all completed between 1964 and 1969 – are planned for demolition by 2017. Red Road was originally designed for 4,700 residents but houses fewer than 300 hundred people today.