An eyesore on the linear development of the Clydeside

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Another industrial eyesore removed from the historical conscience

The antiques warehouse that used to sit on the waterfront giving a bit of diversity of why folk would be attracted to the river side. Burnt to a cinder over a weekend. No doubt to be replaced by more sterile blocks of flats. Eyesores to the gentrifiers, or should we say cultural colonisers, is anything that might sit at a funny angle, never mind architectural or historical significance, to the grid mentality that builds, not so much flats, but rather, sells investment in cubic meters of walled concrete.trigger more text

If we didn’t have the shipyard museum in Govan, and the one lonely column, that stands outside the supermarket in Springburn, what would we have? Where is our industrial heritage? What was once the site of the engineer works that built and exported steam engines all over the world. (25% global market share) Only one single pole remains there, one stanchion from the Hyde Park Works in central Springburn, is what Springburn has physically to represent the industry sweat and labour of its steam engine building past. What an embarrassment. Maybe the city planners should sneak in of a night time and remove it, or it may internally combust on its own, if neglected long enough. With this kind of disregard towards our industrial architecture, it should be no surprise that another remnant of our industrial past is bulldozed after going up in flames…

“Glasgow continues to maintain its reputation as the city in which historic buildings “go on fire”, the latest victim of ‘spontaneous combustion being Scotway House in Partick, close to the river Clyde.
A large two-storey pile of polychromatic brick and sandstone, it was designed by Bruce & May and built as offices for the shipbuilders and engineers, David & William Henderson & Co. Many of the record-breaking yachts built in the Meadowside Shipyard were designed in the building, which was listed at Category B. Empty and derelict, however, it had long been on the Buildings at Risk register for Scotland.
With the decline of shipbuilding, Scotway House found itself isolated on cleared ground between the new Riverside Museum – that absurd, impractical shed designed by the late Zaha Hadid – and the new Glasgow Harbour flats. It was first proposed for demolition in 2002. Three years later, the Glasgow Harbour developers proposed re-erecting it on another site as a restaurant. In 2011 it was proposed to restore it as a rock ‘n’ roll hall of lame. Last year it was proposed to convert it into a bar and restaurant next to a planned complex of student flats. All in vain. Last January part of the roof was damaged by fire, and last month the whole building was gutted by a far worse fire. It now stands as a roofless shell, and no doubt what is left will soon be (is being) cleared away for development.” Piloty Private Eye.

Italics added 

Ian McHarg 1920-2001 Scottish landscape architect Design with nature

Ian McHarg died this day in 2001 (NY Times obituary). He was a Scottish landscape architect who made his name in the University of Pennsylvania where he founded the world famous Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning in1955.

He was born in Clydebank in 1920 and (for those with an interest in the history of mountaineering in Scotland), was one of the Craigallian Fire men.trigger more text

Arguably his most famous legacy is his 1969 book, Design with Nature. One of his pupils and collaborators in the project was the Scottish landscape architect, Mark Turnbull, who is still practising in Scotland today. His book sat on the shelves of my Dad’s study when I was growing up. He was an architect and, as a student, I thought it would make an interesting contribution to the forestry course I was doing at Aberdeen University. However, so dismal was the outlook of the staff there (there were a few honourable exceptions), that the notion of even reading such a book was regarded as too radical. I read it though and recommend it to anyone with an interest in environmental and spatial planning (McHarg invented the sieve mapping technique now standard in GIS – the European Geosciences Union awards a medal in his honour).

His vision of how to understand ecosystems and undertake regional planning was so advanced that, as this blog notes, he predicted the areas unsuitable for urbanisation on Staten Island (dark shading on right). He was ignored and those areas match almost exactly the evacuation zones (in yellow left) at the time of Hurricane Sandy (see below).

But my favourite story about Ian McHarg relates to his involvement in the scoping work for Scotland’s third new town. McHarg worked in the Scottish Home and Health Department between 1950 and 1954 and in his 1996 autobiography, A Quest for Life, he writes,

One day I was summoned by the chief of the new towns section, an architect named Alex Wylie. East Kilbride and Glenrothes new towns were underway. There was considerable interest in yet another; both the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh thought that a site near Cumbernauld, between these cities, should be investigated. However, it was likely that this new town would be a satellite of Glasgow and administered by her. Would I undertake the study?

I immediately visited Cumbernauld. It had the virtue of proximity to the major highway connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow. As at East Kilbride several years before, the wind howled, the rain drove horizontally, the whole site was awash. Morevoer, the farms were few and scattered. Anthropologists long ago had learned that sparse human settlement bespeaks adverse environments and impoverished resources. I spoke to several farmers whose opinions were united. It was a miserable place, wetter than most, with intractable mud, poor soil, a high water table, few trees, and those wind-pruned.

…….

The ideal site, in classical and Renaissance times, was a southeast-facing slope. That could not be found on the Glasgow-Edinburgh road nor on the south of the Clyde, but north of it were admirable classical sites, south and southeast-facing, at elevations above fog with beautiful views to the Firth of Clyde and, south, across the Clyde, to the Renfrewshire Hills. On the day I went there, the sun was shining; protected from the wind I lay in heather and exulted in the views. There was Dumbarton Rock, a volcanic cone with a ruined castle atop, ancient capital of Scotland, the gleaming Clyde, and , far out beyond the estuary, the Paps of Jura.

There was one problem; the site was steep. Now this had halted neither Rome, Siena, Frascati; nor San Francisco. This constraint must be transformed into an opportunity; we are not building for popes or cardinals. I recalled a project in Zurich, the Neubuhl, by Haeflie and Moser, where housing stepped down a steep slope and the flat roof of the lower house became terrace, balcony, and garden of the upper house. This would be the answer. Hanging gardens, stepped housing, each one having the merits of an attached single-family house, each with as much outdoor and indoor space, and the gardens entirely private. If the block was to be composed of four houses in depth, then the occupants at worst would walk down three flights or up one. In city where the commonest house form was a four-storey walk-up tenement, this was not a serious objection. So house plans developed, simple rectangles, L-shapes and T-shapes with different dimensions. They were all modular and could be fitted in various permutations, but all had uninterrupted views to south and east and all had private entrances and gardens. Open space equalled the building area. On the skyline, out of every view but overlooking the whole, were towers and slabs for older people, single households, and couples without children. The towers provided views of a landscape of gardens.

McHarg goes on to describe the detailed design, “extraordinary economies in construction costs” and the energy efficiency.

I submitted the plans to Alex Wylie, chief architect for new towns, who then arranged for me to present the material to the permanent undersecretary, Mr McGuiness, an Irishman with a Scottish accent. Wylie introduced the idea and gave his endorsment. I was asked to add my remarks. I spoke glowingly of the hanging gardens, the morning-golden windows, the beautiful views, access to workplaces on the Clyde, proximity to Glasgow, the beautiful landscape setting and, above all, of the greater economy of this scheme as compared with conventional bulding. There was a long silence.

“Well.” McGuiness said, “It is certainly revolutionary. There’s no doubt about that, and I am impressed by the arguments about its economy, but we can’t build this in Scotland. Why, they haven’t even built it in England yet.”

“Sir,” I said. “If the Scots have to wait for the bloody English to build something before we can, this is not the country for me. Good day, sir.”

That night, McHarg wrote to Dean Perkins of the University of Pennsylvania, and asked “Do you know of any opportunities which I might pursue in the United States? I find the professional life here is far from gratifying.”

He was immediately offered a position as an assistant professor to set up the Department of Landscape Architecture and the rest is history.

McHarg writes,

A small ceremony was held before my departure, at which time I was presented with a handsome briefcase. Kind words were said. I decided that this was not the occasion for criticism, thanked my colleagues, wished them well, and left.

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PS McHarg’s Wikipedea entry is very good account of his life.

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Common Good

Common Good Awareness Project was set up to create awareness of the Common Good fund in Scotland. What it is. What is happening to it and how it could be used for the benefit of the public who own it.

This participatory idea of economics would have much more relevance to administering the Common Good Fund – or even useful in shaping ideas in creating accountability and public control of Scotland’s Common Good.

Scotland it is very unique. Because, our Common Good is actually protected by laws that go beck 500 years and consists of lots of valuable assets, such as land, property, art, jewels and the like—and all the things we get into free—that is also part of our Common Good to. So we (the public) own these valuables in perpetuity so our kids and their kids can get the benefit of them to.

Now there are people employed in government whose job is to look after these assets in trust for the public—to make sure the assets work for the benefit of the public and the profits made from the CG return to the common good fund. This is not happening in many places and some of the decisions on what happens to these funds are being carried out without due public consent or consultation.

We need to find better ways to develop and protect these assets in a more participatory and publicly accountable way. And to help set up templates to share with other places to re establish the Common Good as a tool in helping to establish public control of assets and land.