Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Glasgow Selected as 'Smart City'

Glasgow has won out over 30 other cities in a funding bid for £24m to transform it into a futuristic 'smart city'. Glasgow's smart city project will comprise a series of projects using real-time information about transport, energy, crime and health
to demonstrate how integrated data management can improve both the local economy and the quality of life for denizens and people working in the city. Examples include funding to connect Glasgow's network of surveillance cameras and a variety of mobile applications to improve communications about transport services across the city. The data collected aims to show how a city of the future may work.

Any cynics could be forgiven for deeming this a spin on last week's turn of events which saw plans to redesign George Square, scrapped. The announcement could be seen as a way to ensure the Glasgow public are kept onside as architects and journalists scrabbled to publicise their views. Whatever your thoughts on the handling of the George Square debacle, the funding boost can really only be considered a positive. The use of innovative technologies which better pool city-centre resources and may work to assist regeneration in urban areas is an exciting talking point for architects and urban planners. This latest announcement helps to ameliorate some of Glasgow's recent embarrassment and places welcome focus on its 'smart' future.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Government Release 'Create Streets' Report

In recent times, the demolition of high-rise buildings in Glasgow has become accepted as a necessary and inevitable means of improving social living conditions for the city's population. The findings of a recent report from Policy Exchange (a Tory think tank geared at developing and promoting policy ideas to enhance public services) take this supposed catalyst for regeneration one step further by proposing the demoltion of high-rise flats and their replacement with low-rise flats and terraced houses. The 'Create Streets' report suggests this should help deal with the health and social problems associated with life in densely populated areas.

Radically, the report claims that terraces have the potential to achieve the same density of housing as high-rises and advocates the building of 260,000 new homes in London in seven years through the demolition of tower blocks.

Perhaps concerned about the calculations and the implications for housing design, critics have pointed out the problem of the capital's housing shortage and say that this is not the time for change. The debate may catch on in the Scottish Parliament with the demolition of Balornock's Red Road flats in Glasgow for example, now fully underway. Download the report and form your opinions at the following link:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

George Square Redesign Shelved

John McAslan & Partners who yesterday, were announced as winners of the competition to redesign Glasgow's George Square will not have the opportunity to see the design come to fruition as, in the same breath, City Council leader Gordon Matheson said the council will not be proceeding with the controversial £15 m contract.

Doubts were raised about the future of the contest after the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision before Friday's deadline. The high-profile nature of the competition which currently sees the six designs publicly exhibited at The Lighthouse is bound to stir anger, not least among the architects who dedicated their time and efforts to submit a design. The council insist that they are listening to the people of Glasgow and that the move reflects public opinion around the competition.

A small scale refurbishment of the square is now planned in place of the redesign which will see the statues and green areas of the square retained and the gaudy red tarmac finally lifted. The hope is that the scaled-back refurbishment is now completed by next year in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Friday, January 18, 2013

To The Lighthouse - Six Designs Unveiled

The exhibition revealing the designs of the six companies shortlisted to redesign George Square is half-way through its run at The Lighthouse, Glasgow's Centre for Design and Architecture.

Rumour abounds that the judging panel are having difficulty deciding between the final six UK and international competitors with today's proposed announcement now overdue. Hopefully the cold weather outside will prompt some heated debate on the topic indoors. It appears a frosty reception may yet greet the eventual outcome.

Funding of up to £5m will be available for the competition winner to complete phase one of the revamp before the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

See the six designs in person at The Lighthouse up until February 9th, or online following the link. Opening hours and details for The Lighthouse can also be found below:

'Scotia depicta' - Digital Library Materials

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) have just digitised 'Scotia depicta,' a book containing illustrated plates of nineteenth century Scotland's most picturesque landscapes, buildings, cities and towns. A search by town shows that plates of Edinburgh dominate the content, however we found this charming image of Glasgow's Royal Infirmary using a broad search. (Click on 'Browse and search' and select Subject/ content to search by structure or building type).

The plates were etched by James Fittler (appointed engraver to King George III) from drawings by John Claude Nattes. A brief blurb is given for each one, helping to give context to what are quite extraordinary depictions of a bygone time.

If this inspires you, NLS's full digital gallery can be viewed here for free. The photographs of old Edinburgh from the 1920s and those of the Forth and Tay Bridges under construction are of interest as, undoubtedly, so too is the access to high-resolution zoomable images of over 48,000 maps of Scotland.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

UoG Release Town Plans of Glasgow's Queen Street Station and George Square

The most recent blog entry from the Maps, Official Publications and Statistics Unit at University of Glasgow's Library features a revised town plan of the city in 1893 around the areas of Queen Street Station, George Square and the City Chambers.

The map is intended as an ordnance survey of Glasgow, however on closer scrutiny it also reveals hidden details of another era in the city's urban development. The 'Night Asylum', 'Electric Lighting Stations' and 'The Western Club' captured the imaginations of the staff at University of Glasgow (UoG) who provide some historical context to explain the city's demand for these buildings in the late nineteenth century. The assimilation between social conditions in Victorian Glasgow and urban planning are exposed by reading more about the buildings' past on the blog.

It is possible to zoom and pan-in on the map by clicking here.

The excellent resources available from UoG are worth keeping in mind for researching local urban development and town planning. The unit of Maps, Official Publications and Statistics can be found on Level 7 of the Library building which GSA students can access by presenting a student card to security staff at the Library entrance. For more information on this specific blog, see UoG's blog entry at the link.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

British Standards Online with Membership at The Mitchell

Members of Glasgow Libraries have free, online access to Glasgow Libraries high-quality, market research and business intelligence databases including access to British Standards Online (BSOL). The service is provided by the British Standards Institution and provides a gateway to 27,000 historical, draft and current standards. 

Architecture and product design students stand to benefit most from privileged access to this resource by joining Glasgow Libraries and searching for British Standards in the 'Online Resources' section of the library catalogue. Downloading the related Glasgow Libraries App to an iphone or Android mobile device, will give you immediate 24-hour, remote access to the library catalogue and a number of other premium business databases.
Join online at the link below:

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

We Made That! London's Architecture & Design Practice

We Made That is a young, London-based architecture and design studio that works in a broad range of contexts - predominantly delivering public works for community use. Interest has been growing in the firm for some time, not least since it scooped the 2011 Architecture Foundation-organised Three Mills contest to design a new play space next to the Olympic park in London. The contest's organisers praised the 'Wild Kingdom' project design for its combination of imaginative vision and down-to-earth approach, a sentiment echoed in the studio's mission to produce work that is at once considered, pragmatic and charming.

Co-founders Oliver Goodhall and Holly Lewis who studied at the Royal College of Art and the Bartlett School of Architecture, London respectively, place a great amount of importance on conservation and collaboration in their projects. These have included 'Beach Hut' on the Lincolnshire Coast and 'Unlimited Edition,' a series of speculative newspapers, complied using the snapshot contributions of artists, designers and community members living in the A11 postal area of London. Have a look here:

Monday, January 07, 2013

Springburn Public Halls Demolished

Christmas tends to be a bad time not just for turkeys, but also for listed buildings in Glasgow. This season's victim has been the prominent B-listed Springburn Public Halls, designed 1899-1902 by William B Whitie, architect of the city's Mitchell Library. The halls had lain derelict since 1985, but were unceremoniously razed between Christmas and New Year due to safety concerns; fortunately some of the statuary from the facade appears to have been saved. There are some fascinating images of the building and its interior on the aptly-named '28 days later' website at