VOL11 ISSUE45 SPRING 2021
C R IS I S MANAGEMENT: LOCKDOWN ANNIVERSARY CHERNOBYL A BALKAN JOURNEY BREXIT
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I F TO AN ES
Our 2021 coverage begins, aptly enough, with a look at crisis management. Recent events may feel abnormal but a clutch of anniversaries show that normality is far removed from normal. We begin the story by marking the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster (pg 36), a test case for how modernism would survive an apocalypse the area is now in the running for UNESCO World Heritage status. Closer to home we speak to photojournalist Chris Leslie (pg 40) fresh from a 25-year journey of his own to document the recovery of the Balkans from genocide through imagery that is both haunting and beautiful. A universal crisis facing us all is climate, something we will be talking about long after Covid passes. In the run-up to COP26, we look at how a net-zero home standard (pg 27) could play a
role in ensuring construction plays a constructive role in saving the planet. It’s a crisis of a more immediate and political kind which has been vexing architects recently, we ask what impact Brexit (pg 18) has had in the first months since Britain’s formal departure from the European Union. Large-scale events naturally command the greatest attention but it is the personal connections that make the biggest impact. It is with sadness therefore that we mark the passing of urbanist and friend Willie Miller (pg90), direct from those who knew him best. A steadying influence at even the most cantankerous charette Miller bequeaths a lasting legacy in the form of his eponymous urban design practice. We dedicate this issue to his memory. John Glenday, editor
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CONT ENTS QUARTERLY DIGEST 12 YORKHILL QUAY 18 BREXIT 22 RADISSON 27 NET ZERO HOMES 32 HOLMLEA PRIMARY 40 A BALKAN JOURNEY 48 EXPLORING EDINBURGH 56 CHERNOBYL 64 INTERIORS REPORT 77 PRACTICE PROFILE 82 RURAL AFFAIRS 90 WILLIE MILLER 96 DIRECTORY 97 PRODUCTS 04
Cover image: Paul Hill-Gibbins
OUR EDITORIAL PANEL INCLUDES:
Mark Chalmers, architecture writer and photographer
Leslie Howson, director Urban Design
Thea McMillan, director, Chambers McMillan
Jonathan Reeve, architect, Voigt Partnership
Gioia Sawaya, Architect
Alistair Scott, director, Smith Scott Mullan
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Q U A R T E R L Y D I G E S T J A N
EYEMOUTH HARBOUR Eyemouth Harbour Trust has commissioned an ambitious regeneration package for the disused Old Fishmarket, latterly a Maritime Museum, after securing public funding. With a remit to maintain, preserve and improve the current harbourfront
Galmstrup Architects propose to demolish the 1960s building, replacing it with a series of three timber pavilions of up to 90sq/m, incorporating winter gardens for al-fresco dining, events and community use, with office rental pods above modelled on traditional boathouses.
BRIEFS An upgrade to the West Coast Main Line, an extension of the Borders railway to Crewe and a rail tunnel under the Irish Sea are among a raft of major infrastructure proposals to be promoted by High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) to improve UK connectivity. HSRG members include engineering giants Arup, Atkins and Mott MacDonald, promotes transport improvements to introduce new links, reduce journey times and increase capacity. The B-listed former City of Glasgow College building is to provide 120,000sq/ft of office space alongside a new build 260-bed hotel. The £100m project is led by Osborne & Co with Cooper Cromar Architects and will see the glass and travertine facade of the 1964 Wylie Shanks landmark replaced on a like-forlike basis.
Detailed plans have been filed for the redevelopment of 108-116 Dundas Street, supplanting existing office stock with a combination of 44 flats, ground floor commercial and basement parking. Morgan McDonnell Architects will retain a visible ‘break’ along Fettes Row with recessed balconies helping to turn the corner from Dundas Street.Apartments along both frontages will be stacked above a commercial plinth.
The largest health centre ever proposed in Scotland has taken a significant step forward with the submission of plans for a combined health & social care hub, library and public square at Salamanca Street in Parkhead, Glasgow. The Parkhead Hub has been designed by Hoskins Architects, alongside ERZ, Currie & Brown and AECOM, to furnish the NHS with a unified point of care, relieving hospital pressures in the process.
Hoskins Architects have revisited proposals to extend the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh’s Old Town by erecting a 36sq/m community pavilion within a courtyard at 84-92 Candlemaker Row. Built in 2013 the hub requires a cafe and breakout area to increase capacity.
Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall is to become home to an £11.9m film and television hub to cater for the burgeoning sector subject to approval from councillors later today. Early design work is already underway on the fast track initiative, the first elements of which could be up and running as early as this year.
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Designer and urbanist Willie Miller, principal of Willie Miller Urban Design (WMUD), passed away on 12 January following a short illness. He is survived by Ines and their daughter Maxi. A champion of urban design over a career spanning more than 30 years Miller worked tirelessly to improve our cities, towns and neighbourhoods and was an evangelist for working with communities. You can read more about Willie’s life and work from pg90. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has awarded A-listed status to eight Aberdeen tower blocks in recognition of their architectural interest and contribution to post-war history. Gilcomstoun Land, Porthill Court, Seamount Court, Virginia Court, Marischal Court, Thistle Court, Hutcheon Court, and Greig Court all received the honour - testament to the quality of Aberdeen City Architects Department.
Q U A R T E R L Y J A N D I G E S T WOODLAND RETREAT
Athron Hill Development Company has commenced work on 11 hillside homes set within 150-acres of woodland to north-west of Milnathort, Perthshire, famed for its invigorating qualities of air and altitude. Originally home to the Ochil Hills Sanatorium (demolished in 2001), the land will host a collection of individual homes designed by Fraser/Livingston Architects, each with a split-level kitchen, wraparound windows, studio and cinema room.
Two B-listed Georgian townhouses at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, will form the backbone of a new 67-bedroom hotel. Morgan McDonnell Architects have been enlisted by Silvermills Estates to consolidate both properties as a single entity courtesy of a new build extension to Broughton Street Lane which will rationalise circulation between a series of ad-hoc later additions. A garden courtyard will be retained as the public heart of the hotel, covered by a lightweight ETFE roof.
Aberdeen’s Bon Accord Centre is diversifying with an application to reopen Drum’s Lane to the public and establish a new civic space fronted by a four-screen cinema. Planned work by Threesixty Architecture would transform a gated service yard sitting on top of below-ground retail by re-establishing pedestrian access through Drum’s Lane Pend, advertised by new signage on Upperkirkgate. Oberlander’s with RankinFraser are bringing forward plans for 31 new council houses in Tillydrone, Aberdeen, to address a shortage of affordable accommodation in the city. Spread across two brownfield development plots Coningham Road, adjacent to the proposed new Riverbank Primary, the build aims to establish a ‘pocket neighbourhood’ mixing apartments and semi-detached homes. Work is expected to begin in August for completion by summer 2023.
NOVEL DESIGN Strathblane Community Development Trust has commissioned a formal planning application from Thomas Robinson Architects for a public library and community hub offering floor to ceiling views of the Campsie Fells.
Subject to approval from Stirling Council work to deliver the Thomas Graham Community Library Hub will be undertaken by a wholly-owned subsidiary with library services operated by the local authority as now.
An Angus youth charity will build a £2m community leisure facility in Arbroath after councillors agreed to a community asset transfer of land at Seaton Park on a long-term lease. The agreement will see Showcase the Street rent the site for £500 per annum, enabling it to proceed with an eco-friendly community hub and 3G pitch with Voigt Architects expected to break ground within the year. Moray Council is to invite detailed design work tenders for a planned cultural quarter in Elgin. The £31m project will centre on the renovation and extension of the town hall, as well as the fire-damaged Grant Lodge, an 18th-century mansion set to be repurposed as a heritage attraction. A start on-site IS expected to be made by 2024.
Q U A R T E R L Y D I G E S T F E B
BRIEFS An independent review group has published three key recommendations to arrest the decline of town centres. Chaired by Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at the University of Stirling, A New Future for Scotland’s Town Centres articulates the steps necessary to make secondary urban centres more attractive places to live, work and play. Chief among these is for towns and town centres to be prioritised in national planning, a review of taxes and a renewed focus on town-centre living, digital skills and business.
A public consultation held by Keppie Design and Osborne + Co, a division of McAleer + Rushe, has fleshed out proposals to reactivate a 4.3-acre former foundry and depot at Lancefield Quay, Glasgow, which has lain derelict since 2007. The mixed-use masterplan
incorporates three blocks providing 300 apartments for private sale and a further 400 flats spread across twin built to rent blocks, the tallest of which would reach 16 storeys in height. Construction should begin in 2022 for completion from 2023 onwards.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Hillcrest Homes with jmarchitects have finished the renovation of a former weaving mill in Arbroath to form 24 affordable apartments. Delivered by Culross and George Martin Builders the £2.9m project has carved out the former power loom halls to provide a mix of one and two-bedroom properties, all while upgrading the A-listed fabric to be as energy-efficient as possible.
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The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) is seeking a £65-70k per year architecture ambassador to raise the profile of the profession. The newly created post will see the winning candidate lead a team of 15 from the organisations Edinburgh HQ, performing an ambassadorial role while providing services and support to anyone involved or with an interest in architecture, design and the built environment. RIAS president Christina Gaiger said: “We are determined that members should have a chief executive who can help to ensure that their voices are heard and that we are able to use our skills and experience to transform the built environment and support Scotland’s low carbon targets.”
The Scottish Land Commission has proposed a trio of legislative measures designed to address the adverse impact of an overconcentration of land ownership. newly published discussion paper advocates a new requirement for a management plan to be put in place for any significant land holding as well as a review of land rights and responsibilities and the formation of a public interest test to ascertain whether largescale acquisitions risk further consolidating ownership. A major residential development at Granton Waterfront has taken shape with the submission of plans for 444 tenure-blind flats by CCG and Cooper Cromar on behalf of The City of Edinburgh Council. Part of a renewed focus on the former industrial belt Western Villages will trial a new net zero housing standard (see pg27) The future of Langside Halls in Glasgow’s south side has been brought into focus with the publication of early concept designs by Hoskins Architects. Working with Jura Consultants the practice will transform the venue as a hub for cultural and social activities following its closure in 2017. The plan is supported by Glasgow City Heritage Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund.
Q U A R T E R L Y F E B D I G E S T GROWTH POTENTIAL
Aberdeen is to establish itself as a food and drink powerhouse with the creation of a £21m business accelerator led by Keppie and LDA Design. Funded by Opportunity North East (ONE), an investment grouping chaired by Sir Ian Wood, Seedpod will serve as a springboard for local business by providing 30,000sq/ft of manufacturing capacity and other facilities to improve innovation, productivity and innovation when it opens next year.
Kirkwood Homes and Inchmarlo Farms have brought forward plans for a £30m five-star hotel in Royal Deeside constituting 45 rooms alongside 95 homes. Working with 3DReid Architects the developers to deliver five-star luxury at the Lucullan with bedrooms arranged around a walled kitchen garden and a separate sunken garden. Subject to approval delivery of the first 70 homes cold be underway later this year with the hotel to follow at a later date.
Corstorphine + Wright Architects have broken ground on an operations and management facility for Neart na Gaoithe at Eyemouth Harbour. Situated in the Gunsgreen area of the town the design has been tweaked following feedback from the Scottish Borders Council to employ stone-coloured render and fewer accent colours to help blend with the landscape. The 1,040sq/m facility is joined to a 538sq/m storage warehouse and will open sometime around 2023.
WALLYFORD CAMPUS Jmarchitects have returned to Wallyford, East Lothian, with plans for a learning campus to support both pupils and the local community. Following on from the new Wallyford Primary School, the campus will serve a fast-growing population in the former mining village with a combined secondary, early years facility and a school for pupils with complex needs.
PRETTY IN PINK The second phase of work to regenerate a former waste processing works at Powderhall, Edinburgh, has taken shape with a novel intergenerational and Passivhaus facility. Filed by Collective Architecture on behalf of The City of Edinburgh the proposal is the first in Scotland to combine independent living for older persons and a nursery in one energy efficient build. Formed from pigmented pre-cast concrete and brickwork the L-plan block encloses south-facing gardens while providing active frontage to Broughton Road.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is on a mission to broaden the nation’s love affair with golf via a family-friendly facility at Lethamhill, Glasgow, designed explicitly to draw new audiences and participants to the game. Scheduled to open its doors in the summer of 2022 the familyfriendly venue has been designed by Holmes Miller to provide access to a nine-hole course as well as putting greens, adventure golf and a driving range. Mast Architects and CCG have teamed up for an amenity housing development in Govan, Glasgow, which could break ground next year. A planning application calls for 47 flats to be built on a 0.265-hectare site on the junction of Langlands Road and Golspie Street, on land currently in use as car parking for Govan Cross Shopping Centre. Plans to develop a former Giffnock care home on Fenwick Road have taken a step forward with East Renfrewshire Council recommending consent for 56 flats within the listed main building and surrounding grounds. Eastwoodhill has lain empty since July 2008, having initially been built as a private home in the mid-1800s and is now in the hands of Westpoint Homes and Stallan-Brand Architects.
Q U A R T E R L Y D I G E S T M A R
ESTATE RENEWAL Glasgow City Council has awarded planning consent to jmarchitects for the next phase of a major estate renewal programme in Pollokshields. Southside Housing Association
will build 120 homes in two phases, demolishing 1960s deck access buildings in favour of new build ‘urban villas’ that are more in keeping with the original planned suburb aesthetic.
BRIEFS Brown & Brown Architects have completed the metamorphosis of a traditional home in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park with a striking timber, glass and stone extension. Removal of a dilapidated steading opened up the opportunity for a contemporary extension formed of large elevated social spaces and a guest annexe. A cantilevered upper floor permits access below between exposed steel columns. The Architecture Fringe is inviting examples of selfdirected work to feature in its 2021 festival which will focus on issues surrounding racism, the environment and land ownership. Taking place between 4-20 June the free online (UN) Learning programme will discuss ways of winding back established systems and structures to arrive at less socially and environmentally damaging solutions.
10 Design has won approval for a major redevelopment project in Edinburgh’s New Town to transform the sprawling former Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters on Dundas Street into a mixed-use district built on a series of green decks and landscaped terraces. The New Town Quarter is being delivered by Ediston and Orion Capital Managers and will deliver 80,000sq/ft of office space, 350 homes and car-free green decks lined to connect Dundas Street to King George V Park.
Brand new proposals have emerged for purpose-built rental apartments on Glasgow’s historic High Street following a change of architect. Structured House have brought Carson/Sall Architects on board for the prominent corner plot to provide 219 apartments above groundfloor commercial uses in the Central Conservation Area. Picking up on the corner curves of the A-listed Herald Building the facade is further elaborated with an embedded clock.
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LMA Architects have completed a 96-bed Premier Inn hotel on Hamilton’s Townhead Street, including a new restaurant within a ground-level glazed plinth. Delivered under a design and build contract with Ogilvie Construction, on behalf of New Dimension Group, the development replaces the C-listed Town Hotel which was destroyed by fire in 2018. East Ayrshire Council has officially opened the Barony Campus in Cumnock, a £68m education building that consolidates five individual schools in one. Built by Morrison Construction and designed by Sheppard Robson the 23,000sq/m campus is the largest capital project ever undertaken by the authority and melds teaching, sporting and community facilities for 2,500 pupils.
Q U A R T E R L Y M A R D I G E S T COLLEGELANDS Vastint Hospitality has filed plans for 221 car-free rental homes and 6,000sq/m of office space at Glasgow’s Collegelands. Prepared by 3DReid the mixed-use development constitutes four separate buildings on a 1.1ha brownfield site, led by an eight-storey office block adjacent to the Moxy Hotel and a further three stepped residential blocks which together frame enhanced public space.
DELAYED GRATIFICATION NHS Lothian has formally opened the delayed Royal Hospital for Children and Young People after extensive delays stemming from an inadequate ventilation system. Designed by HLM Architects the 233 bed Little France Facility connects to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, minimising the need for emergency transfers and ensuring that consultants can share skills and expertise.
ACTIVE TRAVEL An active travel route linking Monifeith to Broughty Ferry is underway, transforming Mill Street into a shared pedestrian and cycle route. Led by Nicoll Russell Studio and Sustrans the £9m project centres on a new link connecting Windmill Gardens to Broughty Ferry’s Castle Green in tandem with improved public realm along the waterfront.
BRIEFS Govan Housing Association is leading plans for the first phase of a major mixed-use development where the famous Harland & Wolff shipyard once stood at Water Row in Govan. A design team led by Collective Architecture with Rankin Fraser, Carbon Futures, G3 Engineers and Brown + Wallace have prepared a submission for 92 affordable homes and a community-controlled commercial spaced embedded within a high-quality public realm. Architecture & Design Scotland has launched a 10-year strategy that sets out how future buildings and places can benefit people and communities. The organisation will spend the coming decade working with partners to ensure that everyone can benefit from proximity to green spaces and active travel routes within walkable urban neighbourhoods. Unicorn Property Services have staged a public consultation outlining their vision for a mixed-use redevelopment of up to 180 apartments at Rennie’s Isle, Leith. The proposed tower would provide a mix of private and affordable (25%) apartments, each with access to an external terrace and managed by an institutional landlord.
NECROPOLIS LIVING A consultation has taken place over proposals to build 79 double-banked private rental apartments on industrial land at 148 Wishart Street overlooking Glasgow Necropolis towards the Cathedral. Led by Calmont and Elder & Cannon Architects the proposal will meet the
street with a ground-floor amenity and co-working space set on a raised plinth, with a mix of studio, one and two-bedroom properties stacked above with southerly views across the A-listed cemetery. A detailed planning application is expected this summer.
Locals have had their say on proposals by ICA Architects to build a £33.8m leisure development at West Kinfauns, Perthshire. The mixed-use plan calls for the creation of a leisure attraction on 10.55ha of grassland around the headquarters of plant machinery specialists Morris Leslie, centred on a four-star hotel of up to 150 rooms.
YORKHILL QUAY JOHN GLENDAY
F UNNE L V I S I ON A FLURRY OF ANNOUNCEMENTS SUGGEST THAT GLASGOW’S CENTRE OF GRAVITY IS BELATEDLY RETURNING TO A RIVER WHICH HAD FALLEN FROM AN ARTERY OF EMPIRE TO A BACKWATER. NOW CONCERTED EFFORTS ARE UNDERWAY TO REPOSITION THE WATERWAY AS A BLUE CORRIDOR OF ACTIVE TRAVEL, COMMERCE AND HOMES. AMID THIS RIVER RUSH ONE PROJECT STANDS OUT FOR LOOKING TO THE PAST AS MUCH AS THE FUTURE, A TOWERING TRIBUTE TO THE OCEAN LINERS WHICH ONCE PLOUGHED ITS WATERS AND WHICH LINGER STILL IN THE COLLECTIVE MEMORY OF THE CITY. HERE CARSON SALL DETAIL HOW A SENSE OF ROMANCE CAN BE IMBUED TO LARGE-SCALE REGENERATION.
The River Clyde may no longer be the gateway to an Empire but it is quickly establishing itself as a destination in its own right as developers rush to claim prime riverfront addresses for their des-res apartment blocks. But in this headlong rush to the future are we in danger of losing sight of our past? One architect has hit upon a romantic vision that could see horizontal skyscrapers from the golden age of transatlantic travel immortalised as a set of three towers like ship’s funnels, indicating that the city’s industrial hinterland is finally going places. Carson Sall Architects has undertaken a public consultation for the second phase of a major residential development on the north bank of the River Clyde at Yorkhill Quay, part of a broader masterplan set out by Keppie Design. Peel-owned Glasgow Harbour and Urban Pulse propose to file a joint application to deliver 410 co-living apartments with rooftop terraces overlooking the river and the A-listed Graving Docks. These will spread across the three nauticallyinspired towers and will share a ground-floor podium hosting communal amenities. Modelled on the funnels of a steam-powered ocean liner the towers will also incorporate a top-floor sky bar and amenity decks with basement cycle and parking below a ground floor URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
shop, co-working units and a gym. Facilities will include a cinema, local shop, tool station, launderette, gym, medical, restaurant/café bar, and landscaped outdoor amenity spaces at the ground and top floor, all available for use by the local community. This activity will front a riverside promenade and a broader recreation landscape led by Oobe that will contribute to an active riverside and encourage ‘guerrilla gardening’. Drawing on the enduring appeal of streamlined Art Deco liners Carson Sall will leapfrog the mundanity of P&O and CalMac to bring the golden age of travel to life, inspired by the Art Deco styling’s of the Anchor Line and the much loved Waverley paddle steamer in a part of Glasgow that once boasted direct links to places as far-flung as New York and Calcutta. In the process, the development will embody an architectural era that largely passed the city by, save for a few examples such as the Beresford Building or the Daily Express Printworks. Ian Carson, director at Carson Sall, explained these influences to Urban Realm: “Without being literal about it the actual lines of a ship informed a lot of the curves in the buildings, it was about the streamlining of these liners and the way they charge through the water, not battling the wind but allowing it to flow around. “We’re responding to the river and referencing the past but >
Top - A trio of nautically-themed co-living towers will line the River Clyde Bottom - Decks of amenity space front a new promenade
Left - The Clyde once served as a gateway to the world Middle - New homes will funnel people back to the river Right - Co-living is far from a new concept with Carson drawing inspiration from The Isokon Building in Hampstead
not reproducing it, we’re not building a boat. In essence, we’re taking hints from the better examples of an era that was seen to be a progressive industrial revolution. We’re going through a revolution now and there are opportunities with new materials, working practices and environmental standards. There used to be an aspiration to own your home but the younger generation are more open to sharing, meeting and exploring to enhance their wellbeing.” More than an evocative skyline Carson hails Yorkhill Quay as a burgeoning cultural centre, establishing a ‘living bubble’ that can draw together a broad section of society in one selfcontained complex. Detailing his inspiration for the project Carson said: “The Isokon Building in Hampstead was one of the first co-living experiences in the thirties. There were plans to build more of them and even Walter Gropius used them. They were the start-up apartments of their time and welcomed Agatha Christie and Henry Moore among others. For us, what was important was the content, the building itself provides all the accommodation and facilities which you would find on a luxury liner. It’s a living bubble.” URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
In recent times as people have embraced working from home, this is a concept that appears set for a second lease of life with large corporations such as Barclays deploying their teams into co-working spaces because they’d like them to work in a more creative environment. “The facilities we’re providing will not only serve people living there but others travelling to the area”, says Carson, perhaps learning from mistakes made at the residentialdominated Glasgow Harbour, which lacks so much as a corner shop. “There’s going to be a lot more people living on the waterfront. To the north is the Yorkhill Hospital site, which I call the New Park Circus and that will arguably have better views than Park Circus itself.” To make the most of these views tenants will benefit from a 180-degree panorama up and down the river while facing north to the Campsie Fells. Taking the traditional tenement bay window up a notch these impressive views will be seen from duplex apartments with a bed deck at the back. “I was involved in the Jam Factory conversion in London with Ian Simpson, it was one of the last big conversions in Southwark before the Shard and Tate
Modern. A lot of it is about placemaking and bringing activity back to a place. “We’ve got a great asset in Glasgow with the Clyde which everyone has backed off from for varying reasons. It was a working river and sewer and these perceptions take a long time to shift. Creating a new community from scratch is harder of course than grafting onto existing buildings in more established locales but Carson is confident that a disconnected series of object buildings from the Hydro, to the Armadillo and Transport Museum, can function as a cohesive whole playing its part in the broader rejuvenation of the city. Eager to get started Carson is keen to put the land to good use, saying: “Before anything comes out of the ground we’re thinking of hosting temporary events to bring people to the quayside. With the opportunity of the Graving Docks, that whole stretch of the river is going to become an exciting part of the city. One possible pitfall is the site’s susceptibility to flooding with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) raising the growing risk of extreme one in 200-year events with Glasgow City Council but Carson is adamant that
connection between the activities and quayside is essential. He continues: “We’re also thinking about the elevation along the expressway, we don’t want it to look like the back of a building. That will be our main entrance. A lot of the co-living space will be dual aspect so you can look through the building and see activity. Slipways between the buildings will carry the change in level, providing a physical and visible connection.” ForCarson, this approach is personal having grown up on Arnwood Drive where he met shipyard owner John Brown’s son, with the pair occasionally heading out to listen for boats on the Clyde. “That was one of the big inspirations for me personally”, Carson reminisces, “from my bedroom window in my parents’ house I could see the funnels of the Waverley going down the Clyde. The larger ships were like moving cities and the identification stripes of their lines were painted on the funnels. We’re thinking of incorporating stripes of clear glass which will give the buildings their own identity and show the zone where the duplex apartments are. At night these would shine out as a ribbon.” “The space between these glass ribbons will require more >
An ‘engine room’ below decks will house a basement car park below waterfront commercial units and a top deck amenity space
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Top - Hawkins/Brown & Civic Engineers are to deliver a £25m park at Custom House Quay Middle - Keppie Design are leading the Yorkhill Quay masterplan Bottom - Momentum is building on the south bank of the river with Collective Architecture delivering new homes at Water Row
robust materials and we’ll be testing ideas for vertical ribs. What will make this building sing is the detail. The three objects will be clothed to form a whole but at night you will get a randomness of light. We’re looking at a hierarchy of windows which relate to what’s behind.” Unlike Basil Spence’s doomed ‘ships in full sail’ at Crown Street, there is a determination is to avoid segregation by encouraging a broad range of occupiers. “In any street, you get lots of different tenures, more evident towards the city centre. It adds to the enrichment. Why do one tenure in one building? It seems bonkers.” Over and above the finished product, Carson is keen to document the journey, working with artist Martin Gray to document the construction process and all the people involved. Bringing to public attention a process that passes most by. “The public don’t realise that thousands of people are involved, especially in a project costing between 60 and 80 million pounds.” If Glasgow is once again to be a river city it will need projects of the scale of Yorkhill Quay to deliver the critical mass necessary for a full 180-degree transformation. With projects from Water Row to a new Clyde Park and bridge, however, it appears that the Clyde is set to beat with the lifeblood of the city once more.
THOUGHT L EADERS A TRANSITION PERIOD IN BRITAIN’S DEPARTURE FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION MAY HAVE PASSED AT THE START OF THE YEAR BUT THE IMPLICATIONS ARE ONLY JUST MAKING THEMSELVES FELT. FROM RECRUITMENT TO PROCUREMENT WE LOOK AT THE IMPLICATIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS, PRACTICES AND THE PROFESSION AT LARGE, IN AN ATTEMPT TO DISENTANGLE THE RAMIFICATIONS FOR ARCHITECTURE FROM THAT OTHER GREAT CRISIS, BY SOUNDING OUT SENTIMENTS THUS FAR. HOW DOES THE REALITY SHAPE-UP AGAINST REFERENDUM RHETORIC?
Andrew Brown director Brown & Brown Is the reality worse/better than you imagined? In business terms, we’ve never been busier. We’ve got a nine-month waiting list at the moment, it’s a bit crazy. We are seeing some Brexit effects but it tends to be in tendering and contractor pricing. We haven’t had any issues yet regarding the supply chain but contractors tend to buy in well in advance. We are seeing some tenders come back higher with a mark up applied but whether that’s due to opportunism or not is difficult to say. Other tenders have come in exactly where you’d expect them to be pre-Brexit. When you ask the contractors for feedback they say, yes, there’s uncertainty but that’s the price. We are certainly seeing their supply chain squeezed, builders merchants are saying to expect increases of x% on y goods - uncertainty leads to increased costs. It would have been easier to have seen the impact of Brexit, which will undoubtedly have costs, without Covid but there is no choice but to find a way around delays. There was one large Scandinavian timber company that would normally deliver in 8 weeks who were then saying 12 but it’s already back down to 9. It’s bringing complexities into tenders and you have to weigh up whether costs are higher as a result of uncertainty in the world or its just the tender being higher. URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
I emphasise the situation contractors find themselves in. People want fixed prices but contractors are seeing uncertainty at their side and have to decide whether they will pay that or increase prices to cover themselves. Most of our contractors are smaller scale as a factor of our focus on high-end domestic work. Overheads and margins are tight as they don’t have a lot of fat in them I’d imagine. We don’t know what the pricing impact will be in the longterm, whether that’s increased uncertainty or higher costs. Do you see any new opportunities? The type of work we’re involved in isn’t won through public procurement. We’re slightly isolated from that so it’s difficult to tell what opportunities might exist. Part of the reason we do the type of work we do is if you look at the pre-qualification questionnaire’s you have to do for public projects it just doesn’t stack up. Whether that is going to change or not I can’t say. I don’t think we’ll see a bonfire of regulations just because Brexit has happened. I’d hope that life becomes simpler but that’s a hope, not an expectation. Has there been any impact on recruitment? We hired a Romanian architect a few months ago who didn’t have citizenship but had settled status. I can’t see it having any positive impact on non-UK recruitment. You want the best people regardless of where they come from and not necessarily from the EU. Any barrier to that will cause an issue.
Karen Anderson partner Anderson Bell + Christie Brexit is proving worse than I had anticipated. The loss of automatic recognition of UK qualifications is clearly a hurdle to practicing in Europe but that loss is augmented, as, as a UK citizen, if I can find work I can no longer live in Europe without a long stay visa in the relevant country. The loss of the Eramus programme for students is another major negative. The UK is reserving its position on what it will do in the future but in going it alone it risks turning its back on a sucessful, tried and tested positive contributor to the lives and study experience of UK and other European students. (Eg in 2019 alone it helped almost a million people to study, train or volunteer abroad, involved around 111,000 organisations (including universities and think-tanks as well as private businesses, and around 25,000 projects. Anne Corbett LSE )
It’s another hurdle and that’s not what you need when you’re hiring. You want the best person for the job and as little between you and that person as possible. What are your goals for growth? I can see us growing to eight or 10 people. We try to specialise in one area rather than be a jack of all trades. We have looked beyond Scotland a little bit but that’s just by chance.
James Nelmes director Bennets Associates Is the reality worse/better than you imagined? It is too early to say what the longer-term impacts will be. The immediate consequences of transition have been minor. Do you employ any European architects? Has there been any impact on recruitment? Staff from EU member states were put through a horrible period of uncertainty following the referendum. To my knowledge the transition has not caused any further difficulties. What does the loss of automatic recognition of UK qualifications mean for the profession? Where we are working in Europe we partner with local firms
and the recognition of UK qualifications is yet to be an issue. It is a pity that the movement of people and the cultural exchange membership engendered has been diminished. Whilst issues surrounding the recognition of qualifications will likely be resolved in time it is harder to see how a diminution in dialogue with diverse neighbours will benefit the UK in the future. Is there potential to reform procurement rules post-OJEU? Public sector procurement in Scotland is shameful. Brexit will not make any difference to this. Scotland has committed to continuing to use the same rules it did when the UK was a member state. Other EU countries operate under the same legislation but are much more enlightened, proportionate and deliver much better long-term value for the public purse. Procurement in Scotland must be radically reformed: being in the EU, or out of it, is not the cause of the problem. Are you prioritising international growth beyond Europe? We are working on a large project outside Europe and will continue to seek opportunities where we have demonstrable value and can differentiate ourselves. This will be in both Europe and beyond. The challenge of tackling the climate emergency is universal. The solutions are not. We believe our skills are adaptable and appropriate to different contexts. Do you see the situation settling/improving with time? I am sure politicians will find something else to make a hash of.
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Paul Stallan design director Stallan-Brand Is the reality worse/better than you imagined? I would suggest the true impact of Brexit has not yet been fully understood. From a construction perspective regulation has in the short term compromised supply chains and is being reflected in tender price returns. It will be interesting to see if this has a positive impact on local production and improved sustainability outcomes in the longer term. Do you employ any European architects? Yes currently we have an architect form Greece and another architect from Bulgaria working in the studio (... sorry remotely). Has there been any impact on recruitment? There has been a recruitment stasis due to Covid but yes there will be an inevitable impact on the ability of European students and professionals being able to access employment opportunity in Scotland. I believe this was one of the, short sighted, central tenants of Brexit, keeping people out and restricting movements across borders, so yes we are going to be culturally poorer as a consequence. What does the loss of automatic recognition of UK qualifications mean for the profession? Opportunities to work in Europe will be just that bit more difficult ultimately. Friends of the practice recently won a school design competition working from the UK in Palermo, Sicily. Going forward access to similar open design competitions across Europe will likely require collaborative working with another practice and be less accessible. Is there potential to reform procurement rules post-OJEU? Procurement in Scotland will remain moribund without a wholesale reform. The procurement landscape needs redesigned from the bottom up not the top down. Brexit does presents an opportunity but not until Government prioritises a ‘sustainable circular economy model’ over a ‘corporate linear model’ will things change. Are you prioritising international growth beyond Europe? No we are not prioritising growth beyond Europe. Generally our practice model is not predicated on growth, but rather value and differentiation. We do review prospects internationally and are interested in the opportunity. Do you see the situation settling/improving with time? Yes, despite Covid and Brexit we remain busy on projects across the UK and Scotland.
Steve McGhee principal LMA Is the reality worse/better than you imagined? It’s difficult to say as it has been masked by COVID but we were BREXIT ready a few years previously within the countries we operated ie obtaining professional Registration and getting VAT registered. Do you employ any European architects? We have 2 registered European Architects and 1 non registered EU national. All have either UK citizenship or UK Residency. All EU nationals had committed to ensure they met the criteria before BREXIT to remain in the UK. Has there been any impact on recruitment? Due to pre planning with our existing staff, we haven’t lost staff due to BREXIT and due to COVID we haven’t recruited so this still remains to be seen. What does the loss of automatic recognition of UK qualifications mean for the profession? There is a lot of red tape to get registered in the countries in which you operate and there is obviously a cost to maintain yearly membership. The flexibility to operate in a new EU country may be an issue to ensure registration to Practice as this can sometimes be a timeous process. Is there potential to reform procurement rules postOJEU? There is definitely potential for reform to streamline and simplify the system for UK projects, however, this may not be possible in the short term given the conditions of the post BREXIT trade deal. Are you prioritising international growth beyond Europe? We still see Europe as our second biggest market outside the UK and have no plans for growth into international markets. Do you see the situation settling/improving with time? We wont know the full impact until we settle into the post COVID trading arrangements and the restrictions on people movements are relaxed. I feel that given we are a service industry and are not exporting goods, as long as we forward plan professional and VAT registration to ensure we can trade in each individual EU country we are operating in then everything should be pretty smooth.
PLANNING PROTEST ALAN DUNLOP
Radisson architect Alan Dunlop has drawn up alternative plans for the hotel’s expansion URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
RAD I SSON BLUES HEAVY HANDED PLANS TO PARACHUTE A BLACK BOX EXTENSION ONTO THE SHOULDERS OF GLASGOW’S FETED RADISSON BUILDING HAVE SPARKED AN OUTCRY OVER THE TREATMENT OF A RARE MODERN LANDMARK. HERE ARCHITECT ALAN DUNLOP ARTICULATES HIS OPPOSITION TO A PLAN WHICH RUNS COUNTER TO HIS ORIGINAL VISION AND MAKES THE CASE FOR A HIGH-RISE ALTERNATIVE.
As the architect and designer of the Radisson SAS (now Blu), I object in the strongest possible terms to these proposals. This big black box is crass, elementary and lacks design intelligence. It is a charmless, hurried and no doubt commercially driven addition that irrevocably damages a highly considered building; winner of multiple national and international awards for architecture and hotel design and voted among the top ten buildings to be built in Scotland since 1945. All the context information and historical support text is lifted from my writing, all of it, verbatim. Lots and lots of analysis too and many support street view and 3d sketches included........ after which they somehow arrive at the absolutely elementary, least interesting and most commercially driven proposal possible. The Radisson Blu sits within Glasgow’s city centre conservation area, at the west end of Argyle Street on the edge of the Victorian grid and the shift to a linear street pattern that stretches down to the Broomielaw. The hotel plan cleverly addressed this shift by introducing a sculptural copper foil that followed the line of the grid to the north, while the main body of the hotel adjusted in plan to respect the historic, maritime line that runs to the Clyde. A five-
story naturally lit foyer, recognised as among the finest interior spaces in Scotland connected both the foil and the main hotel. Argyle Street is one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares and, like most of the city, it retains a median height of twenty metres throughout its length. The copper foil was set at 20 metres to respect and continue this median height, particularly so close to the Heilanman’s Umbrella (a Category A listed structure of national importance) and allow an additional one or two storey structure to be carefully constructed behind. I chose copper for the Radisson SAS front screen because I wanted to use an “indigenous” Glasgow material but in a dramatic way and was influenced by Gillespie Kidd and Coia’s use of copper over large areas, particularly at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Dennistoun. The copper screen is beautifully made and a credit to the Glasgow craftsmen that constructed it. It took months to set out and every shingle meets exactly where it is supposed to. The lightweight and engineered screen acts as a foil to the building’s frontage and accommodates some flexibility of form in the Argyle Street elevation, pulling > pull back from Glasgow’s grid line at the entrance to the
Top - Maith Design propose a ‘bold’ rooftop addition to deliver additional bedrooms Bottom - Mirroring the floorplan below the new addition would rest upon a structural colonnade screening a louvred plant area
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Dunlop proposes erecting a dramatic tower above the current ballroom
hotel and helping to create a “public” space in-between. That space is important to the city and used for many high profile awards and functions. The “context” information included within the application, intended to support the big black box is limited, restricted and a distraction. The building can be extended, I have no doubt. However, this proposal is so over-scaled it dwarfs the screen and front of the hotel and the proposal so blindingly rudimentary it makes a mockery of the careful consideration in planning, scale and context given originally to this remarkable building. The proposed rooftop addition is so over-scaled it dwarfs the screen. I can only assume it is a stalking horse, for in my view no architect could seriously propose such an addition to this building. It is clumsy and detracts from the
carefully considered copper screen front and the contextual Argyle Street “Glasgow” elevation. From what I can discern from the plan and elevations submitted, it also appears that the proposal glazes over the existing structural columns at the main entrance and installs a new copper canopy and a projecting glazed entrance to the basement. This will destroy the carefully designed foyer, which is recognised as one of the finest interior spaces in Scotland (and of any hotel anywhere) and the sculptural column frontage to Argyle Street, with the canopy above. This building made Glasgow’s financial district possible, acting as a stepping stone for the public and office staff from Central Station to the Broomielaw and the river. I urge you to reject this application.
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Western Villages by Cooper Cromar is among the first developments to support the Net Zero Home standard
NE T ZERO HOME
HOUSEBUILDER CCG IS LEVERAGING ITS CONSRUCTION AND MANUFACTURING BUSINESS TO POWER A NEW GENERATION OF CARBON NEUTRAL HOMES DESIGNED TO PRIORITISE COMFORT AND LOW RUNNING COSTS BUT CAN THIS SOLUTION BE DELIVERED AT SCALE TO MEET AN AMBITIOUS NET ZERO ECONOMY TARGET BY 2045?
As Glasgow prepares to welcome the delayed COP26 climate conference it comes with a sense of urgency in dealing with that other great crisis of our times, excess carbon production. As one of the biggest sources of pollution, construction has long been part of the problem but as a new breed of energy-efficient designs come to market it could soon be part of the solution In the vanguard of efforts to deliver change is timber construction and off-site manufacturing specialist CCG, which has launched a new housing standard that aims not just to reduce but to eliminate carbon emissions by swapping highly polluting gas for solar panels, battery storage and air/ground-source heat pumps. This pivot to renewables combined with thermally modelled construction
is expected to reduce housing-related emissions by up to 98%, as measured by the UK government’s Standard Assessment Procedure for calculating energy efficiency. Dubbed the Net Zero Home standard this pioneering design is described as being as efficient as it is costeffective and it is poised for a mass-market rollout at pace, commencing this May when North Lanarkshire Council breaks ground on a 19 home pilot project at the site of three demolished tower blocks at Holehills, Airdrie. That will be followed by a 444-home development at Granton Waterfront called Western Villages and a private housing development on Edinburgh Road, Glasgow. Talking Urban Realm through the new approach CCG managing director Craig Wylie said:”18 months ago we took >
Left - David Wylie is positioning CCG to harness advanced construction methods and technologies to meet climate obligations Right - North Lanarkshire Council is backing a 19 home pilot project at Holehills, Airdrie,as part of an estate renewal programme
a step back and thought Passivhaus doesn’t necessarily give you net-zero carbon, we want to look at something different and work toward government targets before getting rid of gas in a couple of years. Let’s find a way of achieving that now rather than wait till 2024.” Armed with an in-house timber kit division whose heavy-duty thermal modelling is already driving efficiency has given a vital head start to CCG, putting them in the vanguard of efforts to eliminate emissions and ensure that the only hot air you will find is inside their properties. Asked how CCG plans to achieve net-zero emission targets in practice Wylie added: “We’re looking at air and ground source heat pumps as an alternative to gas boilers. We’re conscious that one of the things we could have done was to try and increase airtightness even more but we’re already at a high level and most of our work is social housing. A lot of our clients aren’t keen on mechanical ventilation and heat recovery and knew that by taking it down further, while there are benefits in terms of space heating, it would give them an issue in terms of capital and running costs.” Another easy win was in maximising the area of roof space given over to photovoltaic panels, essential for URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
efficiency in a northern climate, coupled with batteries to ensure that power generated when occupants are not at home doesn’t go to waste. Interestingly it is social housing providers who are taking the lead, leaving much of the private sector trailing in their wake, a discrepancy Wylie attributes to a sluggish financial system that hasn’t yet adapted to the new priorities. He says: “Until we start to look at the value of a house in terms of its energy efficiency developers aren’t getting any return on investment. If it’s costing them more to build this house but they’re not getting any more for it in terms of the mortgage value, you’re then risking whether people are prepared to pay a bit more when the lender’s value doesn’t suggest it. That part of the market needs to change to put a premium on the house that’s more energy efficient because it will have lower energy bills.” How optimistic is Wylie that steps taken now will spur mass adoption? Are these trial projects scalable? “It might not come in the short term but it certainly will in the long term because of the government’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions. As soon as boilers get kiboshed people are going to have to look at alternatives and those will naturally lead you towards a carbon-neutral offering. If it’s
a development of 12 plots you could use air source heat pumps and PV. If it’s a development of 200 you could look at building a network.” Focussing everyone’s minds is COP26. What is Scotland doing in international terms? “Everywhere is different in terms of how they build things”, observes Wylie. “When Passivhaus was first gaining momentum, we went down to Exeter with Glasgow City Council after we had done our first Passivhaus project in Lockerbie. “One of the questions we had was about achieving airtightness levels when you’re building a timber kit. But they built in brick and block. Then there are differences in the weather. Wherever you go in the UK or across Europe there will be different ways of achieving the same thing specific to where you are. It depends on the resources available. Sourcing brickies is a problem in Scotland but not timber whereas south of the border the problem is reversed.” As always, one factor hindering uptake is cost, with the use of ground-source heat pumps still proving to be costprohibitive in many cases but Wylie is confident that this is only a temporary issue. “When more and more people start using air and ground source heat pumps the cost will come
down and other technologies will come in”, he says. “When we did our first Passivhaus job down in Lockerbie eight years ago there were only six manufacturers who could deliver a Passivhaus window, now there are over 50.” As of now most of the low carbon magic takes place off-site in CCG’s timber kit division where tight control of quality can be maintained. “We use a closed panel timber kit that has plasterboard, insulation and windows doors to the oriented strand board outside. We did that because we think it’s more versatile and gives clients options. We’re not a Barratt or Persimmon, we don’t churn out the same thing every day. Every job is different and we need a versatile product. We do as much as we can in the factory but we don’t want to do so much that it becomes cost-prohibitive. There’s no point doing it if it will be more expensive than doing it on-site.” One of CCG’s next projects is a development of 180 netzero units, all for private sale at Edinburgh Road, Glasgow, as the contractor tests market readiness with the support of low carbon funding from the Scottish Government. Wylie continues: “The funding wouldn’t cover the full cost but we want to test the market. Mortgage lenders might not do anything but will it be an easier sell for Joe Bloggs on the >
Left - The City of Edinburgh Council is promoting climate conscious renewal of former industrial land at Granton waterfront Right - Active travel routes, off-street access for ground-floor flats and communal gardens are proposed
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street? Are people becoming more conscious because of their children and will that make a difference?” Of course, any shift in behaviour will require societal change as much as technological development and most consumers are still swayed by the allure of a shiny new kitchen or bathroom rather than any structural improvements hidden under the hood and whose benefits are drawn not in the moment but over decades of use. This quandary is likely to perturb CCG’s marketing team as much as it will the construction division. Wylie says: “When you’re designing for a private purchaser you can spend £2.5-5k on a fancy kitchen and fittings but will the purchaser upgrade the house to net zero for the same price? We’ll give the buyer a choice and I think you will start to see opinion change over time.” Of course, CCG cannot achieve all this on its own and so it has partnered with Carbon Futures to undertake a detailed analysis of energy performance and MAST Architects to design a suite of fully optimised house types on which to model the theory. Wylie continues: “We need affordable award-winning designs and sometimes you have to make the choice, clients can’t pay for everything, we need to strike the right balance and not end up with square
boxes. MAST understands that. It is this understanding which gets to the heart of the issue, that for all the bells and whistles, facts and figures a house must be a home first and foremost and most buyers will require something more than a list of technical achievements to be inspired. A similar thought process has guided the design of the Glasgow House, which seeks to marry more generous floor plans with enhanced sustainability, albeit at a higher cost. “Is one factor more important than the others? Do you raise standards together? It has to be affordable because if the government can’t afford to pay for it and nobody can afford to do it then you’re not going to get anything”, says Wylie. For now, local authorities are doing most of the heavy lifting but times of crisis often produce the greatest change. As we spend more time indoors we’ve all become acutely appreciative of the qualities of space and light, be it that of a home office or a bigger garden. Such sentiments will undoubtedly feed through to a modal shift in the market. The pressure is building. We’re not there yet but the first cracks in the edifice of the status quo are beginning to show as CCG and others continue to enlarge our notions of what is possible.
HOLMLEA PRIMARY JOHN GLENDAY
A HISTORIC SCHOOL IN GLASGOW’S SOUTH SIDE HAS BEEN BROUGHT BACK FROM THE BRINK COURTESY OF AN ENLIGHTENED DEVELOPER AND ARCHITECT. DELIVERING MORE THAN HOMES THE STORY OF ITS REVIVAL SERVES AS A TEMPLATE FOR RESCUING OTHER ABANDONED SCHOOLS, AS URBAN REALM EXPLAINS.
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© KEITH HUNTER
Left - Lead thieves had compromised the roof, soaking the interior and giving new meaning to the term green building Right - The atrium is now a pleasant, light-filled communal hall providing access to individual flats.
Across Glasgow, historic schools lie abandoned and unloved following the modernisation of the education system, but amid the dereliction and decay several schools stand out as exemplars of the untapped potential bound within their sandstone walls and overgrown playgrounds. The latest of these, Holmlea Primary School in Cathcart, illustrates how such buildings can be readily repurposed for social housing when paired with a sympathetic client and architect. Home Group Scotland and Anderson Bell + Christie have sensitively transformed this B-listed primary school, restoring the main block and building two complementary red brick buildings without compromising the principal façade. It is an approach that has only been made possible through the intervention of the affordable housing provider, with the private sector failing to come up with a workable solution. Illustrating the troubled recent history of Holmlea AB+C director Stuart Russell told Urban Realm: “The thing with Holmlea is we’ve been looking at it since 2015 and even before that it was sitting on City Building’s register of sites for sale. The private sector had looked at it but no-one could get it to stack-up, the affordable housing element helped save it URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
and make it work. “They (Home) saw the opportunity to create something special and partnered up with GHA to do just that. Private developers had been talking about taking the roof off, adding a glass storey and taking it down to the basement, to make it viable all of which would have been detrimental to the history of the building but even in doing that they could not get the numbers to work.” A light touch approach saw AB+C retain as much of the fabric as they could, with only the former gym hall having to be sacrificed for the project to stack up. “Home were as keen as we were to keep the fabric. Because we were converting to homes we couldn’t keep the classrooms as they stood but both main atrium spaces and stairwells have been restored to life as they were. We ended up with a lot of interesting flat types but the classic proportions had to go because they weren’t planned as homes for one but also because the school had fallen into such a state of disrepair.” A greater degree of intervention was required in the interior where internal timber partitions had rotted, illustrating the rapid pace of decline once water seeps in.
© KEITH HUNTER
Russell said: “When we first got to the building, we were sent photos by City Building and it looked fine, almost like it does right now. Someone had gone in and stripped lead off the roof and it just let the water in and destroyed it. I put my foot through a floor when I visited for the first time and we all just gently backed off.” Faring worst of all was the old gym hall, which was the first to be targeted by lead thieves owing to a lower more accessible roof. Water ingress had caused the floor below to warp. “If the project was going to work that was the sacrifice that had to be made.”
Russell continued: “There was a real danger that the building would have collapsed inside. All the outside walls were 600mm thick and probably provided enough support to do what they needed to do but water had penetrated the wellheads internally and got behind the plaster, tiling and finishes. It was all gone. The only thing we could do was strip it off and we were left with the stone and concrete elements.” Despite these losses the team were determined to salvage as much as they could with features such as balustrades, picture rails, trusses, roof lights and doors all being retained while salvaged red sandstone taken from >
First Lower First Ground
C SECTION AA A
Lower First Ground
C SECTION CC A
FLAT TYPE KEY
Floorplans give a feel for how classrooms have been cannibalised for maisonettes
the demolished sports hall was used for feature walls and pathways within the grounds. ‘Green Peggy’ roof slates were crushed and used as path borders by TGP landscape architects and a statue carved from one of the pillars of the building has also been installed – minimising the quantity of waste material removed. This approach, as well as being respectful of history and the environment also ensured that the sunk cost and carbon embodied by the craftsmanship and high-quality materials, unachievable today, would not go to waste. While this has taken additional effort, Russell is pleased with the results and so to are the people of Cathcart given the rapidity with which the flats were snapped up. “If you were less keen on retaining the history you could have gutted all the interiors and focussed on facade retention but that wasn’t our ambition and it wasn’t the clients either,” he says. “For all those units we didn’t have to pour any concrete into the ground. In terms URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
of the carbon footprint, it’s a whole lot less because the building already exists.” What may have saved Holmlea is the strength of the site itself, which occupies a significant parcel of land in a desirable tenement neighbourhood. Did the luxury of new build options offset inefficiencies in repurposing the main building? “When we were originally looking at it we thought of putting units in front of the janitor’s house but they compromised the building too much. The feeling was we didn’t want to compromise the historic frontage but we did have space to manoeuvre at the boundary line where the school building meets the tenements. It was about building up the density at that side without taking away from the prominence of the main school building. We didn’t want to come over the eaves line or take anything up too high. “We tried to leave the gable ends free as best we could with the janitor’s house sitting there as it always has, if you
© KEITH HUNTER
© KEITH HUNTER
Top - The front facade was kept sacrosanct throughout the work Bottom - Complementary additions build out to the street line at the rear
© KEITH HUNTER
The former Janitor’s House is in high demand from tenants
could choose a unit that’s the one that you’d want! It will sit there and do exactly what it has always done which is serve the main school.” Internally a more radical rethink was required with the proportions and layout demanding some creative thinking on the part of the architects to ensure everything functioned as it should as well as looking good. In the end, it was decided to create maisonettes within the generous classroom spaces, invisible to the casual observer. Russell said: “Some flats hadn’t room for two full storeys so we made them so that as you walk in you go down a few stairs to allow space for the upper floor. Most of the two-storey maisonettes will have a double-height living room to take advantage of at least one of the windows to the front while the other might be split between a kitchen below and a bedroom above. We also put in a mansard roof which you cannot see because of the valley. The flats up there get a lot of light and are effectively new build elements away from the main school.” It is the two newly revitalised atriums which Russell is most pleased with, both of which have been restored to their former glory as fitting communal spaces. The key question is URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
how transferrable is this approach to other similar buildings, is there a model here, which can be replicated? “It definitely can”, says Russell. “As architects, it was a learning process for us and we’ve taken away ideas which we can use on the next project. The thing about this project is there is a lot more work upfront because you are dealing with a bit of history. You need to understand what condition it is in and what you can take it back to. If you’ve got a fresh site you just need to do a quick survey and that’s it. There is no way we would have ended up with this housing mix and these interesting flats had it been a new build. Working within the constraints of planning and funding does make it a lot more interesting. You work with what you’ve got.” The key to great design is often found in the successful navigation of site constraints; heritage, client requirements and funding. Often it is only by probing the limitations that the best solutions reveal themselves, guiding possibilities that cannot be found on a blank piece of paper. In a city where the path of least resistance too often leads to demolition, it is heartening that projects such as Holmlea can offer a different path.
Top - Other schools in line for new lease of life include Golfhill Primary in Dennistoun Bottom - Shakespeare Street Public School in Maryhill has already been reimagined as apartments
Pe-1914 schools have been under threat across Glasgow but in recent months several projects have provided hope that these historic structures can live on under a new guise. In the private sector this has largely fallen to Spectrum Properties and Jewitt & Wilkie Architects who have found a winning formula for turning around fading assets overlooked by others. Recent projects include the North Kelvin Apartments in Maryhill which has seen the Shakespeare Street Public School brought back from the brink and the subsidence hit Golfhill Primary in Dennistoun, the latter as a facade retention. Both projects illustrate the value of retaining not erasing history in a rush to modernise.
A BALKAN JOURNEY JOHN GLENDAY
URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
25 YEARS ON FROM THE SIEGE OF SARAJEVO PHOTOJOURNALIST CHRIS LESLIE HAS CURATED A STRIKING VISUAL ARTS PROJECT DOCUMENTING THE POSTCONFLICT JOURNEY OF THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHS, ESSAYS AND EVENTS. THE RESULTING BOOK ILLUSTRATES THE TORTURED PAST AND BRIGHT FUTURE OF A REGION STILL GRAPPLING WITH SOCIAL AND PHYSICAL RECONSTRUCTION.
Sarajevo may be as far as it’s possible to travel from Glasgow within Europe but many challenges remain the same
A BALKAN JOURNEY
Left - Sarajevo is now the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina Right - 25 years of coverage allows the conflict to be presented in four dimensions
A quarter-century in the making, Chris Leslie’s photographic record of the Balkans ranks as one of the most ambitious art projects of recent years, an outcome impossible to predict when Leslie took his first faltering steps into a literal and cultural minefield in 1996. As a naive 22-year old who hadn’t so much as held a camera Leslie went on to document one of the most traumatic episodes in recent European history. 2021 marks 25 years since the end of the siege of Sarajevo and Leslie has marked those fateful days with A Balkan Journey, a photo book that documents the aftermath of a brutal war while giving hope to a new generation by charting an impressive period of reconstruction. Recalling his first foray from one corner of Europe to another Leslie told Urban Realm: “I was a young 22-year-old lad from Airdrie, recently graduated in psychology with politics - one of those degrees you do when you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up. I did my dissertation on the former Yugoslavia and I thought, can I get out there?” Seeking voluntary work in the region Leslie faced the small problem of a barren CV but this proved no barrier to youthful determination. “I had nothing to put down on the skills and interests section”, recalled Leslie, “so I put down photography but I’d never taken a picture.” Armed only with boundless enthusiasm and an itch to travel, Leslie duly taught himself the basics of photography URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
over a panicked three-month crash course before setting off in August 1996 to teach photography to local children in the town of Pakrac, Croatia. Recalling with fondness a more innocent age which was to propel Leslie into a life of photography and documentary making, Leslie said: “It was the last time I got to experience everything around me without feeling the need to capture and Instagram everything. Of the photographs I took at that time half were destroyed or lost and the ones I did develop I thought were shit, so I discounted them. Now, 25 years later, going back to those images you see a place that no longer exists but there was no preconceived notion of what photography should be.” Illustrating the depth of animosity that had developed between different cultural groups Leslie recounts how an early cultural faux pas opened his eyes to the entrenched divisions. “I was given a Yugoslavian phrasebook but it was already out of date because you then had the Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian languages - they were the same language, each with a handful of particular words. In the town of Karpach there was a bakery and I went out to buy some bread and used the Yugoslavian word ‘kleb’, but the Croatian word for bread was ‘hleb’ and the shopkeeper refused to serve me. Such was the intolerance.” From this unpromising start, a love affair blossomed between the photographer and his adopted home with frequent visits over the ensuing decades resulting in a wealth of material >
A BALKAN JOURNEY
which in time would become ‘A Balkan Journey’. “I’ve been back to Sarajevo about 15 times over the past 25 years and collected a jumbled mess of material,” notes Leslie, conceding that there was “no consistency or coherent thought of how it could come together as a book.” Despite this lack of purpose, it soon became apparent that the archive represented a priceless record of a period that is now more relevant than ever. It establishes a tangible link to a past many would rather forget but has an incalculable inherent value that was not at first appreciated. Over time the mundane can become exotic and Leslie is keen to bring this uncomfortable history to life for western audiences by showing the true nature of the conflict through images and essays by John McDougall which dispel lazy misconceptions about the war. Leslie said: “This was our war, on our continent and in our time. In the 1990s there was a prevailing interpretation peddled by Western politicians and media that this was a war of ancient ethnic hatred. That’s the line that suited us not to get involved but it was far from the truth. This was a deliberate and planned genocidal campaign, it was never a civil war. “It taught me how easily these things can happen anywhere. The deliberate urbicide of Sarajevo and other towns and cities was deliberate and endorsed by state-controlled media. People never dreamed the war would reach Sarajevo. Not with a highly educated and secular population. Not in a modern European city. In those days there were just a handful of channels, nowadays we have thousands of channels spreading misinformation and hatred. In journalism it taught us not just to report anymore – you can’t be subjective when one side is slaughtering the other – you need to call it out.” Inevitably much of a Balkan Journey depicts scenes of destruction but these same images also play a key role in the healing process serving not just as a record of a fading past but by providing valuable evidence for prosecuting war criminals. Those early images of the war and siege in Bosnia are the photos that still play out in people’s heads and the media 25 years on and Leslie is keen to bring the story up to date. Leslie continued: “There is a new generation of young people in Bosnia and the wider region who have no memory of this war, nor do they want one. People within Bosnia and outside need to be looking at new imagery – new photographs, new realities that show how the region has been rebuilt and open for business and investment. In many ways this was the reality I wanted to show in this Balkan Journey book – there are still a lot of issues to resolve with the politics and infrastructure – but this is a very different region.” Likening the turnaround of Sarajevo to that of Glasgow in the 1980s Leslie points to the need for a major public relations effort to shatter the sort of preconceptions and stereotypes that can linger in the face of an evolving reality. “It needs something like the Glasgow Smiles Better campaign of the eighties,” explains Leslie. “You need a strapline to tell the citizens how good their > URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
For a new generation of young people conflict is nothing but a distant memory
A BALKAN JOURNEY
city is. For some wee woman in Easterhouse ‘Scotland with Style’ doesn’t work, but it works for tourists coming to shop in Buchanan Street and hang out in the Merchant City.” What has surprised Leslie most over the past two and a half decades of tireless record keeping? “The most surprising thing I have witnessed is the level to which Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina) has been able to rebuild from the ashes. Although Sarajevo is a name that might seem inextricably linked to war and tragedy, the passing of 25 years has done much to heal this remarkable and resilient city, and tourism is now sharply on the rise. Sarajevo is beautiful and a city of architectural contrasts, religions and beliefs - a city where east meets west, often called the Jerusalem of Europe.” One of the first buildings Leslie visited in 1996 also made one of the biggest impressions, the iconic National Library which was subsequently destroyed over two days of deliberate shelling in August 1992 with the loss of 90% of the collection. Only the walls and pillars survived. Now following extensive restoration, it once again stands proud as Sarajevo City Hall and a symbol of the city’s reconstruction. Nowhere is this renewal more apparent than the UNITIC twin towers designed by Ivan Štraus, totemic twin towers in the heart of the city which once served as a symbol of destruction after being heavily shelled and standing as a constant reminder of home for Leslie who had been fond of the Whitevale and Bluevale flats on the Gallowgate. “People in Sarajevo are immensely proud to have survived despite being bombed continuously. People knew what they were fighting for”, notes Leslie. “People need these images but you also have to be able to move on. The younger generation shouldn’t have to carry the war as baggage.” There’s a rawness and hard reality to Leslie’s images which convey the harsh reality of life in a broken country that to this day faces considerable social challenges. “I was in Sarajevo in 2018 and there were hundreds of refugees and migrants queuing for food outside a mosque, a lot of sleeping in the streets, in camps (if they were lucky) and empty destroyed buildings from the war. Behind these changes lies a considerable irony in that just as Croatia has taken the symbolic and positive step of joining the EU so has the United Kingdom departed. “Security, transparency and investment is key to Balkan stability,” notes Leslie. “It’s surprising that the journey got to this point because 25 years ago, whilst living in the ruins of a small war-torn town in Croatia, the idea of being part of Europe and at peace seemed impossible. And ironically – as Croatia is now a member of the EU, the UK has now left. It’s a sign of the topsy turvy world we live in and an important reminder of how populist politicians and media can alter everything.” Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them and Leslie’s timely commemoration of a shocking period in history reminds us that the unthinkable can and does happen, a message which is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago. URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
The Balkans have become the frontline of Europe’s migrant crisis
Limited copies of A Balkan Journey are available at www.balkanjourney.com/the-book/
EXPLORING EDINBURGH JOHN GLENDAY
H I DDEN
C I TY
WITH EDINBURGH’S ONCE FLOURISHING TOURISM INDUSTRY ON INDEFINITE HIATUS CRITIC ROBIN WARD FINDS PEACE ON THE STREETS WHILE COMPILING AN ARCHITECTURAL GUIDE TO HIS ADOPTED CITY. VENTURING OFF THE WELL-BEATEN TRACK OF THE OLD AND NEW TOWNS TO SHOWCASE AN ECLECTIC MIX OF STYLES, ERAS AND TYPOLOGIES WARD OFFERS THE NEXT BEST THING TO POUNDING THE STREETS IN PERSON WITH A CATALOGUE OF ALL THE CITY’S NOOKS AND CRANNIES.
With Edinburgh’s tourism industry decimated now might appear a strange time to publish an architectural guidebook but with one eye on post lockdown travel, Robin Ward has created a guidebook with a difference, handing architecturally minded visitors a passport to out of the way places from the comfort of their armchair or (when circumstances permit) personal excursions via selfguided walks. Taking readers (and at times himself) on a journey of discovery off the well-beaten track of Edinburgh World Heritage sites Ward has thrown open a door to some of the lesser-known attractions scattered throughout the city complete with instructions on how to get there and personal notes and anecdotes to accompany every point of interest. To mark the publication Ward spoke to Urban Realm about his follow-up to 2017’s Exploring Glasgow: “The challenge of doing a book on Edinburgh is you’re following in the footsteps of others. So much has been written about the Old and New Towns that I was determined to take the reader out to parts of the city which they may not know so well, or not at all.” Written in a more approachable manner and, crucially, URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
more pocketable than the Pevsner tomes which have gone before Ward has sought to ditch the jargon and appeal to the layperson and architect alike, no small task in a world where the sum of all information can be found at the click of a mouse. In the process, Ward adds colour, anecdotes and recaps of local history to maintain the reader’s attention in what might otherwise be a very dry account. While issues surrounding over-familiarity, language and purpose presented a challenge they were at least known issues but no-one could have foreseen the crisis of last year which has swept everyone and everything before it, Ward included. Far from being deterred by ongoing events however Ward is excited about the opportunities presented in reopening a city for exploration which has been unreachable by most. “It’s the perfect guide for pandemic times because you can do physically distanced walkabouts on self-guided tours,” says Ward. One consequence of the pandemic has been a loss of colour (literally and figuratively) as publisher Luath Press opted to cut costs by printing the photos in black and white, reflecting the draining of Edinburgh’s lifeblood as >
This hammerbeam hall is all that remains of the Jacobean old Parliament House
Left - The pocket-size guidebook seeks to arm tourists and locals alike with architectural information on the move Above Ward has written previous guides to Vancouver and Glasgow
the people who lend the city their energy, creativity and passions are forced to stay away. Turning a constraint into a positive, however, Ward notes that Edinburgh remains a black and white city of soot-blackened buildings and this was also an aesthetic choice that lends a timeless quality to the photography. From the roll call of architecture through the ages several more recent examples are notably absent from Ward’s pages but this is no oversight as the author explains: “I tried hard to include the best contemporary buildings not just the old familiar stuff and there are some very good modern buildings. There is also a lot of trash but my protocol for the book was, if I can’t say a good word about a building then it’s not in.” Thus it will be left to future guidebooks to pass judgement on developments such as the St James Quarter. It’s fair to say the average visitor isn’t drawn to the city by the delights of the St James Centre or Edinburgh Park, as ward adds: “While locals might want to know what Robin Ward thinks of the St James Centre I don’t think visitors would engage with that kind of criticism. It takes a bit of looking but there’s some good there.” > URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
Holland House, Pollock Halls of Residence, by Rowand Anderson Kininmonth is defined by Swedish-inspired lanterns, in stark contrast to its baronialneighbours
The unexpected delight of a proto-Modernist facade on Rose Street Lane caught Ward’s eye
Structural Engineering Re-imagined Realise what’s possible with our CARE Accredited Conservation Team www.ruddconsult.com
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Photograph by Jim Stephenson www.clickclickjim.com
Ball House by hoskins architects is one of many modern entries, raised for its carbon neutrak
Fortunately, Ward estimates that around 80% of the work behind exploring Edinburgh had been completed before the lockdown in March but the shutdown wasn’t entirely without its benefits. “I did notice standing in Edinburgh during the Festival, or at any time, it is impossible to get a good shot of a building. Lockdown is good in some ways. It reminded me of these old Victorian photographs where the long exposure made people just disappear.” From this privileged moment in time Ward has been able to pound the streets in relative peace but what are the longer-term implications of a prolonged pause to everyday life, is this a chance to take a breath, step back and follow a slower pace of life in a more localised world? Embarking on a road well travelled the immediate danger is boredom through familiarity. How did Ward set about curating an idiosyncratic collection of hidden gems? “I spent a lot of time wandering around Leith taking sketches and photographs, most of by foot or
driving around the suburbs if I saw something I’d do a quick U-turn and look at it. I also read several books on local history, if something catches my eye I’ll go out and look at it. At the Livingstone Memorial (entry 172) off Morningside Road, there’s an ancient 16th century stone, which commemorates the plague. I walked past this and found a gate before researching to find out more. Some of it is entirely serendipity and chance. “I’ve often found the most useful source of information comes from talking to people. I would go to churches and wait for the service to stop and then talk to the elders and the congregation. In every case, they’re all keen and happy to answer questions.” Another standout discovery is a JJ Burnett building on George Street, an Edwardian Baroque confection that is also surprisingly modern. Ward recalled: ”It’s completely out of place but what a building, it just sings. What’s wonderful is not just the façade but an almost modernist glass elevation which is quite striking. There >
Left - Dance Base slots precariously below the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle, bringing balance to the composition Right - Craigentinny Marbles sit incongrously within a 1920s suburb, marking the resting place of William Henry Miller with biblical scenes carved in stone
are several examples like that in Glasgow where you think why didn’t they put that at the front.” Not restricted to buildings alone Ward also turns his gaze up towards the multitude of sculptures, cartouches and frieze’s which line Edinburgh’s streets, nowhere more spectacularly than at the National Portrait Gallery whose Venetian Gothic façade was recently augmented by a Page\Park addition. At its heart Exploring Edinburgh is no mere passive instrument of display destined to languish on a coffee table but a call to get out of the house and see Edinburgh at first hand. “The best reader is one who buys the book and follows the route. Every entry is keyed to a mapped route according to the most interesting buildings. The disadvantage of doing that is that any buildings too far URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
from the route don’t make the cut. I can probably give you a list of buildings that should have been in the book! I had to be selective. Printed maps encourage exploration and Ward is keen to make his tours as self-contained as possible to limit the need for juggling items while on the move. He said: ”You might have your smartphone in your hand but it’s not as easy to walk around with Google Maps as you might think.” In a world whose horizons have shrunk to our immediate neighbourhoods the true value of Exploring Edinburgh is its enthusiasm for adopting a fresh perspective on familiar sights and places, in doing so Ward reaffirms that the most impactful discoveries are those which lie closest to home, right under your nose.
CHERNOBYL & PRIPYAT MARK CHALMERS
Seventies futurism gives way to a bleak 21st century reality at Pripyat URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
TO COINCIDE WITH UKRAINE’S BID FOR UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE STATUS FOR CHERNOBYL AND PRIPYAT - AND THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE WORLD’S WORST NUCLEAR DISASTER, MARK CHALMERS APPRAISES HOW SOVIET ARCHITECTURE HAS FARED AGAINST THE RAVAGES OF TIME, RADIATION & NEGLECT. AS NATURE RECLAIMS THE LAND WHAT HAS THE ZONE LEFT BEHIND? PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL HILL-GIBBINS, CHERNOBYLGALLERY.COM
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Two hours north of Kiev along an arrow-straight highway, you reach the Zone of Alienation. The minivan draws up at a checkpoint guarded by soldiers in fatigues, armed with geiger counters and Kalashnikovs. Radiation! Danger! No photographs! command the signs. Thirty kilometres short of Chernobyl, the marshland is dotted with triangular red and yellow radiation hazard signs. These tracts, known in Ukraine as “polesie” or forestland, spread beyond the horizon. After passing through a second checkpoint twenty kilometres further on, the faintest outlines of Pripyat’s high rise blocks and the sarcophagus of Reactor No.4 emerge above the pine trees. During the late 1980’s this was the most radioactive place in the world. The area became known as the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, or simply the Zone. At its centre lie the ruins of Chernobyl nuclear power plant and city of Pripyat. Paul Hill-Gibbins has visited the Zone several times and URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
acknowledges that it’s easy to be smitten by Chernobyl – “The Zone to me is many things including sombre, peaceful and surprisingly beautiful. The first time I wandered alone through its streets and buildings was a unique feeling and something I’ve craved many times since.” The images on his website, chernobylgallery.com, demonstrate why Chernobyl and Pripyat are so compelling. “At the edge of the city thick undergrowth and trees frequently obscure the buildings and often the only reminder that you’re walking on what was once a busy road is a kerb or periodic streetlight.” Pripyat is an entire Modernist city abandoned to nature. In the early hours of 26th April 1986, No.4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant overheated during a safety test. A power surge inside the core led to explosions which blew the 2000 ton concrete lid off the nuclear reactor, and the resulting fire spread a cloud of radionuclides across Ukraine and Belarus then Poland, Germany and Sweden. Millions of people owe their lives to the Liquidators:
Left - The Palace of Culture Energetik was built as a monument to the atomic age Right - Cafe Pripyat was a popular lakeside retreat for locals in happier times
the helicopter pilots, robot operators and firefighters who fought to staunch the reactor’s overheating core with sand, dolomite, boron and lead. Many would succumb to radiation sickness, but without their efforts the reactor would have melted down completely. A memorial, known as the “Monument to Those Who Saved the World” stands in a quiet corner of Chernobyl. Its name is more than rhetorical. Thirty-five years later, Pripyat seems like a modern Pompeii: a ruined, irradiated city which has been given up by people. But the Zone of Alienation around Chernobyl is anything but abandoned. Every day, thousands travel into the Zone to carry on the process of remediating the wrecked power plant. Ecologists study flora and fauna inside the Zone, such as the radiotrophic fungi which seemingly thrive inside the ruins of Reactor No.4, where a few minutes’ exposure would kill a human. Each year, thousands more curious visitors also make the trip: many are what you might call atomic tourists, inspired by the recent HBO television series “Chernobyl” and a video
game named S.T.A.L.K.E.R. However, rather than tourists, or the nuclear plant workers and Communist Party officials who figure in the television series, this article focuses on two people: Maria Protsenko, Pripyat’s chief architect who supervised the city’s expansion; and Andrei Tarkovsky, the film-maker who many believe foretold the accident and its aftermath in his film “Stalker”. In September 1966, the USSR launched a 10-year plan to develop a nuclear power station in the Ukrainian SSR, to provide power to a population of 50 million. Dotted across the former USSR are many “monogorod” or single industry cities, such as Magnitogorsk in the Urals which was built around the iron and steel industry. In 1970, Pripyat was founded two kilometres from Chernobyl as the ninth Atomgrad, or atomic city, in the USSR. Maria Protsenko became chief architect of the City of Pripyat at the remarkably young age of 33. Born to SinoRussian parents, she was brought up in Kazakhstan and studied architecture at the Institute of Roads and Transport
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in Ust-Kamenogorsk. By 1986 she had been Pripyat’s chief architect for seven years, and had already expanded the city from two “mikrorayons” (micro-districts) to four, and was in the process of planning Pripyat’s new sixth district on reclaimed land beside the Pripyat River. Each mikrorayon is a neighbourhood which typically houses between 8,000 and 12,000 people in a mixture of slab blocks and high rise towers ranging from five to 16 storeys. Pripyat already had a population of 50,000, living in 13,000 apartments spread across 160 blocks. The expansion would have ultimately taken the city to 200,000 people, many of whom would work in the Chernobyl Two power plant whose No.5 and 6 Reactors were already under construction. As in the West, mass housing in the Eastern Bloc during the 1960’s and 70’s consisted of large panel systems fabricated from precast concrete. The decision to adopt an industrialised system was made by Comecon, which decreed that buildings from the Elbe to Vladivostok would be constructed on identical lines. They were based, like virtually all large panel systems, on a common ancestor – the URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
Larsen-Neilsen system – and consist of sandwich panels with a load-bearing concrete inner leaf, a layer of insulation and a concrete outer leaf. The housing blocks were nicknamed “Khrushchyovska” as they were developed during the 1960’s while Nikita Khrushchev was in power. They began as five storey walkups with precast wall panels and pre-plumbed bathroom pods, and by the 1970’s the system had developed into the eight storey slab blocks typical of Pripyat. While the apartment blocks were system-built from precast panels, many of Pripyat’s public buildings such as the “Energetik” Palace of Culture, Hotel Polyssia and City Hall were in-situ adaptations of standard designs constructed throughout the USSR. However, Maria Protsenko personally checked and signed off the quality of concrete work, and detailed parquet flooring, marble cladding and coloured mosaics to offer them a little more craftsmanship and colour. The power plant workers were amongst a proletarian élite, if that isn’t a contradiction in terms and facilities in Pripyat such as the Avangard sports stadium, Raduga (Rainbow) department store, Lazurny (Azure) swimming
Left - Music School & Cinema ‘Prometheus’ - The mosaic entrance relief was created by Ivan Lytovchenko Right - The swimming pool ‘Azure’
pool and Kinoteatr Prometey (Prometheus cinema) provided a standard of living which was better than that of a typical Soviet city. Something else which set Pripyat apart was how Protsenko integrated buildings into their setting. The high density of the mikrorayons was deliberate: it freed up space for parkland, sports facilities and playgrounds. Even before it was abandoned, the city was much greener than other monogorods. Today Pripyat’s tree-lined avenues are overgrown, but apricot trees bloom in the overgrown gardens while bison, boars and wolves roam through the city. The most remarkable part of Maria Protsenko’s life is that 36 hours after the reactor exploded, she took personal charge of evacuating Pripyat. As the city’s masterplanner, she had access to city maps which were vital in ensuring the process was fast and thorough. When the order came, 1100 buses arrived on Lenina Prospekt and according to Adam Higginbotham’s book, “Midnight at Chernobyl”, Protsenko even rode around Pripyat in the last bus to collect the final stragglers.
It took time for the enormity of what happened at Reactor 4 to sink in, but soon afterwards we began to search for reference points. There had been previous atomic disasters, at Windscale in Cumbria and Three Mile Island on the east coast of the US, but uncanny parallels lay in a film made by a Soviet auteur seven years earlier. With hindsight, Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” seems like a premonition of the accident. It portrays a world destroyed by Man which has begun regenerating itself. The strangely mutated plants and insects which grew back in the Zone of Exclusion around Chernobyl were foreseen by Tarkovsky as the Zona, a temperate jungle of plants into which only stalkers go. A stalker, in the original John McNab sense of the word, is a guide who leads people through the wilderness. Tarkovsky’s film was based on “Roadside Picnic”, a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky which features a young rebel who hikes covertly into the Zona to collect the mysterious artefacts which alien visitors have left strewn around, almost like litter abandoned after a picnic. The film’s point of departure was “a breakdown at >
CHERNOBYL & PRIPYAT
the fourth bunker”; seven years later when Reactor No.4 overheated, that was seen as a prophecy. Following a journey through an uncanny wilderness, which the stalker describes as “the quietest place in the world”, he leads two fellow travellers to the centre of the Zona, where they find the Room. The Room is a derelict industrial hall filled with pollution which flows like sand dunes across the floor. In metaphysical terms, it’s a place where your deepest wish can be fulfilled – but at a terrible price. It seems mankind developed a new reticence about nuclear power in the devastated power plant at Chernobyl, and that too came at a terrible price. Now, on the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, Ukraine’s culture minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, is seeking UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the Exclusion Zone: “This is not only a tourist attraction, but also a place of memory where it is worth coming to understand the truth about the disaster and its ‘final effect’”. In that, Ukraine would like Chernobyl and Pripyat to join Auschwitz and Hiroshima as a place of pilgrimage and remembrance. Churchill summed up the USSR as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, and the post-Soviet states still intrigue us. There are a series of paradoxes to unravel. Nuclear power was once seen as clean, cheap and limitless: in the age of climate change, we need those qualities more than ever before. Communism was perceived in the West as restrictive of personal liberty, yet it promoted multi-culturalism and equality of opportunity. Maria Protsenko came from the very edge of the USSR and became Pripyat’s chief architect whilst in her thirties. How many young female architects got the chance to design a new city in Scotland during the 1970’s? From a Western standpoint, the USSR’s command economy seemed constrictive, yet the level of control required to achieve integrated planning, architecture and delivery at Pripyat was only possible through state intervention. In fact, you could argue that what Sovietera design achieved in the city is what Western urbanists endlessly pursue, but have largely failed to achieve. For example, Pripyat is a compact city which can be crossed on foot in fifteen minutes, and also had good public transport. It was designed for high density living in apartment blocks, with free childcare provided by fifteen kindergartens. Its setting was close to Nature yet also close to work, in the form of the Chernobyl power plants and nearby Jupiter factory. In a final paradox, the accident at Chernobyl underscores both our unsustainable disconnect from Nature, and how Nature takes back what we’ve devastated. Likewise, Pripyat demonstrates how the Modernist city can be destroyed, yet simultaneously survive to capture our imagination in ways that its architect never envisaged. URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
Radioactive ships abandoned at Chernobyl port decay slowly
© RENZO MAZZOLINI
Graven put staff at tech giant Arm Holdings in the frame at St Vincent Plaza, Glasgow URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
SPACE RACE OUR INTERIOR DESIGN FOCUS FOR 2021 SHINES A LIGHT ON A PROFESSION ON THE CUSP OF A BRAVE NEW POST-PANDEMIC WORLD. THE PAST YEAR OF CONFINEMENT HAS ELEVATED OUR COLLECTIVE APPRECIATION OF OUR IMMEDIATE ENVIRONS TO NEW HEIGHTS, SO HOW ARE PRACTICES RESPONDING? HAVE RECENT EVENTS REFRAMED CLIENT PRIORITIES ON SPACE AND UTILITY AND WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF THE OFFICE? MOREOVER, HOW DO WE ENSURE GREAT DESIGN STANDS AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE RECOVERY? WE LOG OUT OF PINTEREST AND REACH OUT TO THE INDUSTRY IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS.
Ross Hunter Director Graven Images Ltd What is your proudest achievement of 2020? Anyone who has survived 2020 has a right to be pleased. We had only just finished our workplace project for Arm Holdings and had started work on a nice little project in Seattle when the pandemic forced everyone to think again. Projects were being pulled left right and center, but our wonderful team just tucked their computers under their arms and plugged in again from their homes. We carried on and we survived. We stepped forward to help our country look beyond the abyss and brave new projects emerged which we hope will be great for all of us in the future. Where is interior design headed in a post-pandemic world? I think everybody now appreciates how Covid has acted as a kind of accelerant for change. We’ve been fastforwarded by three or five years but the direction of
travel is much as it was. I’m very optimistic that welldesigned environments, especially working environments, are being understood as important strategic assets for all organisations. Good design creates competitive advantage (how long have we been saying it?), and I think that we should be enjoying the “race to the top”. How would you describe your practices design approach? Graven approaches the design of interiors like any other aspect of architecture. If the spatial sequence is wrong, or if important elements are mis-placed then it can be very difficult to succeed in making an excellent interior. We like to observe and listen and we like to collaborate with the whole team as early as possible to “get the architecture right”. After that we layer in detail until eventually we’re obsessing over finishes or colour or furniture. We are disdainful of Pinterest and the cut-and-paste world of decorating. We still believe that architecture is part of an organisation’s communication mix, and we believe that everyone should draw. >
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MLA are embracing a ‘hybrid’ future with projects such as Bible House, Edinburgh
MLA Team (above) What is your proudest achievement of 2020? We are proud that the team at MLA have demonstrated the ability to adapt to the new challenges presented by everything that 2020 brought by seeking out opportunities and inspiring our people and the people we work with. We have used the pandemic as a positive and, through what has been a very challenging period, MLA has cemented its culture, strengthened its financial integrity and expanded our team. We have talked and laughed more than we ever thought possible and the pandemic has brought us closer as a team and stronger as a business. Where is interior design headed in a post-pandemic world?? Previously, and in very simple terms, some organisations used their real estate to reflect who they were and how they did things. Now, with everyone out of their comfort zone and outwith their ‘real estate’, organisations have quickly established or strengthened their digital brand. Soon, we will all have to decide whether to revert to the URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
‘real estate’ or ‘digital’ brand versions of ourselves. In reality most of us will end up somewhere in between. Interior Design (and workplace design in particular) will need to create a bridge between the two, combining a technological and connected workplace with a more domestic, comfortable and enticing environment. We firmly believe interior design will thrive because this new challenge will demand more adaptable, flexible spaces that instil a sense of belonging whilst connecting seamlessly to those not in the workplace. The future’s bright, the future’s……..hybrid. Are we doing enough to equip the next generation with the skills they need? Over the last year we have embraced a change in culture at MLA and we find our business much more inclusive with the next generation instrumental in driving this forward. We’re probably finding a bit of the opposite going on as the next generation educates the older one equipping them with the tools they, in fact, need to thrive in a digital world. Is this what they call teaching old dogs new tricks’? However, we all accept it’s much easier to pass on that
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HLM has developed a suite of custom tools to inform client decision making
crucial experience and to learn when we are all physically together. We recognise how hard this is currently and are trying our best to plan more, think in advance and utilise the digitally connected nature of our business to share knowledge and pass on this experience to our future designers and job runners. The biggest challenge in our physical design world, however, has been the very limited access to building sites in the last year. In our industry this is where the next generation really learns and we are hoping that this key activity will start to open up more as we move through 2021 and beyond. Lisa Don Associate Director, Interiors HLM Architects Where is interior design headed in a post-pandemic world? Pre-pandemic the lines were already blurring between many of our sectors. Technology was freeing people from traditional workplaces – We have seen hotel lobbies become workplaces, Students utilising cafes to collaborate,
commutes becoming productive. As a large majority of the UK workforce emerge from the kitchen table, we look forward to seeing how this accelerated uptake in flexible working & a greater focus on wellbeing affects our built environment. No doubt we are in for some radical rethinking & HLM are ready to help guide our clients with evidence-based tools, such as HLM_Insight, to really capitalise on the appetite for change and the benefits this can bring. What are your goals for the year ahead? Our aim for the next year is to support our colleagues, clients and projects as we emerge out of, hopefully, our final period of lock down. The last year has shown how incredibly adaptive we are capable of being and we are excited to explore the potential longer-term benefits & opportunities that will spring from this. HLMs Interior Design team has been looking at the implication on workplace & asset rationalisation alongside Addison Young in a report published in December & we are keen to support our hospitality clients as the UK looks towards a summer of staycations.
How would you describe your practices design approach? We use our creativity to unlock the potential within each project to be the best it can, often working within strict budgets, and always thinking about the whole life of a project, along with the impact on the people who will experience it. We always aim to delight as well as satisfy our clients and that often means going beyond the brief, being innovative, and thinking about people’s emotional response to the spaces we are creating. We don’t have a ‘signature-style’. Every design evolves as a solution to a unique set of challenges – its a creative, thoughtful, and fun process that allows the character and ideas of each project to flourish. Scott Torrance Director, Head of Interiors 3DReid What is your proudest achievement of 2020? Hospitality has been our interiors department’s biggest strength over recent years, but 2020 seen us diversify into other sectors that we are less experienced in. This led us to undertake some interesting workplace projects where we have adapted our hospitality skills to bring them into the office environment. Two projects which we delivered last year for our client at Bruntwood were Alderley Park and 111 Piccadilly, both located in Manchester. The fact our team were working from home and delivered these projects to the high standard they did is testament to their skills and commitment working under exceptional conditions, and the entire business is extremely proud of everyone involved. Where is interior design headed in a post-pandemic world? This question has sparked healthy debate over the last year, both internally at 3DReid and within the wider design community. At the outset of the pandemic designers were reactive to the problem and the solution was heading down the path of spaces becoming sterile, with hard surfaces and minimalistic interiors. Thankfully this seems to have passed, and with the hope and optimism people have for the future, we think they will want to emerge from their home hibernations looking for even better experiences than before at the places they visit. This will be particularly so at places of work, and the leisure activities they undertake at hotels, bars and restaurants. We believe there are very exciting times ahead for the industry in terms of the creativity that will flow from this expectation!
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Has time spent indoors reframed client priorities on space and utility? We think it definitely has, especially within the workplace environments we have been asked to consider for clients recently. There is much more awareness of space from clients and an acceptance that when people do return to the office their staff will be looking for more room between one another that was previously the norm. Some clients however are relocating to smaller, more efficient spaces as last year’s events have completely changed people’s working patterns and they expect less staff to be in the office at any given time. As we emerge from the pandemic this year it will be intriguing to see what actually develops. >
Top - Qualities of space and light can be found in abundance at Alderley Park, Manchester, by 3DReid Bottom - 111 Piccadilly lays the groundwork for a long-awaited return to leisure activities, free of the sterility found in temporary pandemic measures
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Top - Ingram place health & wellbeing at the top of their agenda, ensuring a safe work environment for staff upon a return to the office Bottom - These principles come into play at a fit-out for Skypark Glasgow, complete with a high-quality kitchen area
Avril Cranston Director Ingram Architecture & Design What is your proudest achievement of 2020? My proudest achievement of 2020 is that we have maintained our business and kept all of our staff through an extremely difficult year. We seamlessly transferred everyone to working from home and learned how to use video conferencing so that it really worked for us. The year has certainly has had its challenges but we have a great team and everyone has pulled together to make things work. Despite the lockdowns we have delivered some very interesting projects over the course of the year and we have learned a lot of new skills. Where is interior design headed in a post-pandemic world? Health and Wellbeing is at the top of the agenda now. If we have learned one thing this year, it is without our health we have nothing. This is leading to a combination of a clinical and nurturing approach to design. We will see trends for automation and antimicrobial/ easily cleaned surfaces and materials. There will be a clinical feel to processes and materials, but there is also the need for people to URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
feel safe and nurtured, so we will see biophilic design remaining high on the agenda and interiors becoming much more residential in feel in the workplace. Has time spent indoors reframed client priorities on space and utility? Undoubtedly it has made everyone consider and reconsider the space that they live and work in. We are looking at projects for our clients who are planning to embrace hybrid working when their staff are allowed to return to the workplace. With fewer people in the office at one time it not only allows more distance between people, it also provides space for collaborative spaces, quiet space and enclosed noisy spaces. Wellness and sustainability have become even more important than before. As approaches to workplace evolve the flexibility of the space is very important.
45 West Nile Street Glasgow G1 2PT T: 0345 271 6350 E: glasgow@3DReid.com 36 North Castle Street Edinburgh EH2 3BN T: 0345 271 6300 E: edinburgh@3DReid.com Email: scott.torrance@3DReid.com Web: www.3DReid.com Twitter: @3_D_Reid
Top - Alderley Park, Manchester Bottom - 111 Piccadilly, Manchester
Alderley Park, Manchester Client: Bruntwood Alderley Park, managed by Bruntwood Sci-tech, is undergoing a major rethink, refurbishment and repositioning as a sci-tech centre for excellence. 3DReid was appointed to bring contemporary hospitality inspired design to Block 1, a 12,000 sq foot serviced office space, including a central hub. The brief was to renew and inspire, providing relevant office spaces and relaxed communal amenity overlooking the Estate’s beautiful Mere. 111 Piccadilly, Manchester Client: Bruntwood 3DReid was commissioned by Bruntwood in Manchester to re-imagine their customer’s communal spaces. The brief was to ‘make it feel like a hotel’ with the added requirement for this to be a WELL accredited space, the first of its kind in the UK. The space includes open café, private relaxation and open lounge areas with associated F & B facilities, meeting rooms and co-working areas and workspace.
3DReid is a creative design studio specialising in the design and delivery of complex new build and refurbishment projects throughout the UK. Our interiors team work across all major sectors designing 3, 4 & 5-star hotels, bars and restaurants, hospitality lounges, residential including student residences, leisure, retail and workplace environments. We believe our experience working across sectors has given us expertise and insight to understand client’s aspirations for the design of interiors, products and finishes. Current and recent projects include 111 Piccadilly Manchester, Villa Jeddah KSA, Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh, The Rutland Arms Hotel in Newmarket, Village Hotel Eastleigh, and Alderley Park Manchester Sectors: Community-use, Civic & Cultural, Education & Healthcare, F&B, Hospitality & Leisure, Hotels, Offices, Residential, Restaurants & Bars, Retail, Workplace. Services: Architectural Design Interior Design Design Strategy Engagement & Brief Building Environmental Branding FF&E Specification Space Planning 3D Visualisation
2nd Floor Ailsa Court 121 West Regent Street Glasgow G2 2SD Tel: 01412268320 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.hlmarchitects.com Twitter: @HLMArchitects Thoughtful design to make better places for people. We listen and respond to the ambitions of our clients and understand the needs of the people who will use the places and spaces we create. We strive to crate places of education that inspire, healthcare environments that nurture, homes that are part of thriving communities, and infrastructure that is sustainable in every sense: environmentally, economically and socially. Our sector-led approach and dedication to retaining our deep rooted regional connections, coupled with a thoughtful approach to design, enables us to differentiate from our peers. Services: Architecture Interior Architecture Landscape Architecture Master planning Environmental Sustainability
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Voco Grand Central Glasgow Client: InterContinental Hotels Group First designed as a British Railway hotel in the late nineteenth century the prestigious building welcomed visitors such as Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra. Situated at the heart of Glasgow city centre the hotel was acquired by IHG as part of their re-branding programme. Refurbishment began in 2019 to develop the hotel into a Voco offering, A new brand for IHG in the UK. Due to the buildings age, Category A status and proximity to Glasgow Grand Central station the refurbishment required careful planning and phasing to ensure all parties involved were satisfied with the proposals. The hotel has 243 guestrooms and 16 suites, 184 guestrooms were refurbished with the requirement for air conditioning throughout as a Voco brand standard. Other areas were refurbished alongside the guestrooms such as Meeting rooms, Ballroom and The Champagne Bar. It was a complex installation due to the construction of the building; the interior has many ornate listed features, arched corridors and thick stone walls. The solution was to create a corridor ceiling raft that contains the services to be distributed across to each guest room. This meant, the original cornicing, stone archways and other features could remain intact and still visible as part of the building’s history and heritage. Understanding the Voco brand and developing the requirements into the refurbishment allowed the building to express its individuality and unique appearance, whilst providing a modernised hotel for guests and visitors.
227 Ingram Street, Glasgow G1 1DA Tel: 0141 221 5191 Email: email@example.com Web: www.ingramarchitecture.co.uk Twitter: IngramArch Principal Contacts: Avril Cranston, Director Stephen Govan, Director
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Cat A plus Fit out, Skypark Glasgow Client: Hermes and Resonance Capital The brief was to create an enhanced Cat A fit out ready for a tenant to move into and “plug and play”. The design is based on a New York Loft concept. We created the interior with soft timber parquet flooring and carpeting which reflects the criss cross tube lighting over reception and boardroom table. The timber boardroom table with dark grey framing, planters and credenza partnered with white chairs and white painted brick walls provide a ready made backdrop for an incoming tenant. The reception area contains mid century style velvet chairs, for staff or visitors to pause and sit for a while. We created the staff break out area and tea prep with high bench seating divided by the main open plan work area by dark grey and timber free standing shelves. The workstations are indicative and flexible depending on the end user and below floor servicing is all in place for a variety of uses and layouts. We worked closely with the design and contractors team to ensure a successful project delivered during the covid lockdown.
Ingram Architecture & Design is a creative commercial architectural practice based in the merchant city in Glasgow. We work on a diverse range of interesting projects and have a wealth of experience across a variety of sectors including Office, Retail, Leisure, Residential, Hotel, Industrial and Mixed Use across the UK. We work with a wide variety of fantastic clients and provide them with our services from early inception to project completion. Design and Delivery are core to our beliefs. We are committed to creating the highest standard of design whilst ensuring projects achieve the very best solution. We are passionate about what we do and provide a service that is efficient and creative within an atmosphere of honesty, integrity, knowledge and professionalism. Services: Architectural Design Interior Design Workplace strategy and space planning Concept Design Masterplanning Project management Conservation design Executive Architectural services
175 Albion Street Glasgow G1 1RU Tel: 0141 552 6626 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.graven.co.uk Twitter: @gravenhq We love to be part of skilled and experienced teams working on ambitious projects. In more than three decades we’ve had the privilege of doing exactly that in more than 40 countries. Our people, our processes, our technologies and our knowledge are constantly evolving to respond to this ever-changing world. We like to make things happen. It’s difficult, it’s fun and it’s exciting and the most rewarding thing is to see people enjoying something new. We are design do-ers as well as design thinkers. Services: Interior design and architecture Workplace design Workplace strategies Hospitality design Strategic and concept development Brand strategy Wayfinding and signage Retail and experiential design
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Arm Holdings, Glasgow Arm Holdings is an international tech company that recently acquired a Glasgow based technology firm specialising in creating connected platforms and the Internet of Things. With an aspiration to grow the business to around 250 people in Glasgow, Arm acquired a 27,000 sq. ft office at St Vincent Plaza over two floors and engaged Graven to create a workplace that would help to attract the best people to join them. Graven was responsible for the staff consultation, internal design, architecture, environmental graphics and signage with the key objective of creating an exceptional, agile environment to support ARM’s future growth and inspire and promote the wellbeing of their staff. We created an internal architecture that delivers a flexible and efficient workplace. There is a huge choice of places to work, to meet and to socialise. Innovation and technology were central to the project. The project adopted an agile approach to space planning to allow future staff numbers to increase, technology to allow staff to move and select from a range of relevant work setting for different tasks, and provision of a range of video conferencing allowing the teams to communicate effortlessly with the global team and limit travel between sites. The project was completed pre-lockdown in February 2020.
5 Forres Street, Edinburgh EH3 6DE Tel: 0131 226 6991 Email: email@example.com 83a Candleriggs, Glasgow G1 1LF Tel: 0141 255 0222 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: michaellaird.co.uk Twitter: @MLA_Ltd Instagram: michael_laird_architects LinkedIn: Michael Laird Architects At MLA we believe the interaction of people and place has the potential to transform the way we live and work. By working with our clients collaboratively we create spaces that proudly stand the test of time.
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Fit out of Bible House, Edinburgh Client: The Scottish Bible Society MLA were asked to carry out some initial feasibility exercises to give SBS greater direction in defining and developing a refined brief for what their workplace in Edinburgh should look like and how it should operate. They wanted to create a rationalised and flexible open plan workspace alongside improved shared collaborative spaces for visitors and staff. Following the outcomes, our refurbishment and fit out provides a total of 37 workstations and, with the flexibility of integrated/ wireless technology, the informal collaborative areas provide additional workspaces for staff or visitors across the floors. The final space provides a comfortable, collaborative and colourful working environment that will ensure that Bible House remains the home of the Scottish Bible Society for years to come.
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Holmlea Primary School was built in 1908, in Cathcart, Glasgow. The building closed its doors in 2005 and had been left to fall steadily into a state of disrepair. Following its purchase by Home Group, redevelopment of the school buildings into a number of 1-2 bed residential apartments has been recently completed. As part of this process TGP Landscape Architects were appointed by the Home Group to redesign the external areas working with Anderson Bell Christie Architects and CCG to create a high quality outdoor space that contributes to the wider streetscape and provides a space for residents to enjoy. The school building holds a prominent position in the site and is primarily south facing. In response, the landscape is set out as a series of raised lawns, with intervening footways and planting beds, orientated in a formal north-south arrangement. These raised lawns underpin the overall landscape structure within the redeveloped site, are a response to ground conditions within the site and provide a series of level surfaces despite the gentle west-east slope across. They also provide additional interest in the guise of informal seating, variations in height, and delineate footways. The retaining walls that demarcate the lawns are constructed from red ashlar salvaged from the demolition of the old sports hall that formed an annex to the school building. Salvaged stone work has also been repurposed elsewhere in the site to create bespoke features such as embedded benches within the low stone walls, a monolith at the site entrance complete with site signage and inground up-lighting, as well as a plinth for a sun dial located at the main doors of the building. Salvaged slate tiles from the building roof have also been crushed and repurposed as decorative aggregate. In terms of planting, the approach was to retain all Email: email@example.com Web: www.tgp.uk.com
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existing trees worthy of retention, primarily comprising flowering cherry trees in peripheral areas. These are augmented by new tree planting and a mix of flowering bulbs, perennials and structural shrubs to enrich the environment and provide year round structure and interest within the site. The resultant spaces are designed to be proportionate to the scale of the existing school building, and form a continuation of the building lines into the surrounding environment. In this way the landscape responds to the architecture and historic significance of the school building as well as its ongoing contribution to the surrounding streetscape.
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O’DonnellBrown were ahead of the homeworking curve with The Greenhouse
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FROM THE LEAFY GLASGOW SUBURB OF POLLOKSHIELDS ONE PRACTICE IS SUBVERTING EXPECTATIONS WITH A PROACTIVE APPROACH TOWARD IMPROVING COMMUNITIES THROUGH SELF-INITIATED WORK THAT SPANS EVERYTHING FROM A MODULAR CLASSROOM TO A CUSTOM SITOOTERIE AND PARK PAVILION. URBAN REALM CAUGHT UP WITH SAM BROWN AND JENNIFER O’DONNELL TO SEE WHAT MAKES O’DONNELLBROWN TICK.
A tight-knit team of six, including three architects, (soon to be four) at O’DonnellBrown has made a name for itself tackling ingrained societal issues which would prove daunting to practices many times their size. What can a bottom-up approach teach us in terms of how to tackle leftover land, education and care for young adults? Urban Realm dialled into the practices idyllic greenhouse studio to find out. As a profession architecture has never shied from tackling society’s big issues, even when a lack of financial firepower and an inability to effect policy change has undermined that work. O’DonnellBrown exemplifies that approach, fostering conversations with those on the ground to bring about positive change at a granular level. In a world where horizons end in the local neighbourhood, it is a solution that has struck a chord with charities, community groups and developers alike. From a tentative start delivering small-scale education projects in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, >
The Sitooterie concept was developed to assist businesses struggling through lockdown
O’DonnellBrown have broadened their focus since relocating to a purpose-built studio space in Pollokshields. The Greenhouse was the teams first self-initiated project and established the guiding principles which have governed its approach to design ever since. As the team explained: “By retrofitting our home we saved money on studio rent and we were able to channel funds into self-initiated projects, one per year – which has led to the development of the Community Classroom and the Sitooterie, a flexible outdoor seating space designed in response to the pandemic.” The key to this approach is the ability to frame client URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
expectations in a way that delivers more than a traditional architectural service. Much of this shift has been led by the Community Classroom, a simple modular multi-purpose timber build that can be assembled by volunteers. The success of this project has already led to several follow-up commissions including a community project at Strathclyde Country Park delivered in partnership with artist Kate V Robertson. Asked how the practice is taking a lead on communityled regeneration the team told Urban Realm: “Architects are equipped problem solvers with creative but also grounded
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© ROSS CAMPBELL
Top - The Community Classroom was O’DonnellBrown’s first solo project, assembled from a simple kit of parts Bottom - Designed as a resource for schools and community groups alike
Left - The classroom seeded a fruitful relationship with Barnardos through its Gap Homes initiative Middle - The practice’s latest work sees it focus on Maxwell Park with a new cafe pavilion Right - O’DonnellBrown found their feet in Tower Hamlets, working on low key education projects
and pragmatic sets of skills. We need to be bold, stay idealistic and get involved. As a practice, we are on a mission to bring about positive change in our community, and the communities we work with. We use our self-initiated projects to start conversations and tackle problems. “‘The Sitooterie’ embodies this approach. We were spurred into action listening to the difficulties faced by local restaurant and café owners, and self-initiated a project to understand how we could help these businesses open once the stay-at-home messages changed. This, in turn, enabled our design response to utilise underused space within our neighbourhood, and building on our Community Classroom project, we developed designs for its smaller cousin, the Sitooterie, a parking bay sized dining space offering socially distant seating configurations within a structure that each business can brand in its unique way.” A quick scan through O’DonnellBrown’s catalogue reinforces this sense of a social conscience but it is only through the art of conversation that such projects can even begin. It is this open dialogue that has helped secure funding from Glasgow City Council to build a 165sq/m multi-use pavilion to serve as the park’s focal point. A simple timberframed structure clad in dark-stained wood the pavilion URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
illustrates the team’s focus on seeding post-pandemic communities. The practices largest project to date at the Govan Graving Docks promises to put these ideas into practice on a much bigger canvas. The practice said: “We worked closely with Tom Laurie, a long-standing project champion and mentor who sadly passed away recently, and started conversations with local community groups and organisations, and listened to people’s ideas, working with key stakeholders to develop a community-led cultural and heritage strategy. “The key findings and emerging themes from this early exercise – space for making, space for storytelling and space for cultural activity - have informed the emerging masterplan moves.” Another driver of the practice’s project work is teaching, with O’DonnellBrown forming part of Strathclyde University’s ‘experience practice’ initiative to give students a taste of practice life early in their academic life. “In practice we set up dialogues through our self-initiated projects such as our studio, an extension of Jennifer and Sam’s home in Pollokshields, which strengthens our connections with our neighbourhood; and the Community Classroom, a
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O’DonnellBrown’s approach is founded on seeding conversations
prototype which is being built on sites across the UK, through a partnership with SpaceOasis, serving an array of communities.” Another key project for the team is the Barnardo’s Gap Homes project born out of the Community Classroom and has now grown to develop new housing solutions for young people leaving the care system at sites in Paisley, Maryhill, Stirling and Kirkcaldy. Armed with the confidence of their convictions O’DonnellBrown finds itself moving beyond client briefs to be in a position to set new standards with every project. The practice states: “Here our approach was developed from a concept of protection, enclosure and community achieved by arranging homes to form shared outdoor space. Young care leavers have been at the centre of the design process and through listening, including them in the decision making and designing with empathy we hope to create homes that will provide the best possible start to independent living.” Languishing at home there’s a tendency to become despondent but by creating an environment where ideas and not long hours are rewarded O’DonnellBrown is positioning itself in the vanguard of efforts to lead us out of crisis and towards a greener, healthier and happier world.
PERMITTED DEVLOPMENT LESLIE HOWSON
An extension of permitted develpment rights in rural areasis is awaiting ratification by the Scottish Parliament URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
A SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION PAPER PROPOSING THE EXTENSION OF PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS TO FACILITATE THE CONVERSION OF EXISTING AGRICULTURAL BUILDINGS FOR ALTERNATIVE USE HAS SPURRED LESLIE HOWSON TO EXPLORE ITS RAMIFICATIONS. WILL REPURPOSING DERELICT BUILDINGS HELP TO STABILISE FALLING POPULATIONS OR MIGHT THERE BE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?
Agriculture and forestry in Scotland have long benefited from permitted development rights (PDR), thus avoiding need for submission of planning applications. In 2020, the Scottish Government issued a consultation paper on proposals to further extend PDR in rural areas. Following an extensive public consultation, the proposals are now with the Scottish Parliament for ratification. The latest proposals cover four development types, all of which will impact on the rural environment viz: digital communication infrastructure, restoration of Scottish peat lands, important for carbon capture, developments related to emerging forms of countryside pursuits and most significantly agricultural development. The proposed changes relevant to agricultural development complement wider Scottish Government measures to support and protect the rural economy by increasing the scale of agricultural buildings that may be erected or extended under PDR and by allowing conversion of agricultural and forestry buildings to residential and other uses. The changes are intended to help support agricultural development and diversification, as well as deliver more new homes in rural areas. Although these PDR changes represent an easing and simplification of planning control, there are still prior restrictions to be met as planning >
safeguards. In respect of agricultural development, there are three main areas of change in the latest PDR proposals The Scottish Government acknowledges that farming practices have evolved in complexity necessitating larger agricultural buildings (sheds). With this in mind, the maximum size of new such buildings is now double the previous limit ( n area from 465sqm to 1,000sqm; and a 20% increase in volume) and still without requiring planning approval, albeit subject to certain limitations. In the case of a new building, or significant extension or alteration of an existing one, a developer must, before commencing the development, apply to the planning authority for a determination as to whether prior approval is required in respect of sitting, design and external appearance. To support the provision of more new homes in rural areas, the Scottish Government propose making it simpler to convert existing agricultural and forestry buildings to residential use. The proposal is to introduce PDR for change of use of an agricultural building and any land within its curtilage to one or more dwellings (houses or flats) and the reasonable building operations necessary for the conversion. However, a prior approval procedure would still give the planning authority the opportunity to review design and external appearance of any building operations viz. the provision of natural light within proposed habitable rooms; transport and access; flood risk; contamination risks; and noise. There is also a limit of 150 sq. m. on the floor area of each home and a maximum of five dwellings within an agricultural unit. Importantly, the building must have been used for the purposes of agriculture on or before 5 November 2019; or, in the case of buildings brought into use after that date, for a continuous period of ten years prior to the conversion taking place. Listed buildings and scheduled monuments are excluded from the newly proposed PDR. The PDR changes being proposed to allow conversion and extensions of agricultural and buildings to residential uses will no doubt deliver much needed new homes especially affordable homes for in rural areas. However, such changes should surely be conditioned in favour of families and workers involved in the agricultural sector and will not become a vehicle for more second homes, something not fully evident in the proposals. To help support economic diversification, the Scottish Government is also now facilitating conversions of agricultural and forestry buildings to commercial uses such as shops, cafés, restaurants, and offices and even non-residential institutions, which includes museums and galleries. The Scottish Government states the overall aim of these changes is to help to stimulate and support > URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
Pending changes will make it easier to build and extend large agricultural buildings
Left - Permitted development changes are guided by a desire to support and protect the rural economy Right - The Scottish Land Commission is developing parallel proposals to address concentrations of ownership
Scotland`s rural economy by allowing diversification through conversion of vacant agricultural buildings. It is estimated that there are thousands of empty and vacant or former agricultural properties in Scotland. The potential to bring many vacant and often derelict farm buildings back into use, albeit a factor not specifically highlighted in the new PDR proposals, would surely be welcome, especially as many are former farm houses which if considered `abandoned` can potentially lead to legal loss of use as a residential dwellings altogether, further exacerbating their already ruinous state. Listed properties even if abandoned, may benefit from Historic Scotland grant aid which may help to kick start a project and the easing of restriction under PDR could prove another incentive for owners to begin restoration either as dwellings or for a diversity of other uses. These changes now proposed, albeit still under review, are the subject of much controversy and have raised a number of issues . URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
Clearly, making it simpler to convert agricultural and forestry buildings to commercial use to support Scotland`s rural economy and environmental recovery is essential for farmers if some businesses are to survive. Gemma Cooper head of policy for NFU Scotland writes in Farmers Weekly, that: ‘... the union had been pressing for changes to Permitted Development Rights in Scotland for some time so it is encouraging to see such solid progress. The proposal to allow larger sheds is particularity welcome as it will mean that these rights are more reflective of the needs of modern industry’. The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland have spoken of the likely detrimental effects on rural areas, erosion of housing standards and of design quality and the impact on character of rural areas hamlets and villages and towns. The size increase proposed for larger agricultural buildings albeit restrictions will be in place,
such as to height, position, still raises issues of impact on the rural landscape and emphasises the need for additional and robust design codes. The RIAS Planning Committee, state that: ‘... despite the various restrictions in the PDR legislation, this further extension of PDR in terms of agricultural buildings (new build or conversion) will result in a diminishing of the character of the Scottish Countryside and potentially result in a proliferation of inappropriate development’. In their response to the Scottish Government`s consultation Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) whilst having moved past the stage of raising further comments, expressed concerns about protection of landscape, especially in sensitive designations such as National Parks and National Scenic areas. On the matter of larger agricultural buildings, HOPS have concerns are about such large buildings being in
future put for industrial uses and that such increase scale of building should therefore be determined under a planning application. HOPS have particularly strong objections to conversion of agricultural and forestry buildings to residential use saying this part of PDR proposals would: ‘… significantly restrict local planning authorities to deliver sustainable development within a local setting in line with the Adopted Local Development Plan . Scottish Planning Policy should set out what is acceptable in terms of rural housing provision and this would be built into all Local Development Plans’. Conversion of both agricultural and forestry buildings to commercial use is open to too many variations and the term `flexible commercial use ` is surely in itself vague. Developers seeking to speculate via these new PDR proposals by erecting large sheds for the sole purpose of later re purposing , albeit there is a 10 year limit in the PDR conditions, has to be of concern.
HOPS noted no evidence to support the view that existing PDR provisions are at all inadequate from a Planning perspective thus much of what is proposed is unnecessary and do not appear to see these PDR proposals as a process parallel to planning as desirable and consider that adding this extra tier will make for complications be time consuming for planning authorities and with no quantifiable benefit . The counter argument would of course be that these particular changes should take pressure off under resourced planning authorities and as long as other relevant controls are in place, should simplify the process of obtaining permission for less controversial and low level development which will ultimately benefit the rural economy for farmers and others who live and work in the Scottish countryside. The underlying concern of is probably about erosion of planning controls and this certainly should be ensured in these and any future changes to PDR. Whilst there are safeguards in the new PDR proposals by way of conditions and limitations, an overriding concern has to be how to control design quality and whether there is a need for further and compensating/ additional design guidelines. There is little in the way design guidance from the Scottish Government beyond the basic document setting out the limits of PDR for householders. Many local authorities in Scotland do thankfully, produce their own design guidance for buildings in rural areas, stressing such as the importance of locally distinctive character, retaining sense of place, use of local materials. However, most such documents make only passing reference to Permitted Development Rights. Nevertheless, there are examples of good ( as well as bad ) examples of new rural architecture carried out under Permitted Development Rights in Scotland. The importance of landscape setting cannot be over stated when building in Scotland`s rural areas, consideration of the sensitive balance of buildings and landscape has to be a priority when allowing any new development; a balance debatably more at threat wherever development is carried out under PDR. There are understandable concerns over allowing the building of ever larger agricultural sheds under PDR and the adverse impact these may have on precious rural settings; certainly screen planting will need to be added into the PDR conditions for such developments. Is provision of more PDR the way forward for planning controls in Scotland or, as HOPS suggest, even necessary? Such rights make for fewer planning controls and more freedom to build but is this acceptable if at the expense of our rural environment. Rural development must be carefully monitored by planning and future decisions made with rural Scotland`s landscape heritage in mind. URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
A variety of public bodies are looking at how markets can be made to operate more efficiently while safeguarding the public interest
» There are understandable concerns of allowing ever larger
agricultural sheds under PDR and the adverse impact these may have on rural settings. «
WILLIE MILLER JOHN LORD
A L I F E I N UR BAN I SM THE SHOCK PASSING OF WILLIE MILLER, PRINCIPAL OF WILLIE MILLER URBAN DESIGN, ON 12 JANUARY LEFT THE WORLD OF URBANISM A POORER PLACE. POPULAR FOR HIS STRAIGHT TALKING, DRY WIT AND EYE FOR A TELEPHONE EXHANGE, MILLER PLAYED A LEAD ROLE IN THE REGENERATION OF COMMUNITIES FROM PRESTWICK TO KIRKWALL. NOW COLLEAGUES RALLY TO REMEMBER A LIFE WELL LIVED AND ENSURE HIS LEGACY LIVES ON IN THE PRACTICE HE FOUNDED.
The death, at the age of 70, of the urban designer and town planner Willie Miller has robbed urbanism in Scotland of a remarkable and singular talent, and his friends of a unique and much-loved man. Willie studied at Glasgow School of Art and the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture before a career in planning and regeneration in the public sector. Smart suits and fast cars marked him out as a distinctive figure in local government, and he was an unconventional but highly regarded Assistant Director of Planning at Monklands District Council. In 1996, Willie established his design practice, Willie Miller Urban Design (WMUD), working out of his home in Glasgow’s West End. It marked the start of an extraordinarily fertile and wide-ranging professional career in which he took part in hundreds of studies throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK, in Ireland, the Channel Islands and – through his connection with the Spokane-based Studio Cascade – the USA. Willie led many of these projects, but he was equally happy to offer his design skills to multi-disciplinary teams where his unique contributions invariably raised the creative and intellectual bar. He was in constant demand because he never sold his clients or his colleagues short: he could be challenging, but his passion for his work was never in doubt, URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
and he was always learning, searching for new ideas and fresh perspectives. Willie’s project portfolio almost always included a job in Glasgow, a city he loved and knew intimately, and he was proud of that body of work. But he produced extraordinary work in all kinds of places: brilliant reports from Orkney, Sheffield, Jersey, small towns in the Central Belt and the rural south of Ireland reflect his versatility and intellectual curiosity. Willie was an unfailingly generous collaborator, so it is no surprise that he continued to teach throughout this working life. He was a lecturer and researcher at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture, and he subsequently worked at Strathclyde University’s School of Architecture and the University of Glasgow’s Department of Urban Studies. An accomplished writer and commentator, a gifted musician and photographer, a lover of motor sport, Willie was a passionate Scot and an equally passionate European. He travelled extensively in Europe and was an active member of the Parisbased Association Internationale de Développement Urbain (INTA), contributing to projects in Bordeaux and Lyon. Ines Triebel, an urban and regional planner, joined WMUD in 2005 and she is carrying on the business. Ines and Willie married in 2018. Their daughter, Maxi, is two years old. >
Willie Miller 1950 – 2021
URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
Left - An early example of Miller’s creative flair, drawn in a pre-computer 1981 Right - An eye for incongruity drew Miller around the country, camera in hand
Willie Miller remembered It was July 1979 and my first day at work as a Trainee Planner in Coatbridge. Thatcher was PM and “Planning for Decline” was the order of the day. The Planning Department was housed in a large, red sandstone villa and this is where I would first meet Willie. He was Principal Planning Officer leading a small team on land renewal and regeneration projects. Wim, as he was known, offered hope among the grimness - things could be improved through collaboration and smart design. We worked together on residential schemes aimed at bringing new life to redundant buildings and vacant sites. I would do the dull site assembly stuff and he would ensure a high quality of design in the final proposals. He instigated an architectural awards scheme and I have vivid memories of him escorting the judges including Izi Metzstein to look at mansard roofs, office extensions and farmhouse conversions. Willie had style ... his clothes, his Alfa Romeo GTV 6, his sketches, even his handwriting exuded elegance. He also had a wicked sense of humour and a favourite ruse was to pretend to fall asleep while driving, usually while overtaking on the M8! Several times a year Willie would arrange office nights out in the West End. We would visit places like the Rubaiyat, Bonhams, the Chip and the Cul de Sac. Then he would
announce we were going back to his for “loud music and nippy sweeties”. I miss those days and I miss him. Michael Donnelly In 2004 Willie was delighted to win a piece of work in Jersey that would add to his burgeoning portfolio of urban character work. First impressions of St Helier were seductive, but for a man who cut his teeth in a local authority in the Central Belt of Scotland, Jersey was a novel environment. Many enjoyable weeks were spent exploring the town and getting under the skin of the place, but there were also challenging conversations with the design and development community, intense discussions about the role of public art, and quizzical conversations about social structures. The culture shock appeared to be two-way! Nonetheless, the outcome - the St Helier Urban Character Appraisal - is a seminal piece of work. It contains an exhaustive and nuanced analysis of place, but during the study Willie also produced an eloquent appreciation of various local brutalist structures (to the bafflement of some of course), a ferocious critique of certain developments that were seen to be disrespectful of place, and even an analysis of the locations >
used in the TV series Bergerac. Some of this was admittedly rather provocative and it didn’t all make it into the final report, but it did help test our preconceptions and push the boundaries of the work. His inclination to resist conventional approaches, as well as his creativity, intellectual curiosity and drive to continually enhance his craft inspired those of us who worked with him and will be sorely missed. As will the wicked sense of humour. Janet Benton One of the first projects I worked on with Willie was a town centre masterplan for Dawlish in Devon. I remember how honoured I felt to be part of a small team with Willie and other respected and experienced folk. During our initial community consultations, a recurring issue was traffic and pedestrian conflict on the town centre’s narrow streets and pavements. Keen to prove my worth as a team member, I volunteered some suggestions of how we might address some of these concerns. Willie cut me right down to size. “It’s far too early to jump to solutions”. As always, Willie was ahead of the curve. He prompted me to “unlearn” the rigid philosophy of my planning education and early career: that we are experts and should know everything. He constantly challenged that view, believing that proposals should only emerge after months of patient listening, reflection and discussion. Sometimes a project deadline would be upon us, and he would still be absorbing information and pondering alternative solutions - often in McDonalds in Maryhill, one of his favourite spots for inspiration. There was never any need to worry. Willie’s proposals were always thoughtful, forward-looking and responsive to environment and community. Fifteen years on, I have just reopened that Dawlish town centre masterplan and looked through Willie’s analysis and proposals; top notch, and just as appropriate now as then. I can only try to live up to that high standard. Nick Wright I have known Willie since he was my student on the postgraduate urban design course in Aberdeen in the 70s. He was bright and imaginative then, and we kept in touch when he graduated and went to work as a planner in Coatbridge. We had a common love of Frank Zappa and Alfa Romeos. When he set up WMUD, we were both part of a loose network of community engagement, urban design, local economics, and landscape professionals who formed teams to carry out projects all over the UK. Although Willie and I would often disagree, we had a common interest in urban design and design briefing, and we both watched in dismay as the early development of that ‘profession’ gradually became just ‘something else that architects do’. URBAN REALM SPRING 2021 URBANREALM.COM
But Willie was an experimenter. We collaborated in early work on applying social network analysis to the street patterns of towns and villages in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We also used community workshops to explore the retention of local wealth and the application of sustainability principles through simple (but not simplistic) models for community use. His later photographic work and the articles he published on his website attest to a lively and expressive mind. As I write this, it all sounds too serious - we would often corpse over a pun during a conversation - usually held over lunch in the Chip and accompanied by a glass or two. I will always remember the sheer delight on his face when he told me he was to be a father and his last few years with Ines and Maxi were full and happy. His passing will leave a big hole in my personal and professional life. Drew Mackie In front of me is a copy of Architecture Without Architects by Bernard Rudofsky, published in 1964 to accompany an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Years ago, Willie urged me to read it and revisiting it now I can see why. He appreciated Rudofsky’s sardonic wit, and he would certainly have sympathised with the introduction - a polemic
Left - Moffat telephone exchange, part of an impressive photographic record collated by Miller Right - Miller takes centrestage at the Prestwick town centre charette in 2016
which pinpoints “the tendency to ascribe to architects – or, for that matter, to all specialists – exceptional insights into problems of living when, in truth, most of them are concerned with problems of business and prestige”. That could be Willie speaking: he was an exceptionally gifted specialist himself, of course, but he was always attentive to the needs of the communities where he worked, and he was happier listening than talking. Community engagement has become a branch of performance art, and Willie understood the value of a bit of theatre. But his own practice focused on some deceptively simple basic principles: listening carefully, weighing evidence, understanding the place and challenging respectfully. In these ways he put his remarkable talents at the service of the community. Willie’s quiet leadership of the 2016 Talk Prestwick charrette was a masterclass: he gained the trust, confidence and affection of residents and the event left a robust legacy of community activism. He was a remarkable man, and one of a kind. John Lord Willie was not a mainstream urban designer of the ‘plansmith’ variety – he neither followed an overtly commercial approach nor sought to impose standardised outputs. As a deeply
curious, intellectual designer, he loved getting under the skin of places, their diverse communities and challenges. He was easily bored by any hint of reductive ‘cookie cutter’ solutions. Working on a Bolton Townscape project with Willie he delighted in telling us about the Mass Observation research of the 1940s, and the earlier 20th century ‘redesigns’ for the de-industrialised town by Thomas Mawson and Gordon Cullen. He loved quirky, eccentric and gritty places and people, with a particular appreciation of avant-garde misfits who broke with convention. On a study trip to Milan, he took me to Lake Como to educate me about Marinetti and futurism; in Bordeaux it was Le Corbusier’s 1920s Cité Frugès that really grabbed his attention and enthusiasm. Willie viewed towns, neighbourhoods and their designers through a different lens. He saw places as organic works of art, a shifting palimpsest of past and present psychogeography, which we need to respect, understand and curate. Through historical enquiry and innovation, he produced sensitive and subtle plans for improving streets and neighbourhoods, neatly evidenced at Vinicombe Street, which has underpinned the flourishing of Byres Road in Glasgow’s West End. Kevin Murray
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Urban Realm Spring 2021