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Dunlop decries ‘bananas’ synchronised demolition of Red Road flats

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April 4 2014

Dunlop decries ‘bananas’ synchronised demolition of Red Road flats
Architect Alan Dunlop has criticised the decision to synchronise the demolition of five tower blocks at Red Road as an improvised starting pistol for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, by taking to the BBC’s Newsnight to describe the concept as ‘bananas’.

Dunlop said: “I was driving down from Aberdeen today when I heard the news for the first time and nearly went into a ditch. Everybody I’ve spoken to thinks it’s quite frankly bananas - except of course the Council.

“It could have been a sketch from Hugh Bonneville’s 2012. As a matter of fact I think it’s so wacky that they would probably have dismissed it as something that was so crazy they couldn’t put it forward.

“What if something went wrong in that whole process? How does anyone in Delhi, Australia or Canada know anything about the Red Road flats? People in Delhi will wonder why you’re blowing up social housing when people there are living under tarpaulins. I just don’t think it’s been thought through properly and is just a bizarre PR stunt that has the potential to go wrong.

“Glasgow is a brilliant city for the potential for high-rise. I lived in a high-rise myself for the first 18 years of my life. Looking north I could see the Campsies looking west I could see Arran, looking south I could see the Cathkin Braes - but they have to be built and maintained properly.”

Defending the decision Gordon Mathieson, leader of Glasgow City Council, described the plan as a ‘brave and bold statement’ that enjoys high-level support: “I was at a meeting with Alex Salmond last night who also signed off on this deal. It also has the support of the 2014 organising committee in its totality,” said Mathieson.

35 Comments

John Bradley
#1 Posted by John Bradley on 4 Apr 2014 at 11:07 AM
Poverty porn on an obscene scale. An absolutely ridiculous show of destruction that will put Scotland in a massively bad light around the globe.

I will come clean and admit to being a sasanach in London but to be honest if this is an example of what modern Scotland is like then all of a sudden i'm all in favour of independence.
fruit basket
#2 Posted by fruit basket on 4 Apr 2014 at 11:12 AM
I must say, I agree with Alan. All other cities use fire works to start the games, we in Glasgow for explosives and demolish buildings instead!
Maybe Glasgow City Council were late on the announcement, press release was meant for 1st of April....
Graeme L
#3 Posted by Graeme L on 4 Apr 2014 at 11:18 AM
Insensitive. Clumsy. Negative. Embarrassing. Off Message. Out of Context.
Lee Ivett
#4 Posted by Lee Ivett on 4 Apr 2014 at 11:39 AM
Mathieson already trying to pass the buck, as is his wont
monkey9000
#5 Posted by monkey9000 on 4 Apr 2014 at 11:51 AM
But surely the message is 'Chuck out that Chintz' ?
Malcolm Fraser
#6 Posted by Malcolm Fraser on 4 Apr 2014 at 11:54 AM
Go on Change.org and sign the petition: "The homes and communities of families should be demolished with dignity." Exactly.
TepidMouse
#7 Posted by TepidMouse on 4 Apr 2014 at 12:07 PM
Great idea. Bold, striking and thinking outside of the boring box of fireworks, fireworks and more fireworks. Good to see Scotland coming up with something different to the rest!
Nicky Chow
#8 Posted by Nicky Chow on 4 Apr 2014 at 12:41 PM
Well said Alan! and thanks Malcolm, I shall be adding my name to the Change.org petition.
david wilson
#9 Posted by david wilson on 4 Apr 2014 at 13:10 PM
After 'Benefits Street' and the UK media drive against the welfare state and immigrants we can now bear witness to the next instalment of 'alienating the poor, sick and disabled'

A largely middle class audience at the opening ceremony (tickets start at £40) can watch live the destruction of social housing in north east Glasgow, a part of the city where child poverty runs at over 40%. The only tower block left standing will be the ones used for housing asylum seekers.

As John says in post 1, it's 'poverty porn'.

What does the destruction of social housing have to do with a sporting event ?
Cat Flap
#10 Posted by Cat Flap on 4 Apr 2014 at 17:57 PM
“I was at a meeting with Alex Salmond last night who also signed off on this deal. It also has the support of the 2014 organising committee in its totality,”
Mathieson already realising that this is a massively misjudged publicity stunt, and trying to spread the blame for political purposes. He's an absolute embarrassment to Glasgow, once again.

Sign the petition here;

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/glasgow-city-council-and-the-scottish-government-stop-plan-to-demolish-red-road-flats-as-part-of-commonwealth-games-opening-ceremony-the-homes-and-communities-of-families-should-be-demolished-with-dignity

Big Chantelle
#11 Posted by Big Chantelle on 4 Apr 2014 at 18:43 PM
Luv the idea.

I can see the modernist brigade are ragin' because some of their beloved commie blocks are coming down.

Bringing down these blocks is about dignity -- go watch the video on the Glasgow 2014 website and see how the demolition relates to the regeneration narrative. Oh, most of you haven;t bothered to do that...........
I Cameron
#12 Posted by I Cameron on 4 Apr 2014 at 19:15 PM
Well I have to say that I am embarrassed as a Glaswegian and a Scot to be associated with the most ludicrous idea for opening a sporting event. But then again, I am no fan of Mr Mathieson and his Labour ruling Council having personal experience for him/his Labour Planning Committee. I agree 100% with Alan. This is a badly thought out plan. Another George Sq farce by Mr Mathieson.
tincture
#13 Posted by tincture on 4 Apr 2014 at 19:27 PM
slow night for newsnight.

bananas, maybe. insensitive, why? is it so different from the thousands who gather to watch these blowdowns, photograph and video them then post it all online somewhere, such as youtube?

do people want to live in these flats? no.

one person implies we shouldnt show it because there are homeless and impoverished people in the world and another derides utilising the one block that will remain for just that purpose.

i'm not defending it. i think the idea is both stupid and interesting in equal measure. but get a bit of perspective, they were coming down regardless, what difference does it make if a billion people see it on tv as PART of an opening ceremony or if they go to youtube to watch a video someone took of it themselves...

"poverty porn", lets apply an internet filter to any portrayal of poverty, seeing as we're doing it with childline already. i dunno. the youf of today...
Lee Ivett
#14 Posted by Lee Ivett on 5 Apr 2014 at 00:17 AM
Big Chantelle your ignorance, stupidity, inability to construct any form of rational argument through a process of critical enquiry and failure to properly understand the arguments against the demolition proposal is quite disheartening. I don't think anyone is arguing that they should be kept and I don't think anyone is arguing that they represent some form of socialist utopia that should be perpetuated at all cost. What many of us find so horrifically offensive by this gesture is the glorification of 30 years of local authority sponsored/perpetuated decline driven by neglect and a total disregard for a vulnerable, isolated and marginalised group of peoples cultural and social rights. Making a spectacle out of their demolition communicates a perverse sense of pride in a destructive cyclical mode of slash and burn urban regeneration which this city has had to put up with for over 100 years.

I have been to witness the demolition of tower blocks and social housing in the Gorbals and Sighthill and what always struck me about those occasions was the quiet dignity of those witnessing the event as the moment of destruction approached, the tales of reflection and the tears of those who had spent their lives in these places trying to create some semblance of a life from the dehumanising physical conditions that had been forced upon them.
Red sky
#15 Posted by Red sky on 5 Apr 2014 at 09:28 AM
Well said Lee Ivett.
Is the spectacularization of destruction which feels completely wrong and totally insensitive!
Cat Flap
#16 Posted by Cat Flap on 5 Apr 2014 at 10:44 AM
Chantelle. You're massively missing the point here, once again.

Your pathetic vendetta against modern architecture is blinkering the fact that whether you like it or not, these were people's homes and whilst they obviously had their problems, residents and their families were born, grew up and died here and as such had a huge emotional attachment to the place.

I doubt even the most unprejudiced of "modernists" would claim that Red Road were fine examples of modernism or brutalism. However I think Alan and the others posting comments here have the passion and empathy to appreciate that watching your own homes being destroyed, and subjecting the impoverished around the globe to watching us destroy thousands of our homes as part of a so called celebration is just plain wrong.

I'd feel exactly the same if this was the kind of grade A period property which obviously floats your boat.
Big Chantelle
#17 Posted by Big Chantelle on 5 Apr 2014 at 13:46 PM
@ Lee Ivett

What the demolition also represents, to those of us that aren't lefty culture keyboard warriors is exactly what the ceremony director says:

David Zolkwer, Head of Ceremonies & Artistic Director for Glasgow 2014 said: "It’s such a privilege to be able to share this historic and dramatic moment with the people of Scotland and the watching world. Over the course of just a few seconds the city’s skyline will be transformed forever. It’s a bold and confident statement that says “bring on the future” but it will also be an important opportunity for us to contemplate the many lives lived in the tower blocks over the last fifty years."

The whole "this is poverty porn" is merely one bias interpretation of this event. And one I disagree with.

Shona Robison, Minister for the Commonwealth Games said: "“By sharing the blow down with the rest of the world, I hope it will be seen as the noble, respectful and celebratory send-off that it is intended to be.”

Why don't the people complaining go and actually watch the accompanying video for WHY this is happening. It's not about disrespect.
Jamie
#18 Posted by Jamie on 5 Apr 2014 at 15:41 PM
Blowing up social housing during a period where there still remains a high level of people without a home? Nice one.

Suppose at the end of the day its different from the expected fireworks.
Cat Flap
#19 Posted by Cat Flap on 5 Apr 2014 at 17:30 PM
Chantelle. You're massively missing the point here, once again.

Your pathetic vendetta against modern architecture is blinkering the fact that whether you like it or not, these were people's homes and whilst they obviously had their problems, residents and their families were born, grew up and died here and as such had a huge emotional attachment to the place.

I doubt even the most unprejudiced of "modernists" would claim that Red Road were fine examples of modernism or brutalism. However I think Alan and the others posting comments here have the passion and empathy to appreciate that watching your own homes being destroyed, and subjecting the impoverished around the globe to watching us destroy thousands of our homes as part of a so called celebration is just plain wrong.

I'd feel exactly the same if this was the kind of grade A period property which obviously floats your boat.
Stephen
#20 Posted by Stephen on 5 Apr 2014 at 18:28 PM
@ Big Chantelle. In response to your comment: "The whole "this is poverty porn" is merely one bias interpretation of this event".
Just because you're not offended, doesn't mean it's ok. Very, very many people definitively are offended and upset by this, which means that it matters. To ride roughshod over those opinions is insensitive and tasteless. Just like the demolition.
davidwilson
#21 Posted by davidwilson on 5 Apr 2014 at 19:15 PM
17-

'lefty culture keyboard warriors'. Well done, you must be proud of that one.

The issue is that it takes an event like the Commonwealth Games for this to happen, and even then, this is a stunt purely designed to be cheap and try and live up to Olympic 2012. Glasgow council don't really give two hoots about social housing.

If social housing is a real concern to Labour in Glasgow (which it should be as Labour only managed to build 6 social houses in their last tenure as the Scottish government) then why haven't they done something about it before ?

Why does it take a global event for the local council to take action ? Why haven't they been doing this for the last half century that Labour have been in power in Glasgow ?

Why in that time, have the so-called 'party of the people', allowed social housing to be sold off, and seen the drastic increase in child poverty and mortality rates, which in parts of Glasgow are now worse than the Gaza strip ?

In recent years Glasgow council has mismanaged public funds on a horrendous scale, we've seen ex-Labour councillors put in charge of ALEO's and seen them fail consistently and require bail-out while those councillors receive some of the biggest pay offs in the UK public sector. (Think City Parking, City Building etc.)

We've seen disgraced councillors get away with bullying, intimidation, public sex acts in a car park and the fiasco of George Square.

If you want to believe the hype, go ahead, your choice. However, evidence is evidence, and 50 years of consistent Labour councils hasn't helped the citizens one iota. Mortality, education, poverty, unemployment, drug addiction - all now worse than they have been for decades.

This is nothing but show, there is no evidence in 50 years that Glasgow council truly want to improve or re-stock social housing.

Lee Ivett
#22 Posted by Lee Ivett on 5 Apr 2014 at 19:50 PM
Hey Big Chantelle

I might be a keyboard warrior but I certainly ain't no lefty. I'm a fully paid up member of the pro-capitalism club even if a lot of my work is concentrated in socially deprived areas and my clients tend to be community organisations. My mode of working in these contexts is to change behaviour through incremental and responsive change to the physical, social and cultural context in manner that builds a locally relevant economy that is productive, enterprising and sustainable.

Watching the video was one of the first things that I did and one of the reasons I got my knickers in a twist. After gagging on my own vomit for a couple of minutes I paced myself in a condition of suspended disbelief at the level of ignorance, misunderstanding and marketing bullshit that was being wrapped up in some kind of faux altruistic waffle. By lining up all these people to talk romantically and nostalgically about the place it actually ended up reinforcing my arguments rather than diminish them. If all the things that they spoke of really meant something then the city would have looked at introducing a programme of long term organic responsive redevelopment of the physical fabric in tandem with the host community. In the video there is talk of the Red Road community being resilient, always strong, always 'appreciating where it's been in terms of it's past but has a bold and ambitious vision of it's future' is absolute bullshit when the stark reality of the current situation is that the Red Road 'community' is a single remaining block of asylum seekers. I have never come across such a crass, indulgent piece of marketing material that manages to gloss over the institutional failures of a city through exploiting peoples memory, emotion and nostalgia.

If you watch that video and can't see it for what it is then that is actually really, really sad because it means that we support and perpetuate an attitude towards urban/social development that's has continually failed thousand of people
Tom Manley
#23 Posted by Tom Manley on 6 Apr 2014 at 16:12 PM
To some extent I agree with tincture "i'm not defending it. I think the idea is both stupid and interesting in equal measure." The idea in principle of creating a sense of performance, story telling, and local creative participation around the demolition of these buildings is ok - and marks the passage of time, reinvention, new beginnings etc... and just perhaps could be an expressive way of seeing these physical and social landmarks brought down. A local commission, by a regeneration agency saw performance mark the end of a housing scheme with equal emotional attachment, in Hulme Manchester – an event witnessed by residents who had strong feelings against the total destruction of the area.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tVEyrUcuaM

Knocking a building doewn with a tonne of explosives is never going to be done with great dignity. The problem with using the Commonwealth games opening ceremony as a platform for this however, is it takes the unique story, identity and challenges faced here completely out of context. Any ‘regeneration’ message will likely be lost in an array of sensationalized digital effects, broadcasting etc.. Outwardly portraying this to a global, ‘non attached’ media and audience as opposed to responding directly to local people risks being an ignorant PR stunt.

People who have lived there past and present, if not the city as a whole should have been involved with the decision making for this. With mottos such as ‘People Make Glasgow’ the insensitivity of such a spectacle is emphasized as, ‘Top Down PR’. In a digitally connected environment and as iconic an area as Red Road it would surely be straightforward to gauge overall support for this.

I thought Glasgow once had a reputation of having a very strong & healthy PR image, but recent processes and actions seem to have damaged its credibility and one wonders if anyone ultimately takes responsibility for this.
If there really is no turning back on this – then lets hope some creative direction fully utilises an opportunity to put the truth of this failed housing story across, incorporate genuine local feelings, and unveil a positive, and site specific future for this site…Is this too much to ask?
tincture
#24 Posted by tincture on 6 Apr 2014 at 16:56 PM
"The issue is that it takes an event like the Commonwealth Games for this to happen"

wrong.
Gillmac
#25 Posted by Gillmac on 8 Apr 2014 at 10:56 AM
I trust Mr Mathieson will be offering an apology to the people of Bangladesh, a year on from the Rana Plaza disaster where 1,129 people were killed and countless families torn apart in the most disastrous building collapse in their history. I'm sure they don't find the sight of a collapsing building a cause for celebration.

A tasteless and insensitive stunt.
Tony Gaudi
#26 Posted by Tony Gaudi on 8 Apr 2014 at 12:56 PM
I'm not really getting folks cries of 'poverty porn' and ramblings about the 'dignity' of the people who used to live there. These flats have been empty for quite a while now and will be demolished regardless.
As far as being part of the spectacle of the opening games, I'm unsure. Demolitions by their very nature are quite bland. Maybe they could put different coloured powders in the blocks so each gives of a nice colourful plume....
Interested
#27 Posted by Interested on 8 Apr 2014 at 16:35 PM
I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of those who actually lived in the Red Road flats at one time or other. There doesn't seem to have been much coverage as yet.
Big J
#28 Posted by Big J on 9 Apr 2014 at 10:56 AM
Another wee campaign for the middle class curtain twitching champagne socialists to get worked up about. The whole idea is to show the regeneration of the city over decades which has been furthered in part by the games. It's only silly in so far as it might not blow up when they pres the button. Here's me thinking that Architects understood context.
Art Vandelay
#29 Posted by Art Vandelay on 9 Apr 2014 at 12:09 PM
...except context is exactly what will be lacking when they're brought down.
Stacey Hunter
#30 Posted by Stacey Hunter on 9 Apr 2014 at 13:27 PM
Everything about this debacle is wrong and sad. It depicts the city's own failure to house people properly as a means of entertainment. The reduction of all of the lives associated with Red Road is compressed into one sad, pointless, incomprehensible spectacle. And I can't help but note the Orwellian doublespeak in the press release (publicised before the residents were notified) which uses words like "Ambitious", "Proud" "Noble" "Respectful" to describe something that only the most eye-swivellingly insensitive of people could conceive of as anything less than callous, sinister, cowardly and full of self-loathing.

If I still lived in Glasgow I'd be withholding my Council Tax in protest.

To the folk who are conflicted because the flats are a 'failure' can I suggest that if, when Africa's largest Mosque was unveiled in Casablanca, the opening celebration had involved setting fire to all of the surrounding shanty towns; would that be okay? Would it be okay to 'celebrate' demolishing sub-standard housing for the poor anywhere, by screening it as mass entertainment? As someone in the US commented to me, it's got the same bad taste to it as the triumphalism of the smashing up of statues of Saddam during the Iraq invasion. I.e.: it totally masks the violence of the procedures that are behind the so called 'liberation'.
Stacey Hunter
#31 Posted by Stacey Hunter on 9 Apr 2014 at 13:29 PM
#27 Posted by Interested on 8 Apr 2014 at 16:35 PM

In reply, there's plenty of comments on the petition website on change.org - here are a few (names removed)

How vulgar and callous. As part of a clearance myself (in Sighthill) I know the human cost and heartbreak behind the people forced out of these homes. Glasgow City Council should hang it's head in shame at this vulgar, ghastly idea. It's like some ancient Roman emperor has gone mad...let's not buy fireworks...let's blow up poor people's homes to welcome guests.

As well as destroying homes, this plan requires asylum seekers living in the one remaining block to shelter elsewhere whilst the demolition is being carried out. Given that many of them are fleeing war zones, this is massively inappropriate.

Scotland is a nation of builders, designers and innovators. Let us show what we make rather than what we destroy, these were people's homes and communities, they should be brought down with dignity, respect and an acknowledgement of the poignancy of the moment.

This shows no sensitivity to former residents. It shows no sensitivity to current residents in the immediate vicinity. It send out an absurd image to the rest of the world. It does not represent regeneration - it demonstrates destruction of the city's history. A bewildering idea most likely lost on most onlookers.

Red Rd is part of my history, my childhood.The steep decline and resulting issues are as much Glasgow City Council, and the GHA's fault as the criminals and vandals who disrespected such an iconic place. The flats themselves were spacious, pleasant and modern - not a relic of days past, but a sign that Glasgow had it's eye on the future long before now. They should have been cared for, respected and loved. Instead this city within the city, this truly unique community that include several generations of families, has been ripped apart and forced elsewhere, strewn around Glasgow like afterthoughts. And, to add insult to injury, the world is now invited to laugh at and applaud the final death of the home that so many will mourn.
Peter Wilson
#32 Posted by Peter Wilson on 9 Apr 2014 at 13:47 PM
Big J - I'm not sure what aspect of regeneration is furthered by leaving this part of Balornock as wasteland. I grew up in this area at the time these flats were being built so, believe me, I understand the context only too well and could relate their dispiriting history since then to you in fulsome detail if either of us had the time. Perhaps, though, you could helpfully acquaint us all with information on the plans Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Housing Association have to build new housing and related amenities on this land and by when, or does that require a bit too much forward thinking for the cultural, economic and social invertebrates in charge of these organisations? Let's face it, the tower demolitions are being rolled out as part of the opening ceremony as a way of covering the fact that they've vastly overshot their budget for the event and are now trying to tap into money that was going to be spent pulling these buildings down anyway. And no amount of post-rationalisation around the now very tired and unconvincing theme of 'Glasgow is always regenerating and renewing itself' can disguise the absolute cynicism of the whole proposal.
Stacey Hunter
#33 Posted by Stacey Hunter on 9 Apr 2014 at 14:11 PM
Sandy Stoddart makes valuable points very eloquently in this article: http://bit.ly/1lzC1Sh

"Demolition as celebration is the hallmark of barbarism
Saturday 5 April 2014"

"GLASGOW'S feral contemporists, having failed to achieve the lynching of 10 men and one woman on George Square as a sacrificial offering to the sports deities, now turn on an easier target, the famed Red Road flats, built in the 1960s by the architect Sam Bunton (1908-1962) ("Glasgow 2014 live tower block demolition provokes storm", The Herald, April 4).

Of course these towers are monsters, but something infinitely more monstrous seeks their destruction to inaugurate Glasgow's own Commonwealth festival of kicking and biting. It exactly parallels the destructive glee with which Glasgow School of Art, just a few years ago, demolished the distinguished modernist Foulis Building, in favour of the present, white architectural botty-burp by Steven Holl, which spreads its visual miasma over the whole of Garnethill. We were invited to "celebrate" that local drawn-out act of destruction, with drinks. Now the world is being invited to watch Glasgow pan in something in an instant, just for fun. Fun's always better if something suffers and dies in its midst.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said in The Genealogy of Morals, "without cruelty there is no festival". He was meaning by this that the oldest, most primitive cultures (still cultures, mind, not pre-cultures) committed acts inflicting pain and death precisely to signal their power to impose and maintain order and societal integrity. For instance, they have scapegoats. Nietzsche concluded that such acts are a celebration not only of political cohesion, but also of the very will to live itself. This is the hallmark of barbarism, and it conjoins with heedless joy in Glasgow today, leading city of the Renaissance of Savagery seen throughout the Occident.

Compassionate pessimism is replaced by an unscrupulous and positively wicked optimism, all in a ferment of the most revolting healthiness. I shouldn't be surprised if certain donkeys were flung alive from these towers immediately before detonation.

Do we, for whom Glasgow is our most beloved city, finally despair? I think we might."

Alexander Stoddart,
Sculptor in Ordinary to Her Majesty The Queen in Scotland,
Castlehead, Paisley.
kevin toner
#34 Posted by kevin toner on 14 Apr 2014 at 14:12 PM
What, throw out the baby and keep the bath water.

Think of shifting, in style, all of that pent-up emotion caused by many a harrowing tower-blocks story from around the world, and wait..., in 2014 when ‘commemoration’ rather than ethics, politics, etc. should be to the fore...

2014 is about celebration and commemoration tying together. It’s especially not the year to be being too picky on what’s to be commemorated and hypocritically stifling the best of it.

Maybe the Commonwealth is not allowed to show off too much in its own backyard, Glasgow. Or should I say within the opening venue at Celtic Park, perhaps an actual omen that the stunt would be nothing more than wishful thinking.
Art Vandelay
#35 Posted by Art Vandelay on 14 Apr 2014 at 21:05 PM
Erm...what?

And isn't that the same post you left on the other thread?

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