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Critics step up objections to Buchanan Galleries replacement

January 23 2023

Critics step up objections to Buchanan Galleries replacement

Indicative proposals to remodel Glasgow's Buchanan Galleries have stirred passions, principally concerning plans to remove a cascade of steps to the Royal Concert Hall on accessibility grounds.

Early plans call for a major remodel of the entrance space, which has become a popular meeting spot and hang-out point, to facilitate the extension of Sauchiehall Street eastward.

Options under appraisal by the Buchanan Galleries team include establishing a stepped or flush platform around the retained Donald Dewar statue, or even setting it within a reflection pond. This reordered entrance arrangement would permit events and concerts to be held at street level.

In a statement outlining the need for change the design team wrote: "Remodelling the space in front of the Concert Hall would make the new area we envisage accessible to all and reinforce our strategy of opening up views into the site to overcome the visual block as well as the physical block to movement through and across the site."

Arguing against any such intervention professor Alan Dunlop wrote: "... the steps are now a very important civic amenity, much used by the people of Glasgow and are an important part of the city's urban realm.

"I've no doubt the steps were also a fundamental part of Sir Leslie Martin's plans (architect of the concert hall), for they heighten the visitors sense of moving up from 'ordinary' street and the ground level into an 'special' and important building, as many great concert and opera house buildings do throughout the world, in the classical tradition.

"So, I would absolutely disagree that the steps are a problem, in fact they are one of the best contemporary additions to the city centre. The 'accessibility challenge' of the blocking of the extension may mean that they are a problem for the developer to deliver what they want for their own project."

Mall owner Landsec stresses that at this point no firm decision has been taken on the future of the steps, with the latest design ideas to be presented masterplan architect Foster & Partners on Thursday. 

Time may soon be called on this popular city centre meeting point
Time may soon be called on this popular city centre meeting point


#1 Posted by classarchitect on 23 Jan 2023 at 12:18 PM
Neil C
#2 Posted by Neil C on 23 Jan 2023 at 13:14 PM
Can't argue with that Prof Dunlop. The steps are an vitally important part of the city.
#3 Posted by Roddy on 23 Jan 2023 at 13:35 PM
For a man that's not done anything in more than decade he does some amount of moaning !
Neil C
#4 Posted by Neil C on 23 Jan 2023 at 14:31 PM
Not sure that's true Rodders, he seems to be building in Australia and teaching in US and China according to his website and other things, looks like anyway. What've you been up to?
#5 Posted by Roddy_ on 23 Jan 2023 at 15:51 PM
I fully agree with Alan Dunlop.

Having followed the consultations from the beginning, there appears to be no real attempt to understand why the space functions in the way it does and the alternative options do not address this.

It would be very Glasgow to sweep away something that has real civic value despite the leader of the Council having expressed opposition in the past.Is she still agin it? Perhaps the developer and designer need to peer into the reflective pool and conclude that they have something of value that is worth retaining.

I think most folk can see see through the PR speak of 'no firm decision' - there are 3 preferred options on the table all of which wreck the stairs in their current form and none which retain the stairs as they are. The decision is: 'we want the steps gone'.

PS Has the City Urbanist been approached for comment, UR? Seems like an issue befitting his remit. Worth asking Susan Aitken if she is still against it too and if her statement ;

“To be 100% clear the City Government will not implement any design that includes demolition of the Buchanan Street steps.” is still current.

(PPS not the Roddy above if that wasn't obvious)
Robert G
#6 Posted by Robert G on 24 Jan 2023 at 11:48 AM
Kinda have to disagree, anyone's interpretation that the current journey up the stairs and arrival into the concert hall is anything "civic" needs a reality check. Quite opposite, navigating a steep ascend, you arrive at a dark, gloomy alcove (out of breath) faced with solid barriers. The original Sir Leslie Martin design promoted the north entrance as the primary civic arrival. The south entrance is nothing more than a glorified, over-scaled, fire escape stair that audience members now use when arriving from that side of town. Their unintended design has simply been adopted as a public platform for various events, sermon, as a means of visibility/connectivity to the street audience. Daily experiences, they're simply a space to sit/rest (Weather permitting), place to sleep for the homeless and a litter trap. Ultimately they create a barrier for accessibility and the mobility impaired users to teh venue whilst masking the activity & energy of events within the building. Unlocking the south entrance as a new civic entrance which engages with surrounding leisure / food / bar establishments is key to creating a cultural junction this zone of Buchanan Street needs. A new pulpit can be created quite easily somewhere else within the public realm - maybe the new infill over Queen street station gap site is a good start, possibly park / event space to move the current event programme away from George Square....!
Neil C
#7 Posted by Neil C on 24 Jan 2023 at 12:11 PM
Kinda have to disagree with you too "Robert G" and yer spurious "reality check". This whole debate has got me investigating the original plans for the concert hall. Far from being a glorified fire escape stair the south entrance to the concert hall was considered the primary entrance and a pivotal space for central Glasgow from the start and a nodal point connecting Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street.
Hair For Men
#8 Posted by Hair For Men on 24 Jan 2023 at 15:18 PM
Listening to Alan Dunlop you could be forgiven for thinking these are the Spanish Steps. I'm not convinced by the Fosters 'could be anywhere' proposals but the whole thing could be so much better
Robert G
#9 Posted by Robert G on 24 Jan 2023 at 15:34 PM
@ "Neil C" I don't dispute the original design / function the south entrance contributed. However, since being overshadowed by the Galleries introduction, the stairs main operational purpose for the venue now sadly is a direct fire escape, not an entrance. Yes it's node to Sauchiehall St/Buchanan St is crucially important, I just think it can be designed better to unlock more transparency and connectivity with the GRCH itself rather than a stair leading to it. Having climbed them today, the sight is more of a broken bottle bank rather than a place of civic congregation. Just hope Landsec promote the civic importance of this junction instead of the big Starbucks or Boots signage Developers eyes mostly see £££!
#10 Posted by Billy on 24 Jan 2023 at 17:40 PM
Never liked the stairs. But I do think the reflective pool around Donald Dewar statue is more pleasing on the eye. The statue on its own looks out of an afterthought.

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