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“Make no bones about it. I want more middle-class communities.”

July 18 2005

Councillor Charlie Gordon has responded strongly to criticisms of Clydeside regeneration that arose from the workshops attached to the Archiprix International Award. Craig Dykers, co-designer for the new national opera in Norway and the new library of Alexandria in Egypt, approached Gordon after presentations were made by Archriprix nominees and berated Gordon, who is the Spokesperson for Clyde Waterfront Regeneration within the council for “a lack of ambition” in the council’s design vision of the Clyde.
According to Gordon, “we were having a cup of tea after the presentation s and this guy came up to me and said, ‘You should demolish all the quay walls a along the Clyde and let the river flood back to its natural level.”’ In what he described as “a lively exchange of ideas”, Gordon told Dykers that his profession had “to show a bit of humility in this town. When we’ve had architecture led regeneration in Glasgow it has failed. Look at Queen Elizabeth Square in the Gorbals. A brutal and inhuman kind of architecture was created there.”
Suggesting that some of the entries were “a bit off the wall”, Gordon insisted that he had found food for thought amongst the presentations. However Sam Jacob, of FAT Architects who studied at Strathclyde University and also led a 3 day workshop joined the crticism. “I think the councillors were after dramatic, one-off buildings. What we came up with were interesting ways of creating sustainable places. From my own observations, I think that was happened on the Clyde is disappointing. They are still stuck in the 80s with an attitude that is part Docklands / part Bilbao,” he said. Jacob said that he felt the river lacked an overall vision and a unique identity. Gerry Grams, Glasgow’s Design champion thought that the Archiprix helped prompt a positive debate. It’s a big vision a lot of stuff going on at once. There are lighting strategies, public art strategies, transport strategies as well as the built environment. All these things will combine at some point. I think it may be a case that people were looking at things half-finished but it was good to get these concerns out in the open I think,” he said.
However Gordon who was born and raised on the river and who has just bought a new flat in the Park Lane development on Glasgow Harbour was more vehement in his disagreement. “If [Jacob] wants to say he doesn’t like our vision, that’s fair enough. But anyone with eyes, can see we’ve got a vision. He’s looking at a project that’s halfway through. It’s a bit like going on to the site of a half-completed building and saying; ‘this is a bit untidy.’
He also rejected Jacob’s belief that there should be social housing quotas in new developments as “social engineering” and dismissed the idea that this would create a greater sense of community as “patronising and paternalistic”. “I make no bones about it. I want more middle class communities in Glasgow,” he said.
He also addressed the accusation of the Clyde Regeneration not “If people are saying that they see bridges and buildings that they think are derivative and what they want is buildings that are unique well that’s a tough call, isn’t it? I think it strays into the area that infuriates architectural commentators of trying to create something that is deliberately iconic. We now know that something is iconic if the people who come 50 years afterwards decide it’s iconic. But are we getting bog-standard architecture on the Clyde? No, we are not.”

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