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Egyptian Halls planning application to be submitted

August 2 2011

Egyptian Halls planning application to be submitted
Union Street Investments Ltd, are to shortly submit a planning application for the conversion of Alexander Thomson’s Egyptian Halls to a 134 bed/32 suites hotel.

The G1 Building's scale of extension will be used as a precedent in pre-planning discussions with GCC

The application comes despite failure to resolve a ground floor deficit being shouldered by Union Street Properties

USI director Derek Souter said: “We’ve taken cognisance of all input from the relevant Heritage Groups like AHSS, Scottish Civic Trust and the RIAS. “We owe it to all, to take this to the limit and if Planning is approved then the Scottish Government will have the opportunity to part fund and immediately green light a very significant project”.

GCC has withdrawn its £1m grant but a £1.65M package from Historic Scotland is thought still to be available - subject to T&C's being met.


kevin toner
#1 Posted by kevin toner on 4 Aug 2011 at 13:38 PM
A set back block playing a very different game would be apt and deserving of say a Stephen Holl mode intervention, i.e. all glass but interplayed with Thomson's frosted glass appearance ala the GSA redevelopment, but curved: consider "Model for a glass skyscraper", 1919 by Mies van der Rohe, as a precedent (p406/7 of "An outline of European Architecture" 7th Ed. 1990 reprint).

Miniature variants of the latter are planned for the Queen Street redevelopment by Cooper Cromar and in John Robertson Architects alternative scheme for the concertina site (next to the Christopher Wren Monument). Now's perhaps Glasgow's chance to capitalise by letting Mies loose above Thomson, i.e. not half-heartedly around one or two sides but in the round 360deg. like the 1919 model.

However there'd have to be a perhaps 3 storey podium set back to set up a reasonable new building line and edge for adjacent penthouse developments to build up against and a rule above that height governing the distances between buildings so that the Miesian intervention won’t ever be built against – the fact that the adjacent plots are narrow by comparison means that anything similarly high would have to be built on the next nearest long fronted plot (e.g. the iron warehouse next along).

As for how high the Miesian block could be, consider the Lighthouse tower and/or the Central Stn Hotel, which it would sit comfortably between.

Any other form of upward extension I think would clash.
kevin toner
#2 Posted by kevin toner on 4 Aug 2011 at 16:27 PM
Some more fantasy:

It would be a missed opportunity if the hotel wasn’t to find itself at the helm of a larger urban intervention!

Such a Miesian landmark accenting the high levels of Union Street, in the round, should really also be engaging with the Mitchell Lane side, i.e. on the approach from Buchanan Street to justify its presence locally.

If the hotel bearing such a spectacle was to focus on opening up the link between the Lighthouse and Central Stn by replacing the Mitchell Street car park with a passage that would lead one naturally to the hotel from either Union St and/or an enlivened Union Pl.!, i.e. to really finish off the 1999 job in that vicinity, then NCP could partner with the hotelier to incorporate the thoroughfare into the vision.

This would suggest a metropolitan solution for a metropolitan problem that would entice an HQ building onto the NCP site with lettable lane-way outlets below and would prompt an architectural set-piece by a potentially celebrated architect, i.e. who will have jostled with Mackintosh and Thomson successfully.

Such wishful thinking is however normally confined to the student drawing board and of course to the starchitects!
Jean Hutton
#3 Posted by Jean Hutton on 5 Aug 2011 at 23:50 PM
The Eigyptian Halls are a Grade A listed building of major importance. Any proposal which seeks such substantial alterations is to be deplored.
kevin toner
#4 Posted by kevin toner on 9 Aug 2011 at 14:13 PM
Thomson has survived megalomania on top before – look at Gordon Street...! It’s a testament if megalomania can lurk above, but not impinge...!

Thomson's civic buildings remain very powerful despite the upward development of the downtown grid, i.e. even on the very lowest of Thomson's buildings.

There’s a nationally protected NY skyscraper with a base that directly quoted the Egyptian Halls exactly 20 years after [*source below] - not that surmounting [or sprouting around] Thomson edifices with high-rise should be condoned. Though again, it’s a testament to Thomson on many levels that it can be done!

Even more fantasy: the Euston Arch Trust [rebuild] bug and ‘saving by adding’!

Imagine if the Egyptian Halls elevation was ever to be extended or even simulated for redeveloping a gap site or architectural failure along the station’s eastern periphery (?)

However, though it appears like a kit of parts with no formal ends, it’s far from ordinary or mass producible such as the comparable nearby iron warehouses.

Thomson’s Buck’s Head Building elevation [likewise ala kit-of-parts] as extended in 1864 was however virtually repeated along Dunlop Street posthumously...

Thomson’s two ala kit-of-part appearances, i.e. the Egyptian Halls and the Buck’s Head Building, both incidentally belonged to the warehousing vicinities that often availed of the repeatable iron [&/or stone hybrid] kit-of-part edifices - half of which survive or have been occasionally lengthened or unified into each other.

To sell stone repetition over that of iron, Thomson utilised iron in unique ways. Euston Arch of 1836-9, i.e. another very powerful Greek Revival edifice, was perhaps a kind of forbearer too - funnily the Gothic Revival principle of ‘truth’ quickly followed throughout the 1840s c/o Pugin and Ruskin... as Classical Versus Gothic grew.

Was the Egyptian Halls therefore a) a ploy to capture an extent of the warehouse-block market, i.e. by turning the more aspiring clients away from the conventional Meccano toward a sublime alternative; and b) in ways a forbearer of the metropolitan steel framed stone clad buildings; and/or c) a final battle cry against the strong Gothic movement (? )

A kit of parts: edifice or architecture...?

Two out of three narrow buildings have survived at each end of the Egyptian Halls despite having been nestled in between such Meccano sets. The one that didn’t was an early Gillespie Kidd & Coia building that was replaced by an extension to the Ca d’ Oro from 4 to 6 bays. Luckily for the two other remaining pieces of architecture, one of which is listed [as an almost generic 1880s James Thomson design for BoS: source DSA], neither the Egyptian Halls nor the 8 bay Wylie & Lochhead store was ever extended, nor was the Ca d’ Oro extended any further.

However, Egyptian Halls would have been posthumously protected as "artistic works" as per the Fine Arts Copyright Act 1862 or perhaps the subsequent 1886 Berne Convention and/or the Copyright Act 1911, which might all have precluded any chance of duplication.

* The Bowling Green Building [source: Institute of Classical Architecture & Art] at 5/11 Broadway, i.e. in between the One-Broadway Building and the Cunard Building.
#5 Posted by blabla on 12 Aug 2011 at 17:09 PM
I hope they will reamain existing situation of the building as much as possible. Here, also think about the diverse retail used basement. It would be nice if the new front door of the hotel is in the middle of the block with a nice lobby at the back sides of the basement or on a other floor.
kevin toner
#6 Posted by kevin toner on 21 Aug 2011 at 00:27 AM

The ethos of ‘extending’ rather than ‘altering’ the Egyptian Halls may offer a much better solution regarding conversion into a hotel.

This doesn’t have to entail acquiring the architectures that sandwich the front of the Egyptian Halls on either side. The historic linking of Mitchell Street to Union Street on the nearby Wylie & Lochhead warehouse is a halfway house towards a solution. The recent Vienna Apartment complex has already capitalised on this. It would of course anticipate redevelopment of the NCP site. The Google Earth view reveals that the Egyptian Halls has a wing that crosses over Union Place to adjoin the NCP Car Park sub-station, which could form such a link. This would offer a golden opportunity for a resolute partnership between HS/GCC/NCP/USI/USP.

However, something more than the Vienna Apartments solution is called for to get HS & GCC rallying rather than merely supporting the conversion. Here’s how such a ‘saving by adding’ fantasy might unfold.

Firstly and fairly inspiring is how the adjoining 1880 James Thomson building on 78/82 Union Street almost mimics his 71/9 Buchanan Street building of the same period in a practically back-to-back alignment by being at the mouth of Mitchell Lane on the lighthouse block.

Therein James Thomson virtually provides the bookends of a possible thoroughfare bringing Mackintosh and A. Greek Thomson together via the NCP site. The developer has previously anticipated the possibility of a “Mackintosh-Thomson Mews” on their promotional website. Perhaps however Mackintosh after James Thomson had all already gathered a sense of the thoroughfare (?) Certainly the flanking BOAC offices by MacMillan and Metzstein in 1970 seem to sense [or even register] something special along this route other than Mackintosh per se, hence the metal clad repetition down Mitchell Lane.

The NCP site is too large to simply extend (or double up) the Egyptian Halls. The latter merely has to be extended by ca.60% to be commercially viable, therefore giving scope for such a thoroughfare [not that I would turn down a mirror image of the Egyptian Halls on Mitchell Street!]. At least one reentrant block elevation should be afforded here to get A) plays of light into the block; and B) to make the most of the feast of views that could occur between Thomson and Mackintosh.

The thoroughfare - with the lighthouse tower as its outpost - would move pedestrians aptly around the Ca' d'Oro while the Egyptian Halls would link through to Union Street for users. The Egyptian Halls would not have to be greatly altered, but merely extended to neighbour across from the Lighthouse.

Applying the same kit-of-parts as used for the front – instead of applying a conventionally grafted modern style intervention – by engaging much underutilised stonemason skill – would A) architecturally repair the damage caused by the car park by reinstating the stone warehouse style block-edge; and would B) give Thomson identity throughout the floor plans, which would otherwise be in half measure if the building was to be altered with an upwards intervention.

Finally, the Ca’ d’Oro would surely respond by casting four extra bays to replace unsightly brick and curtain walls on the remaining 80% of its Union Place elevation. The BOAC offices of course embellished the laneway with a repetitious metal appearance as a ‘matter of course’ at the other end of the potential thoroughfare albeit 100 years on.

These principle moves are merely all that would be necessary in order to finish off what would be a potentially astounding urban thoroughfare and conclusion to the 1999 City of Architecture legacy, which is crying out for completion.

If redevelopment of the NCP site was possible (for talking’s sake) to allow for the extension of the Egyptian Halls, it wouldn’t be the end of the world; if A) a modern day style intervention was to be applied instead of an authentic ‘literal’ extension of the Egyptian Halls, nor B) if a thoroughfare was not to be afforded in the proceedings.

However, the aforementioned processional qualities and ingredients are indeed what the nearby Central Station Hotel thrives on for its success, i.e. a landmark tower in the vicinity; its connection to a thoroughfare (i.e. the railway station concourse); the arrangement of huge floor plates rather than disassociated room layouts above; the elongation/s of its trademark elevation; etc.

One thing is possibly certain. HS, amenity groups, etc. might prefer if ‘extension’ rather than ‘alteration’ was the ethos behind accommodating a conversion of the Egyptian Halls into a hotel. Better still would surely be if a partnership vision could prevail to prevent convention. The Vienna Apartments intervention is excusable for not relating to the warehouses to which they are connected whereas if the Egyptian Halls is to be a hotel rather than apartments, then visual consistency (internally and externally) will be absolutely paramount.

Hopefully the hotel will transpire accordingly; otherwise we are looking at an alternative use – NB: students and/or starchitects not wanted!
#7 Posted by Diplodocus on 3 Aug 2012 at 18:45 PM
The real discussion needs to be about the future of Union Street and not just this building - important as it is.

Pedestrianisation and the development of this hotel could create a rival to Buchanan Street in the long run.
kevin toner
#8 Posted by kevin toner on 4 Aug 2012 at 09:54 AM
Diplodocus, you may have stumbled across how an intervention of the historic urban fabric (Buchanan St’s pedestrianisation) has caused two extremes to occur: the prospering of Buchanan St relative to the decline of Union St. I believe that Buchanan St and Union St were once equal in terms of quality retail; perhaps the Union St side was even more reputable than its parallel neighbour. Now it’s Buchanan St that basks in the accolades, i.e. at Union St’s expense.

What I think you’re saying Diplodocus is that ‘2 wrongs would make a right’ if Union Street is pedestrianised as well.

I disagree, but not entirely! I repeat what I said previously, i.e. let’s focus the public realm works on the potential lateral thoroughfares between the Boac building and the Ca' d'Oro. It would make an excellent second hotel quarter (and more) as Glasgow works to put Buchanan St further up the shopping accolade ladder.

What I think you’ve raised me to think (for debate of course) is that perhaps my suggestion would be a more successful venture if Buchanan Street was to be partially reinstated, not where the malls are developing, which necessitates precincts, but where the road has been snatched from our beloved street architecture, which has arguably lost its design integrity due to the street being replaced by a precinct.

The City Centre should now understand what the best retail relationships relative to the road or the precinct are, or learn quickly, so that retail can successfully co-exist in harmony with the evolved urban fabric that has been passed on to us as a future generation...

Back to your argument Diplodocus that ‘two wrongs would make a right’: I disagree because at one entire side of Union Street there’s a station concourse of hotels/offices and train platforms etc.

Therefore I believe that this stretch of retail should be more in harmony with the stretches of Argyle St and Sauchiehall St that can co-exist with the street sections in lieu of the precinct sections, but as mentioned before, this has to engender the right mix of retail, e.g. not shoe shops where you need to try between brands etc. and would rather not get traffic in the way of the experience...

We have to learn to integrate our historic urban fabric in the evolution of our grid without throwing all the weight to one side. I’m quite sure that we can have successful shopping on a street as well as on a precinct.

Anyone disagree?

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