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George Square public consultation launched

July 9 2012

George Square public consultation launched
Glasgow City Council, keen to atone for past slights, have launched a public consultation for George Square in a bid to transform the central meeting space into something more befitting of its stature.

Making the announcement Council leader Gordon Matheson stated his administration has assembled a £15m pot to rectify past mistakes; including application of low quality red asphalt and a loss of greenery.

To achieve this Matheson is receptive to almost any ideas, excluding any repositioning of the Cenotaph, including installation of a fountain, removing parking and extending the Square into surrounding streets.

Running throughout the summer the consultation will be open to all square stakeholders as well as design professionals to inform a formal design brief.

This would then form the basis of an international competition with the winning design announced as early as the end of the year.

Construction work could then begin by mid 2013 with a hiatus for the Commonwealth Games period.

Speaking to the Evening Times Matheson said: "I want to give the people of Glasgow the square they deserve so I am beginning a public consultation on a generational revamp of George Square.

"For this to succeed, the people of Glasgow need to feel they have been involved in the process and I would not dream of embarking on it without their involvement.”

GCC have poor form when staging design competitions, having previously backed out of the Glasgow Bridge and Café in the Square competitions in 2006.


#1 Posted by Magpie on 10 Jul 2012 at 09:04 AM
Would like to see Studio Kap have the opportunity to revisit their proposal from the cafe in the square comp, much more efficient use of the space...
#2 Posted by Neil on 10 Jul 2012 at 09:20 AM
............and not another Malcolm Reading shoo in international "competition"
Jimbob Tanktop
#3 Posted by Jimbob Tanktop on 10 Jul 2012 at 10:16 AM
It's a Labour cooncil, so expect a referendum backing a new design proposal, then have them ignore it because it might annoy the pigeons / won't provide them with requisite backhanders / doesn't give free access tae ra Orange ludge, ra Boys o' ra Boyne, ra Sons o' William, ra Jolly Gers Tango Brigade.

Repeat ad infinitum to ensure an ongoing state of miserable disappointment.
kevin toner
#4 Posted by kevin toner on 10 Jul 2012 at 14:52 PM
KAP was the only shortlisted Cafe in the Sq. entry to suggest pedestrianisation, which I see appears to be popular with the public.

I was not an advocate of this then and may never be.

This very generously scaled ‘traffic island’ provides Glasgow’s most legible metropolitan marker.

It currently lets Glasgow greet the world in an open and democratic way; and lets the world know Glasgow’s grid is significantly uncompromised to its advantage and for its character.

If the City Chambers, amongst the most lavish, was elsewhere in the world, yes there’d be no road separating it from such a square.

Glasgow as a city, however and eugenically, stands out as a remarkably legible and uncompromisingly ordered metropolitan exemplar. It has grown complexly in its grid pattern/s without detriment as a result.

Glasgow’s architectural stock by generally having roads [or having had roads] in front of it, excepting park buildings..., put all architecture on an equal footing.

This now two centuries’ old axiom can unravel if unguarded.

Why rubbish that which has helped to establish Glasgow as a City of Architecture not long ago?

The square also marks a ‘space and time’ continuum that can even be toyed with on occasion, if not cherished. Last Wednesday, the vintage buses/coaches that replaced the normal traffic during the day’s Jubilee celebrations beamed us back in time. Likewise at the square we were being beamed to another place last September during WWZ filming.

George Sq is the most suitable place to continue showcasing Glasgow’s most important continuum to date, that which has earned the city’s architectural esteem and repute, that of the: road; kerb; pavement; building; roof model!

Pedestrian squares, alleys or precincts (public realm) indeed have their place.

However, George Square is as much [collectively] part of two ‘avenues’ as it is a generously pedestrianised public square. A square that, marked by Walter Scott’s column, already denies one street in its double block footprint! Why rubbish or dilute such significance?
#5 Posted by Boss on 11 Jul 2012 at 12:39 PM
zzzz.....sorry Kevin I dozed off there, old age and all that.

George Square is a non space, useful for nothing other than rampaging zombies and Hollywood crash scenes. It needs to be a destination but still maintain its openness. Here's hoping Glasgow dont screw this up.
#6 Posted by squarehead on 11 Jul 2012 at 13:53 PM
Kevin, you really need to learn to make a point in a paragraph, not a book.. bulletpoints amte, not esseys, geez, i wanted to respond to what started as an interesting take, but lost the will to live by the time i read it to the end
#7 Posted by squarehead on 11 Jul 2012 at 13:54 PM
and not for the first time either.. which is prob why u'l find you are the only thread of comments on any given page..
Art Vandelay
#8 Posted by Art Vandelay on 11 Jul 2012 at 13:57 PM
Quite agree. At present it is nothing more than a traffic island, as other posters have said. That, coupled with a surface that looks as though it was laid for about six quid, offers very little to the city.

I don't agree that the square (and its constraint by the adjacent roads) somehow enhances the impact of the grid, and in some way 'concentrates' the nearby architecture. What Glasgow needs - and what it should have had years ago - is a proper public space that encourages people to actually use it, not just pass through it. In it's current format, there is no reason for anyone passing through to linger in it, save for loitering around the edge trying to find a space in the traffic to cross the road.

How much better would it be to have something that fed off its edge uses, forming a proper setting that would greet visitors to the city arriving at Queen St, a properly activated and purposeful public space. All we've got at the moment is a dingy taxi rank and a fairly jam-packed road. Wonderful.

Hopefully GCC don't mess this up!
#9 Posted by NC on 11 Jul 2012 at 14:44 PM
Kevin, you are talking about a diagram that has no place in the world we live today. Can you imagine how Buchanan Street would be if it still had cars up and down it? Much like Union Street I would imagine. Pedestrianising George Square is infinitely sensible and such a simple solution. Only in this country does the Council take about 3 decades longer than others to realise this.
kevin toner
#10 Posted by kevin toner on 11 Jul 2012 at 22:42 PM

Apologies for the stir I’ve caused! Let me give another bullet point on it!

Making any of George Sq pedestrian would be like making any of Royal Exchange Sq vehicular.

If George Sq is not to be the [remember] generous and therefore pleasant traffic island that it is and could continue to be with any sensitive proposal, then the next most apt thing, albeit slightly less ludicrous, would be unfortunately to have an extra city urban block or two proper. I’d definitely rather see the open space than that.

I’ve no qualms with a proposal that respects the aforementioned architectural nuclei of the city, i.e. one that’ll address the square alone and leave the road fringe well alone. I won’t be favouring any middle ground whereby any of the perimeter roads are claimed as public realm.
Art Vandelay
#11 Posted by Art Vandelay on 12 Jul 2012 at 04:54 AM
I'm sorry, but you lost me on 'pleasant traffic island'.

Frankly, that's ludicrous.
kevin toner
#12 Posted by kevin toner on 12 Jul 2012 at 15:36 PM
George Square’s expansiveness [not forgetting its important urban function as a legible marker of the city’s form and meaning] precludes it from being in the status quo category of traffic islands.

However, if the square was to be faced with say department stores and arcaded architecture, then yes, I’d concede that a genuine argument would prevail for pedestrianisation.

Thank goodness for Land Use rules on this occasion, making the argument for any pedestrianisation perverse rather than plainly weak!
#13 Posted by NC on 12 Jul 2012 at 17:00 PM
Surely the pedestrianisation would provide the catalyst for building types that would react sensitively to the Square (this includes in particular, the Queen St Station interface). The 'traffic island' as you call it, has been holding back the international potential of this space for years.
kevin toner
#14 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 00:38 AM

In Ruskinian dialect I’d say ‘Not so’ to the last comment by NC!

The Queen Street Station superblock is mega enough in scale to accommodate change if desired without having to stop the traffic around the square.

There was historically such an intimate relationship with St Enoch Station’s relationship to a square.

However, in the end it was too European for Glasgow!

Nothing wrong with that, it’s conversely commendable that Glasgow has instead tended to persistently opt for the civility that is found between non-arcaded building and the pavement for over the last 200 years. This model, despite moulding the city’s architectural anatomy, is also immensely sociable in mitigating the challenges of defensible space.

The ghost of Glasgow’s squalor has never forgiven how Glasgow has become metropolitan in the democracy of its road/pavement/architecture nucleus. We’re beginning to become proud of what’s been bestowed upon us, without asking why. Let’s not unnecessarily unravel it were it matters most, at George Square.

You won’t see any vehicular aspects in St Mark’s Sq for obvious reasons. I hope I’ve managed to convey what the obvious reasons are behind why George Sq should not aspire to the piazza model as beautiful as some of the world’s are.
#15 Posted by NC on 13 Jul 2012 at 09:38 AM
In a Glesgae dialect I'd say 'nut' to the last comment by Kevin Toner. It is change that offers the opportunity for spaces to better themselves. It took various incarnations for St Peter's to be the masterpiece it is today. Buildings and life changes therefore the grid-iron system which you champion should be good enough to adapt to these changes. Traffic and pollution that it creates, around George Square is a blight to it and the buildings forming it. The positions of the statues in the square itself make the space highly inflexible also.

Interested in your traffic island concept - have you been to Tiananamen Square? It is the ultimate traffic island. George Square in it's current state is not far off.

kevin toner
#16 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 10:31 AM
I’d say ‘knut’ quite, to the suggested facsimile in China. Whilst it’s not the same model, it yes harbours a traffic island, which because of its vastness can do with some extra roads through it etc. as per its early C20th configuration.

It’s not me that champions Glasgow grid, it’s ‘us’ over generations. That ghost of the past, which detests its metropolitan result, if not its architecture, might do well to find the arcades they’re looking/hoping for by relocating to Europe.

Visitors love Glasgow because it’s different. We [not I] want the opposite to what we have: you’ve got straight hair you want curls; you’ve got curls you want straight hair. Perhaps some Venetians with power might also try to test the water by proposing a little road integration alongside St Marks.
total cant
#17 Posted by total cant on 13 Jul 2012 at 10:51 AM
Balderdash! Every urban block in the city is a traffic island. Most are comprised of buildings and are surrounded on all sides by traffic, pollution and people. Except in this instance there is a glorious, empty void, free from offices, shops and flats. The streets on all 4 sides maintain and guard it from intrusion.
#18 Posted by NC on 13 Jul 2012 at 10:52 AM
Don't bring the wee German polar bear into this! We all champion the Glasgow grid (previous comment was not intended to say anything to contrary). Why are you obsessed with arcades? Is there no other interface to a square? Simply opening out to a space without the danger of breathing intoxicating fumes or getting run over is surely a good thing. Road in St Marks, now you are being plain daft, we are not saying change for change's sake, we are saying change because it might, if done skillfully and considerately enough, might be a good thing.
#19 Posted by JT on 13 Jul 2012 at 11:18 AM
"maintain and guard it from intrusion"?! They're roads, they don't guard anything! They are busy and cut the square off from the city proper.

The only benefit I can see of George Sq being both open and effectively a "roundabout" is that you can always see where there might be a parking space around it. :-) You can't do that with any other 'traffic island' blocks...

I don't see how pedestrianising any portion of the edges of George Sq (whether to improve connections from Queen St Station or to the City Chambers) could possibly dilute or diminish the effect of 'the grid'....that's just bizarre to even suggest as much.

Glasgow doesn't have a proper meeting place in the city - it's a messy vomit of statues arbitrarily scattered over an ugly red expanse. Get the statues lined up as suggested in the previous competition, improve the quality of the surfaces, make decisive moves regarding how the square connects to things around it.

Knowing Glasgow City Council they'll commit to something then, as-per-miserable-usual, they'll take it out of the oven half-baked and expect everyone to love it...
#20 Posted by JT on 13 Jul 2012 at 11:22 AM
"Making any of George Sq pedestrian would be like making any of Royal Exchange Sq vehicular"

Royal Exchange Square - Queen Street is one edge of said square, and it works very well...???
kevin toner
#21 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 11:40 AM
I use the term arcades as that’s what by-and-large drives piazza model architecture at its best. At its worst, or somewhere in between, might be something we’re unconsciously looking for, not me as concerns 'George Square'. On the contrary I wouldn’t mind your suggestions if they were located wisely. Don’t forget the location plan is your first port of call, not your last.
kevin toner
#22 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 11:46 AM
sorry, JT I'd not seen your post there. Thank you for joining in on the fight.

If I was ever to be a tutor, I'd have to pass you - I'll never ever teach for that reason.
curious of coatbridge
#23 Posted by curious of coatbridge on 13 Jul 2012 at 12:00 PM
"I'll never ever teach for that reason" Thank f*ck for that
kevin toner
#24 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 12:11 PM
total cant: you've got a pass though, if 'curious of coatbridge' will allow me to teach you. I charge 10k fees though!

The conclusion is that much of the public would prefer George Square to be pedestrian to a greater extent, whilst those who see deeper don’t.

and JT you've done one good thing: you've started to return the debate to what concerns the square most, i.e. what’s on it rather than what’s around it.
#25 Posted by NC on 13 Jul 2012 at 12:17 PM
Kevin, been happy to digest your views until this: '' what’s on it rather than what’s around it''. What kind of crazy are you teaching here?! There is no square without the buildings that form it!
Puzzled of Paisley
#26 Posted by Puzzled of Paisley on 13 Jul 2012 at 12:27 PM
#23, oh, I thought it was because they only let him out at weekends, accompanied by a trained nurse.
kevin toner
#27 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 12:31 PM
Hi NC: As ‘total cant’ said, the square is 2 urban blocks joined together with no urban architecture on them, but temporary features. You'd be forgiven for calling it a square. One way of getting a Square proper would be to arcade or thinly build the perimeter to enclose an actual square proper.
#28 Posted by NC on 13 Jul 2012 at 12:50 PM
...or pedestrianise it!
kevin toner
#29 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 13:03 PM
‘Or pedestrianise it’ at its peril if the adjacent blocks can be redefined to soften the blow...
curious of coatbridge
#30 Posted by curious of coatbridge on 13 Jul 2012 at 13:07 PM
I've had a look at your website Kevin, you are clearly quite a visually literate and I think talented guy but what you write is just absolute drivel.
Puzzled of Paisley
#31 Posted by Puzzled of Paisley on 13 Jul 2012 at 13:49 PM
#30 "but what you write is just absolute drivel" apologies, clearly academic material then.
Banquo's Ghost
#32 Posted by Banquo's Ghost on 13 Jul 2012 at 14:09 PM
I hear Strathclyde will soon be looking for a new head of school P of P. Could be a perfect fit.
The Flanuer
#33 Posted by The Flanuer on 13 Jul 2012 at 15:16 PM
Perhaps Place des Terreaux, which addresses the town hall in Lyon, presents a reasonable precedent? It has a greater sense of enclosure and significantly better active frontage with a high frequency of openings and plenty of cafes spilling out onto the northern edge of the square but if you look at how it has transformed since the 19th century there are similarities with George Square.

Since 1994 Place des Terreaux, has been treated as a single surface across the whole enclosure of the square though traffic can still flow along the western and southern edges. The carriageway is carefully detailed so traffic is contained by a delicate row of bollards. The grid of water jets works well in warmer climes but could perhaps be more limited in Glasgow. The Lyonnais even had the guts to move the wonderful La Fontaine Bartholdi twice so we could be just as brave with our ambitions

So for George Square I’d urge the designers to be bold and go for a cull of the statutes but then carefully re-site them to provide focal points at key vistas through the city centre so that the transformation is not isolated i.e. St Enoch Square could accommodate the Scott Monument which would provide the missing and much needed hinge for the Buchanan Street / Portland Street shift in axis. Victoria could go back to her old haunt in St Vincent Place and be joined by Albert etc. Why should the statues be confined to George Square? Spread the joy around...

The freed up square could contain markets, festivals, concerts, and an ice rink in winter and we could also lay down in the new City Plan coding such that cafes will be encouraged at the base of the buildings surrounding the square. Or a couple of freestanding cafes along the northern edge taking their cue from Richard Murphy’s earlier Cafe in the Square proposal would do wonders. That and possibly a screen of trees to that edge only. Thereafter the biggest obstacle would be getting a better urban scale and more sympathetic design for a building on the site of George House but that may have to wait a decade or two...
Fake this
#34 Posted by Fake this on 13 Jul 2012 at 15:29 PM
The problem seems to be the 'square' and surrounding traffic. Can we not have a round-a-bout which maintains a constant flow of traffic with perhaps a 'feature fountain' at the centre or a 'light ball' aka East Kilbride.
Duncan Sinclair
#35 Posted by Duncan Sinclair on 13 Jul 2012 at 16:21 PM
"Making any of George Sq pedestrian would be like making any of Royal Exchange Sq vehicular."
Does nobody remember when the aforementioned square was trafficked on more than on side? Can you imagine the horror that would befall George Square if the same approach was taken too? There would be people WALKING everywhere!
(in case anyone's interested
kevin toner
#36 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 17:09 PM
Indeed Duncan.

It'd be great to see a link of timeline photos since the late 1700s though to contemplate further.
kevin toner
#37 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 17:10 PM
Ah, more potential students I see a few posts back!

Place des Terreaux, like Edinburgh’s Grassmarket Square’s evolution, appears to have necessarily confronted the problem of a ‘tight’ square (much bounded by traffic) by applying a degree of pedestrianisation in similar ways.

It’s good to see a struggling precedent evolve into something beautiful, but in this case I’m afraid it can’t successfully be George Square’s blueprint in anyway other than how its temporary structures are displaced. [The Flanuer: St Enoch Sq already has a little gem of a marker – Miller’s subway building. I don’t think any of Glasgow’s substantially pedestrianised squares have ever been empty.]

If hypothetically, UNESCO were ever to recognise George Square (in say a ‘statement of Outstanding Universal Value’ OUV concerning Glasgow) as it has apparently done so with Lyon’s Place des Terreaux, it would have transpired because of a sufficiently untarnished Glasgow model not being compromised with unsuccessful road planning emanations (ergo straightened hair curls/curled straightened hair), which would include:

1) The Flanuer’s tight-square-evolution;
2) NC’s non-tight-square-evolution; and not least of all
3) an East Kilbridean Wirlies Roundabout if that’s what ‘Fake this’ was referring to.

OUV must surely mean more than just pretty traditional buildings off of piazzas. Does anyone else see value as opposed to pollution at George Square I wonder?

I feel that (let’s say) “square” should perhaps be valued as a condition in the consultation, otherwise there might be very few worthwhile entries wasted. I agree with Magpie in this respect.
kevin toner
#38 Posted by kevin toner on 13 Jul 2012 at 17:13 PM

I feel that (let’s say) "total cant's" “square” should perhaps be valued as a condition in the consultation, otherwise there might be very few worthwhile entries wasted. I agree with Magpie in this respect.
kevin toner
#39 Posted by kevin toner on 16 Jul 2012 at 11:11 AM
@posts 35/36

The above old image of Royal Exchange Sq 1827-32 indicates it was meant to be [within its superblock, #20] a pedestrian public enclosure as can be gleaned from the road-less arches on the drawing, not to be confused with the fully open squares of George Sq or Blythswood Sq, which do not have such roads through them. Note that the full pedestrianisation of R-Exch Sq was avoided by installing a discreet narrow road. Two guesses are:

- 1) a possible stigma associated with the precinct orientated architecture of the pre-industrial city, i.e. a bishopric associated with a burgeoning university and the Enlightenment; although it’s also likely to be

- 2) Archibald Elliot II’s RBoS bank of 1827 at the end of the square may have needed a private road whether or not as an ‘adopted road’!

The enclosure sensibly became fully pedestrian after 1989 (date source: DSA). I’d be a hardliner, not a conservationist; to want such roads back especially the latter day one shown in post #35’s link!

I’ve previously wondered if the banking sector helped to promote such a resolute gridiron in Glasgow given her astonishing legacy of Banks.

This inkling also emanates from seeing the BoE’s former plan for a bullion store, behind Geo Sq near to the Tron church, superseded prior to the pedestrianisation of Buchanan Street. This wasn’t the death knell of the building (Dale House) as RBoS built it afterwards in the early 1980s. Redevelopment of its superstructure is planned, although I wonder why a bank wouldn’t want such a bank vault as this. Perhaps it’s a sign that Glasgow’s banking era has truly wound down or has globalised beyond recognition?

There was incidentally a rumour a while ago that the 1980s Strathclyde Police HQ [absorbing the 1950s altered Jas. Miller bldg from 1933], at one end of West George St., i.e. availing of the same avenue that links both of Glasgow’s open squares; the once planned bullion store; the municipal HQs; the former government offices; etc. was recently looking to relocate as with the Traffic control centre beside it, presumably in search for purely customised accommodation... Another topic for another day!

George Square’s closest ally [or little sister] would be Blythswood Square, which is also being planned to be upgraded. Perhaps forces can work together to create something special and consistent between both of these squares at least in terms of surfacing ideas. I would agree with the earlier post that hinted to share some of the features around the city, provided it’s between these two siblings: Geo Sq & Blythswood Sq.

Who’s up then for extending the consultation to include both of Glasgow’s open squares to arrive at that something special?
#40 Posted by JO on 17 Jul 2012 at 13:26 PM
First thing is change the name, George Square sounds like something you'd see for sale in ASDA.
It's not even 'square'.
Any suggestions?
#41 Posted by Neil on 17 Jul 2012 at 13:55 PM
Yeah, we could call it Times Square, that's not square either or Red Square and we might attract lots of dopey tourists.
#42 Posted by ====== on 17 Jul 2012 at 13:59 PM
= This post was removed for contravening UR's t&c of comment =
#43 Posted by Neil on 17 Jul 2012 at 14:00 PM
I think you need to go lie down Kevin
#44 Posted by JO on 17 Jul 2012 at 14:08 PM
LOL! Neil, had me checking Google maps.. Dopey tourists bouncing around wondering who George was/is?
#45 Posted by Neil on 17 Jul 2012 at 14:14 PM
You should have paid more attention in school the Jo. It was named after George 111. Glasgow was once a Georgian city , centred around George Square, geddit.
kevin toner
#46 Posted by kevin toner on 17 Jul 2012 at 15:19 PM
Scott Square? Kidding. Apologies for my bias as it’s my middle name; and Walter Scott was born on the same day as myself 199 years prior and happens to have taken the place of KGIII on the column just in time for QV’s ascent to the throne.

3 images of him here from myself:

With Georgian origin however, there’s nothing wrong with the current name George Square.

I don’t foresee a case for a name change due to the strong sense of public memory associated with George Square and its historical events. I’ll always call this square Geo Sq because of my age. Changing the name is not something that can even be condoned, even if it were being proposed as Scott Square or something intangibly valid.
#47 Posted by NC on 18 Jul 2012 at 23:02 PM final contribution to this forum and the (re)name debate...''Square Kevin''
Patricia Calder
#48 Posted by Patricia Calder on 24 Aug 2012 at 19:48 PM
I don't think Scotland is very good at recognising all the wonderful things we gave the world. Everything from penicillin, television,telephone and so much more. It would be a great opportunity for Glasgow to acknowledge these Scottish achievements. In the new George Sq it would be great to see a commemorative wall or some sort of structure with the names of all the great Scots from our past.

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