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Revised Royal Exchange Square plans to be submitted

October 1 2012

Revised Royal Exchange Square plans to be submitted
A proposal by Glenerrol Ltd to demolish 1,2 and 3 South Exchange Court in order to erect a mixed-use building comprising a 100 room hotel, retail, bars, restaurant and casino, has been revised following the acquisition of additional properties in the area by the developer.

James Mortimer, the tycoon behind the plans, believes that the additional sites will allow the scheme adopt a stronger retail element, particularly around ground floor and courtyard spaces.

Clad in white polished pre-cast concrete panels with exposed stone aggregate the scheme would rise to just 44.3m after plans for a tower element were abandoned.

Architect Alan Pert told Urban Realm: “The proposals that are going back in are pretty much the same. The client has acquired more land which has opened up more opportunities at street level, so there is more of an emphasis on the retail development and connections through the city block to Royal Exchange Square.”

Commenting on the decision to opt for a ‘slab’ design in favour of a tower element Pert added: “There was a lot of discussion about a tower or a slab but the slab was what went into planning. The tower was a more expensive solution and offered the same number of rooms, but because of the restaurant/bar at the top floor there was a desire to look at it.”

A revised planning application will be submitted shortly.
Splits within the Glasgow Urban Design panel led to a tower element being truncated
Splits within the Glasgow Urban Design panel led to a tower element being truncated
The hotel will reach the same height as the Merchants House of Glasgow
The hotel will reach the same height as the Merchants House of Glasgow


juan de los angeles
#1 Posted by juan de los angeles on 1 Oct 2012 at 13:42 PM
Very much hope this does not get built as proposed. Seems very overbearing on one of Glasgow's finest set pieces of cityscape. The height, massing and slab design very inelegant in comparison. Royal Exchange Square deserves much, much better than this.
#2 Posted by David on 1 Oct 2012 at 15:22 PM
Agree wholeheartedly. I've yet to see any real justification for this visual addition to what is probably the most important conservation heart of the City Centre.

At the same time though, the condition of the some of the elevations in RES is very poor indeed. This should be rectified. Perhaps the development should be made to contribute to facade refurbishment works around the square if it gets the go-ahead.
Neil C
#3 Posted by Neil C on 1 Oct 2012 at 15:30 PM
As I understand it, the poor condition of the existing sandstone around RES is due to the smaller retailers in the Square refusing to pay their share of costs towards the spalling repairs that are needed. I hardly think the builders behind this 1960s monstrosity would be benevolent enough to fund said sandstone repairs. Quite frankly, even if they were, I'd rather keep the blue and green netting in place and see this plan rejected for being too ugly for words.
More please
#4 Posted by More please on 2 Oct 2012 at 10:40 AM
If anything this is exactly what Glasgow and Royal Exchange Square needs. Except it should be taller. Perhaps 3 times the proposed height.
#5 Posted by David on 2 Oct 2012 at 17:06 PM
@ more please...Definitely not when there are plenty of opportunities for tall development on more appropriate sites within the City. This is why we have a City Plan which describes suitable locations for tall buildings, and more importantly, the reasons why important historic areas are protected from development like this.

I am not questioning that the proposed design wont be good, and certainly don't agree with the 'too ugly for words' comment by Neil C, however it is clearly overbearing from the images.

The revised scheme I assume is a response to the Urban Design panel comments at that time, which suggested a reduction of 6 storeys. To my eye, looking at the images above, there is maybe only a 2 or 3 storey decrease, at very most.

However, in times of recession, most developers will push harder in the assumption that the planning department will be more of a push over. I hope not.
More please
#6 Posted by More please on 2 Oct 2012 at 19:33 PM
Why isn't RES appropriate? Who makes these decisions? It's in the city centre, a dense area (build up, anyone?), opposite another much taller tower. Why is RES, a mongrel urban space (not a slight, that's why it's so good), so special that can not be altered?
Rem Koolbag
#7 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 3 Oct 2012 at 14:10 PM
This site actually seems very appropriate to tall building.

Other tall proposals are always right on the pavement line, making the most direct impact on the street, both in terms of visual impact and shadowing etc.

This site however sits right in the middle of a block, automatically set well back from any street edge, thus masking its apparent height and ability to be seen from close up ground level.

I think the images released here arent the most descriptive of the scheme, but with the right materials and treatment there is not reason this could not be an absolutely fantastic addition to the city.
alan park
#8 Posted by alan park on 4 Oct 2012 at 10:42 AM
Seems like a maturing debate about development proposed for an important site - take note, Art. Should promotion by GCC of development on divers city centre sites with vacant buildings or empty plots not take precedence?
#9 Posted by Stephen on 4 Oct 2012 at 17:48 PM
If you're actually in R Ex Sq then you won't actually see this according to the sections. Maybe the B+W image is a little misleading.
Also, Neil C, it looks more International Style than '1960s', whatever that was supposed to mean. Quite refined to my mind. Admirable restraint shown in design methinks. Am on Rem's side, plus lets think about what that site lends to the city at the minute...not a lot.
Could be great.
#10 Posted by David on 5 Oct 2012 at 08:45 AM
You will see it Stephen. Sections are obviously misleading as the are 2D drawings. If you are in front of, or behind GOMA you will clearly see it, and importantly, when you approach RES from Ingram Street (the view which most clearly shows the urban setting of RES) you will definately see it.

I am warming to it slightly, however it would need to be of a very high standard of materials and detailing. Over to you Nord.
kevin toner
#11 Posted by kevin toner on 5 Oct 2012 at 10:56 AM
The proposed court complex seeks terribly in vain to have an envelope of distinction at any height, or seeks to deliberately aggravate/destroy the aforementioned views: 1) from in front of GOMA; and 2) when approaching the Sq from Ingram St,

A) RES is the star attraction, not the potential court complex,

If the latter gets the go-ahead, and it wanted to be brightly lit and highly detailed - as implied - then it’d best be brought down further so as not to clash with the character and appearance of the square, Glasgow’s foremost signature space for the last two centuries...,

Surely Conservation Area Consent will have to be refused, or if not, the government has to take the responsibility off the council for defaulting on its obligations so badly! I wonder how 1.LBC; 2.CAC; & 3, the actual Planning Appl. will be decided and what’ll take precedence in theory and practice(?) Any planning experts out there care to divulge, before I go raking in my library, err online?

B) Let’s contest (A) above first...
kevin toner
#12 Posted by kevin toner on 5 Oct 2012 at 11:14 AM
Perhaps there was ironically better CA Practise prior to the legislation for it!
#13 Posted by wunderkind on 5 Oct 2012 at 13:02 PM
Views of what Kevin are being destroyed Kevin? The Sky?

Character and appearance are not static entities, so you can't protect them even if you want to - time marches on and forces changes in these things. The line of the square is preserved, and the eaves line is maintained.

I'm fairly sure you've called George Square something similar to 'Glasgow's Signature Space' so which one is it?

Answers on a postcard please.
Rem Koolbag
#14 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 5 Oct 2012 at 14:01 PM
Kevin, *****************

As wunderkind says - why is a new building such an abhorrent idea for Royal Exchange Square?

It is a robust public space that really doesn't need protected from a developement that is carefully considered and well worked through with quality materials and construction. What is the big issue with having a building close to this space?

Speaking of big issue, squeezing past people at the arches this lunchtime, it would appear there are more threats to the place than just this potential building. Far too much of the facade is under protective blue and green netting and the arches themselves are severely under-maintained. Covered in guano and poorly weathered also.

Your talk of the 'signature' space is also a load of rubbish. A city is a city - what does signature space even mean? *******************
kevin toner
#15 Posted by kevin toner on 5 Oct 2012 at 14:56 PM

A Guide to Conservation Areas in Scotland : Conservation areas "are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance". S.61 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997

some Plain-English excerpts from it - edited by me in square brackets – include:-

...defining the character that merits protection, including the space between [as well as] buildings...;

...Designation as a conservation area does not place a ban upon all new development within its boundaries. However, new development will normally only be granted planning permission if it can be demonstrated that it will not harm the character or appearance of the area...,

Note the important word in all this, i.e. AREA.

Signature-space is my own jargon, but what I’m referring to is the signature [tune] that represents the immensely Glasgow centric characteristic of ‘a prominent building in the middle of a public square’. I’m not going to list them, including the one or two (or perhaps even more) of huge significance that have been lost ironically prior to the C20th. Of the four that remain now, with outstanding centrepieces in each: RES is the one that has stood the test of time contextually, notwithstanding the protective green and blue nettings for the time being.
juan de los angeles
#16 Posted by juan de los angeles on 5 Oct 2012 at 16:07 PM
RK - if you'll allow me to join back in this debate in regards to your questions to KT...You're right in that it doesn't need to be protected from a well considered development, with quality materials and construction.

Unfortunately the proposal as presented doesn't appear to be well considered, looming gloomily over RES. As for materials, the proposed ‘white polished pre-cast concrete panels with exposed stone aggregate’ does not inspire confidence in terms of weathering, long-term maintenance, or indeed visual amenity.

As for what is the big deal having a building close to this space, well nothing, again if it does not compromise the qualities of RES. What makes RES special is the human scale environment, framed as it is by fine architecture and buildings constructed of durable, natural materials. That the GOMA sits regally within it only enhances its character. Therefore when a building is proposed that is so contrary to these qualities and has the potential to erode them, well, it is a big issue. So, would welcome a new building but one that sits comfortably and in harmony (scale, massing, materials, use, etc) with RES.

Maintenance of the arches and buildings is a completely separate issue to the proposed building but in the unlikely event a proposal such as this spurs some action then at least there will be a positive outcome in one sense.

In regards to 'signature space' I don't think it's rubbish as distinctive places are extremely important to the identity of a city, for its inhabitants to be proud of, that can be promoted, for its symbolic value, etc

Rem Koolbag
#17 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 5 Oct 2012 at 16:43 PM
Juan - I don't remember not allowing anyone to debate things here....?

Anyway - I agree completely with your thoughts in the 3rd paragraph with respect to the existing quality of the Royal Exchange Square environment. Where we differ is in our contention that the proposed building would imapct significantly on the square. The very nature of the site, set back significantly from the perimeter of the square (at least the depth of the exising buildings) allows for a building to rise up and breathe a little, without impacting too heavily on the surrounding environment. Even if it is seen prominently, the square as it stands now has some pretty big buildings around it that certainly dont detract from its quality.

As for materials - what is it about the concrete spec that doesnt inspire confidence? What materials do you think would be suitable for a building on this site?

My comments about maintenance were slightly throw-away, while at the same time trying to highlight that while all the squealing about preserving the character of much valued and prized built heritage in the face of a (shock horror) 'modern building' goes on, where is the same concern for the more mundane aspect of looking after the places we hold dear? Too much of the square, and buildings further afield are left in parlous conditions, but then noone seems to care about this when there is a new building to slam.

Please also explaing the term 'visual amenity'
#18 Posted by Stephen on 6 Oct 2012 at 03:01 AM
@ David. The sections are 2D drawings. How are they misleading?
@Juan de los angels. Nothing you've said is anything but subjective. "Well considered", "Gloomy", "doesn't inspire confidence", "regal", "one that sits comfortably." Please make an actual, evidenced, point.
#19 Posted by OBVIOUS on 7 Oct 2012 at 01:56 AM
Please do not built this! I can see there being an element of the 'emperors new clothes' about this monster. Good old Pert will come in dressed in black and wow everyone with his 'slick' materials and detailing - distracting them from the fact that he has no grip of the basic rules of urban design. A tower in an already dark and unpleasant secondary space??? COME ON!! If you look at his 'analysis' for this rubbish he has an idiotic diagram that 'justifies' a tower as there are many tower blocks in Glasgow in random places. LOL Yes, most of them have been a total disaster and are now scheduled for demolition. While I have no doubt that the final building would be of a high quality, the fundamental idea and scale is flawed. There are some really nice ideas around the regeneration of the lanes in this area, yet none of them necessitate a building of this scale in this location. Needs basic understanding of route structures and building hierarchy. Whats next..development of bungalows in George SQ. No wonder he's off to OZ
#20 Posted by wunderkind on 8 Oct 2012 at 08:50 AM
Am I being churlish in thinking that the economics of a city-centre development drives the height at which to build?

Surely if land costs are high, it drives the development height up, and that means that if you agree on the principle of supporting development in the city centre, you accept the height. This is what happened in New York. It’s also why building high in the suburbs fails - there is no justification for it there, where land values are comparatively low. Now being completely honest, I don’t have the foggiest if these are arguments which exist in this instance, but I’m willing to accept that it may be the case and that there should be an overarching policy of increasing density rather than out-of-town developments wherever possible.

Moreover, it is worth noting that just on the other side of Queen Street to the square, and marginally to the south, there is already a very tall building. None of the drawings look in that direction, and none of you have noticed it. So I will ask again, is this really a problem?
#21 Posted by David on 8 Oct 2012 at 08:50 AM
@ Stephen,

If you were to model the space you will find that, as I described, you will of course see the new building, from in front of (where the render is taken from) and behind GOMA. Hence, your point that it will never be seen is incorrect.

Give it some thought.

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