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George Square exhibition opens to the public

January 9 2013

George Square exhibition opens to the public
An exhibition of six shortlisted schemes,drawn from an international design competition to re-imagine George Square, has opened to the public at the Lighthouse.

A judging panel comprising David Mackay, MBM Architects Barcelona and Professor Andy McMillan, former head of Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art will announce the winner of the £15m competition on 18 January.

The six shortlisted teams are John McAslan, Gustafson porter, JM Architects, James Corner Field Operations, Burns + Nice and Agence Ter.

The second entrant takes the form of a field of Caithness stone striated by white bands to frame the Cenotaph and Scott Memorial. An art overlay embedded within the paving seeks to capture the ‘essence’ of the square by recognising historical patterns.

Perimeter oak tree planting serves to extend Buchanan Street to the Square coupled with increased pavement widths and reduced traffic lanes to the north and south. A programmable ‘light ribbon’ can be output from a series of new lighting columns.

Scheme four seeks to extend the impact and presence of the square beyond its current limits through the removal of traffic from its east and west sides. This is coupled with an extension of the car free surface on Buchanan Street through to Montrose Street.

The square itself takes the form of a white granite carpet, excavated to a series of level plateaus. Sitting within a dark grey Caithness stone and granite frame with a SUDS system below to deal with surface water run-off.

Stand out features include an island of Scots Pine and a grove of Oak whilst a new loggia cast from white concrete houses existing statues within a Glaswegian weather proof enclosure.

A single large central events space can accommodate an ice rink and concerts and is configurable to host a temporary water feature when not in use.

Design one is described as a ‘mirror in the depth of flowery statues’ maintaining the 200 year tradition of statuary with a grove and gallery space.

Mirroring, both figuratively and literally, the Glasgow grid the scheme is dominated by a shallow surface of water, suspended parabolic bells, reactive lighting, sound and echo effects which are activated by the movement of people. Building facades can also be turned into ‘graphic equalisers’ to denote special occasions.

Square number three incorporates a range of art forms along its southerly edge, a plinth which accommodates a café canopy, light masts and fountain platform. North and east sides are also stepped plinths of Corremic, Kenmay and Whin granite and will entail repositioning of the Sir Walter Scott statue to be visible from George Street.

One half of the civic space will be focussed on civic events, fairs and festivals with the remainder accommodating daily activities.

Submission five aims to unify civig gatherings to the west and daily uses to the east with a number of key elements such as a Monument grove ( a curated ensemble of monuments and pedestals surrounded by a circular ramp), café pavilion and mirror pavilion, an area of 2mm deep water stones which can be easily traversed.

The body of the new square adopts an interwoven pattern of Caithness stone drawn from the Glasgow city tartan and light masts along north and south aspects and a field of scultural stones to the south complete the picture.

Entry six adopts a palette of Caithness stone, white and black granite and includes a shelter to provide a shelter, rendezvous and social place along the key north/south pedestrian route. Views out to the city chambers and a central water feature are prioritised whilst a glass roof ensures the sky and stars are also visible..

The ‘green square’ has been devised as a contemporary reinterpretation of the historic square and is based on a green square concept.
Entry 5
Entry 5
Entry 6
Entry 6

Proposal 3
Proposal 3
Proposal 4
Proposal 4

Scheme 1
Scheme 1
Scheme 2
Scheme 2


kevin toner
#1 Posted by kevin toner on 9 Jan 2013 at 19:31 PM
Why wasn't George Sq’s footprint (boundary) preserved as part of the brief in good taste? Why won’t we want to continue as custodians of a unique internationally significant contribution to world urban heritage, namely in Glasgow’s gridiron, which is nowhere better expressed than in its introduction at George Square.

Artistically, Entry No. 5 therefore wins for me in terms of its irony, as it puts on a platter the kitsch entailed in rubbishing our gridiron so badly in a brief. Well won No.5!

Nothing to stop the council putting down a temporary red (or tartan) carpet on the day (over the road/s) to welcome dignitaries and all in 2014 (or on any other occasion), which is reversible rather than a metaphorically permanent one that will celebrate nothing other than a fall in stature, excuse the pun, and one that will continue a political cry against meritocracy, rudely indeed!

There’s unfortunately no winner here that’ll merely speak about articulating the current statuary etc. with a dignified and local stone surface material, such as a local Quartz-dolerite. That’s because they’ll stand to lose, I suppose. The artistry is already there at the site, let’s appreciate it eh, with some classy hard landscaping nous. Dignitaries etc. (and our future generations) will far prefer this.
#2 Posted by wunderkind on 10 Jan 2013 at 08:42 AM
I can’t help but feel that there is another way of looking at this Kevin.

I concede that the grid is an important historical asset in Glasgow, but I hope you can agree that the current ‘traffic island’ means that, for pedestrians and visitors alike, the square is not an overly enjoyable experience. It is noisy and relatively inaccessible, windswept and rain-swept – not the place so stand and admire either the statues, the cenotaph, the surrounding buildings (particularly the Chambers) or even the ‘grid’ (by the way I’ve never seen anyone standing admiring the grid in George Square), or to sit and eat your lunch for that matter.

The grid is principally defined by the height and scale of buildings around the square, not the road around the perimeter. Therefore in attempting to address the above issues – accessibility, noise, shelter, flexibility – by reducing the road width I see no discernable detrimental effect on the grid, indeed I see a vast improvement from the current condition, with people more likely to enjoy its rectangular awesomeness while using it for lunches on one of our 5 sunny days a year, or events, or having a coffee with a friend, or people looking at some beautiful, well considered statues.

Taking the road out of Royal Exchange Square (while on a smaller scale) has had exactly this effect (to cite a good example nearby).

The best gift we can give to future generations is a flexible, usable, beautiful square, not the red tarmac behemoth we have at present, and I just don’t believe the grid is principally defined by the road, but by the buildings.
kevin toner
#3 Posted by kevin toner on 10 Jan 2013 at 12:11 PM
Wunderkind: the RES/GS argument has been already argued by me on this very same website previously. Please check out the conversation as I’m not repeating myself in response to your rendering of what I may or may not know or appreciate. Yes, RES is an improvement as it’s now more in line with the original vision, obvious from the sketch showing merely a service road for safe bank access, which turned into a near A-Class road rightly removed. Yes, roads engineers may have went too far there (?) in the relatively recent past at RES, perhaps tarnishing your trust in them at George Sq.

Leave the road widths at George Square to the roads engineers; these aren't bad at present and are in fact extremely generous. I’m sorry you’re not comfortable with their current dimensions. You should have got used to them by now. Think yourself lucky you’re not having to cross that 20 lane motorway newly built somewhere in the developing world recently, which locals have to cross on foot and with great trust. Traffic engineers can advise on temporary diversions on the day*.

Don’t let me say this too many times please: the roads must stay around George Sq as planned; like the precinct (and skyline) enclosed around Royal Exchange Square should be protected.

This urban legibility and integrity is what puts Glasgow on the map for me and undoubtedly others studying architecture and planning etc. in the city.

If you want to redecorate (re-strategise), please do it to your living room, please don’t suggest it for our urban heritage: that’s been in good or capable hands for centuries...

*if you want a pedestrian grid instead, then do prepare for the various Post-war Highway Plan visions (e.g. originating from the Bruce Plan and unexecuted ring roads and spokes) to compensate. Funnily, the bridge to nowhere is being completed as we speak.
Rem Koolbag
#4 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 10 Jan 2013 at 13:35 PM
Kevin - could you succinctly outline just exactly what it is you think the roads bring to the quality of the square that means they could not be amended? You seem so set on keeping them but why? Why so Serious?
#5 Posted by wunderkind on 10 Jan 2013 at 13:43 PM
Apologies if I’ve offended you Kevin – I thought it worthwhile picking up the debate intellectually and nothing I’m saying should be taken as a personal slight (and I’ll ignore the comment about my living room – better have a ‘crit’ on the existing space than not discuss it at all and leave it in its current mediocre state).

I still don’t understand your objections to narrowing the road widths. Your argument appears to be ‘because they have always been that way’ rather that any acknowledgement of the current set of conditions which exist (noisy, inaccessible, windy). The roads were designed before there were motor vehicles, and, importantly, before nearly every family owned a car. I can well imagine if all cars were banished and horses and carts were allowed back in that it would be quite charming, but it’s also completely unrealistic. Better to encourage people to use alternative routes in their cars to bring us back to the quiet civic, central space which it once was (it actually started as private gardens).

I admit that it is easy to say, and infinitely harder to do, and yes, it would involve use of traffic engineers but if we’re REALLY interested in having a beautiful space in the middle of our city, THE vital move is to try and reconnect the buildings and people who circulate around the perimeter with the square in the middle of it. This isn’t about historical precedent (although it could be argued that we are returning to a more historically accurate depiction of the square – see above), it is about designing to the current conditions which you have to agree, are far from ideal?

As I said previously I agree with you that the grid is an important piece of Glasgow, but I just don’t agree that the roads are what define it – it is the buildings which form the grid, and the roads and squares are the residual space left afterwards.
#6 Posted by NC on 10 Jan 2013 at 14:13 PM
@wunderkind - Agree 100% with you about how the grid is defined and read.

@kevin toner - You must lose sleep over the pedestrianisation of Buchanan Street.
kevin toner
#7 Posted by kevin toner on 10 Jan 2013 at 20:33 PM
Wunderkind: good environmental remarks thanks, but try not to dismiss the importance of the roads’ role irrespective of whatever the horsepower/litres/cc/etc on them ever was or is likely to ever be.

I remain in disagreement with your sentiment as again in your last paragraph. I’m afraid, it’s disillusioned! The roads/kerbs are very important bits actually, even more than the buildings, if you’d consider the following [repeated here] theory. There’s the sad fact that the industrialised Glasgow was built on the premise of ‘don’t hang about’. It became a great and safe haven for banking, in lieu of lodging eventually... Perhaps the ghosts of our past or conscience want the lodging city back. See the b&w photos of horses and carts being carelessly held back by throngs along the furlongs of Argyle Street’s lodgings and former arcades; and you might then understand the logic behind making the roads the prime element of the gridiron, i.e. because an architecture built on a pedestrian premise was certainly not the place for the eagerly anticipated industrial Glasgow. It had already been the first city of the empire, in ways, before overhauling its urban model! [The economists among you might be able to corroborate: did Glasgow really shift 2.5 times the level of trade as London moments before the 1707 Act of Union, adding controversy?]

Anyway Wunderkind, blame the ‘Clyde-built’ thing for screwing things up for you: ‘the Clyde built Glasgow & vice versa’. We've now as a result inherited a monster of an urban ideal that’s difficult for some to love any longer, not me despite changed times. I like the shortage of public realm in the Glasgow grid as we've got a strong parks’ compliment; and what public realm does exist in the grid is very special and not diluted by any contrived proliferation in the wrong place. Do you really want a few dead ends approaching George Square: and why? Don’t you think it would be in bad-taste: it’d make me nauseas personally, honestly, it’s already done so on the news of these articles*. My apologies, but if you've studied architecture, it’s not easy to dismiss such urban heritage as ours easily!

Back to another of your points: The narrowness of roads is fine with me provided that roads, traffic engineers etc. and users (coaches etc.) are satisfied with the minimum dims to operate... I've no real hankering for past/future dimensional uniformity. So long as the routes are maintained and operable, that’s enough for me, I’m not that diehard an urbanist.

Again, I’m not averse to your airing of the environmental aspects, merely your sentiment. You must find other ways to strengthen your debate on the former in a way that does not prejudice our historic and built environment heritage.

*NC, hi: Buchanan St. or aka part of the pedestrianised ‘Style-mile’ or Z is interesting experimentally, in spite of the possible implications it’s thrown up after being implemented, as debated previously too... My problem with it is when people use it as a walking highway – it’s neither fare to the tourists nor to easy going chaps like me who go down a gear in its presence...
kevin toner
#8 Posted by kevin toner on 10 Jan 2013 at 21:05 PM
Now that were on the subject NC, the other thing that was debated on Buchanan St was the possibly severe impact upon Union Street and the other two main shopping precincts..., but let's not discuss that on this thread.
kevin toner
#9 Posted by kevin toner on 10 Jan 2013 at 21:10 PM
Now that were [ps apostrophe missing: should be "we're" I know!] on the subject NC, the other thing that was debated on Buchanan St was the possibly severe impact upon Union Street and the other two main shopping precincts..., but let's not discuss that on this thread.

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