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Nord’s Royal Exchange Square plans approved

June 26 2013

Nord’s Royal Exchange Square plans approved
A £25m development at Royal Exchange Square, backed by businessman James Mortimer, has received planning approval from Glasgow City Council.

The Nord designed mixed use scheme incorporates three key elements; namely a street level arcade, retail and leisure plinth and a 96 bedroom hotel slab. A rooftop bar would be located on the 11th floor of this block to take advantage of panoramic views.

More controversially the scheme would entail modification to a number of A-listed buildings and the demolition of a B-listed terrace at South Exchange Court, all in the heart of the central conservation area, although the barrel vaulted basement of the latter would be retained for use as a bar.

Richard Brown, executive director of development and regeneration, said: “In terms of impact on Royal Exchange Square, the development will not be visible from the primary vista of the Gallery of Modern Art viewed along Ingram Street.

"Whilst the hotel block will be visible from limited local vantage points, in particular, the corner of Ingram Street and Queen Street, its design is considered to be of suitable high quality and will add another layer of urban form as currently exists on the north side of Royal Exchange Square.

"On balance, it is accepted that the proposals will deliver significant benefits to economic growth as well as significant benefits to the wider community which outweigh the substantial demolition and façade retention of the ‘B’ listed buildings at 1-3 Royal Exchange Court."


#1 Posted by jc on 26 Jun 2013 at 14:23 PM
oh great, Stasi headquarters looming over the square and terraces demolished. Great
Neil C
#2 Posted by Neil C on 26 Jun 2013 at 15:55 PM
If a building that hideous had been constructed in the 1960s, we'd be ripping it down by now and declaring the city skyline to be better for its removal. Shame on you, GCC. As usual.
#3 Posted by Egbert on 26 Jun 2013 at 16:27 PM
Dreadful decision - this is a really, really bad idea.
#4 Posted by Rossco on 26 Jun 2013 at 18:51 PM
What an absolute disaster and an embarrassment to the planning system. Clearly the decision maker wasn't quite aware of designing places or the governments new architecture policy. Richard Brown needs a swift boot in the betty swollocks for not throwing this one straight out the door.
#5 Posted by Urbano on 26 Jun 2013 at 21:05 PM
I like this proposal. It has real potential to enliven the courtyards behind the square particularly at Princess Sq driving footfall into Queen Street too which has been declining somewhat. Yes it is a big building on a tight site but it deals with its context and views. Well done Nord and GCC.
kevin toner
#6 Posted by kevin toner on 27 Jun 2013 at 04:28 AM
A very interesting product of the recession!

Those responsible for permitting this BADLY sited sandcastle can all resign as of today! Citing the rises on the north side is no excuse for it occurring on the south. More on proper layering later!

Coincidentally, there were three possible urban relatives in the vicinity up until weeks ago (since the demolition of the RBoS building – a near sibling), there now being merely two:

1) Charlotte House; & 2) The College of Building & Printing! Yes 1960s edifices that have laterally front facing, and towering, elevations typically within superblocks: there of course being three more in Sauchiehall Street’s superblocks, but nowhere else really!

The near sibling (the RBoS block currently being demolished) was, yes, a city-wide oddity, being a [contrived] set-back within a conventional [non-super] block.

No.2 above however will be an actual sibling to the proposal, exclusively, as it - alone in Glasgow - faces over a square as a separate entity in its own right. This lonely precedent offers an excusable additional layering of urban form because of i) the incidental juxtaposition of the set back railway station arch as context; and ii) the inevitability of [overlooking] higher elevations from the instant steep ground rise over the 200m length blocks!

The article quotes the Planning Director on adding “...another layer of urban form as currently exists on the north side of Royal Exchange Square”. Equating the lane edifices of St Vincent Pl’s rear elevations with a proposed towering street architecture, errant at 150m instead of 300m from St Vincent Pl is surely suicide for a planner? Charlotte House on the shorter 250m length block (shorter by 100m) or for that matter any other of the 5 typical examples above, can get away with it simply because they’re sufficiently far enough from the nearest street they’re facing; and furthermore these are typically never facing a square. Well, in Glasgow anyway!

Nord are on their own with this one I’m afraid; oh and Urbano too at #5, if not a member of staff!

The last thing Royal Exchange Sq needs is the George Sq / College of Building & Printing role model, which is site/context specific.

Glasgow has been tremendously unique to date for not misplacing architecture despite great potential to do so due to its urban and topographical complexity. Yes, of course it’s showed off on hill tops etc., but it’s also learned when not to show off, with equal gusto.

Urban Realm, is all that about to change?

Ps: Thank goodness Nord didn't reply to my speculative application for work, or worse still, put me on a job like this, phew! That said, maybe haywire really is indeed for the future...
Partick Bateman
#7 Posted by Partick Bateman on 27 Jun 2013 at 08:48 AM
After years of suffering the indignity of wearing a traffic cone as a hat, this must've been the final straw for The Duke of Wellington.
Cat Flap
#8 Posted by Cat Flap on 27 Jun 2013 at 09:11 AM
I never liked this scheme until I read Kevin's e-mail (or the first third of it anyway - I dropped off after that). Now I'm starting to appreciate its merits. Anyway, big fan of Nord's work so I'm sure it'll be executed with some flair.
#9 Posted by OMR on 27 Jun 2013 at 10:28 AM
Nord are simply not talented at work at an urban scale. For small jewel like jobs they are fantastic, but ifor anything that is not internally focused they are sereiously not cut out for the job. I am sure the interior of this building will be fabulous, but it misses all fundamental principles of urban design. Perhaps strathclyde should find a new pin up?
#10 Posted by Stephen on 27 Jun 2013 at 11:46 AM
Definitely a sensitive site but no reason why this should be the blight some people are frightened of. It is set quite far back from Royal Exchange Square.
Doesn't look especially 1960s to me Neil C, more quite a refined International Style modernism. I like the relief in the facade and the restraint, and as long as the stone (or concrete or whatever the facade is made of) is of a good quality, then it could be a great exemplar. Nice to see a project (if other images which have been published are still relevant) which displays some knowledge of a classical style (if such a style can be said to actually exist). I think it demonstrates more subtlety than it's being given credit for and lets not forget the potential it has to reinvigorate and make permeable a large area of an important area of the city (currently just car parking and waste ground). Now it's just down to the execution...
Robert Roy
#11 Posted by Robert Roy on 28 Jun 2013 at 10:19 AM
I think it's excellent and shows Glasgow is capable of producing first rate strong architecture of a scale appropriate to the modern city and within the confines of the historic city centre environment. It will obviously rely heavily on the strength of detail that we know Nord are capable of. Lets hope the quality of materials proposed is not chipped away at as the design develops.
#12 Posted by JR on 28 Jun 2013 at 10:47 AM
Just because the 60's had tall concrete buildings that aren't very popular now doesn't mean they should never be considered again.

This proposal looks fantastic. It is a mature building, not relying on tacked on 'sandstone' to appease traditionalists or wacky geometry for cheap publicity.

It is well proportioned and elegant. If anything, it compliments Royal Exchange Square and the GOMA.

Now, lets get the owners of the buildings around it to sort out maintenance of the building fabric and get rid of the temporary (permanent) netting.

Kevin - always a pleasure to read your offerings.
kevin toner
#13 Posted by kevin toner on 28 Jun 2013 at 14:05 PM
JR, thanks for your compliment. I’m however uncomfortable with the Decision’s approach in this particular instance.

I’m trying to like the proposal, but I can’t seem to follow through. What’s holding me back are a couple of things:

A) the lost opportunity for conservation to thrive (not the bad press meaning of ‘stabilising buildings in disrepair’, but the meaning where adopting heritage increases commercial viability and productivity) as opposed to a full redevelopment, which typically thrives less by comparison; and

B) the loss of the city’s grand mystique, where a world class square has survived as an intimate urban space for two centuries without ever becoming [concernedly] impeded with that primary staple/speciality of Glasgow’s: its generally tall built fabric.

Here's my inner sentiments as follows.

For such a dense city to offer and harbour such different worlds at its core without ever clashing is not merely internationally rare and significant, but is a reminder of the quality, value and integrity of Glasgow’s living urban structure/anatomy, especially here within its CBD. Why destruct or erode this, especially where it’s strongest? This 1.5 square miles’ space that is our CBD feels much less finite because of such invaluable sophistication. Whereas if we insensitively sandcastle-up our richest/longest/largest superblock (the key) with 1960s style layering, as advertised here to the square, we’ll have taken the mystery away that our relatively small CBD seemed limitless.

ps: It would be equally mad if we were to conversely redevelop typically tall block anatomies to fit in public squares around key works of architecture – we’d be quite simply destroying our urban heritage.

It’s not ours to toy with. Authorities that allow this require greater appreciation understanding and responsibility. In this particular case, here, in the Nord scheme, direly!

To those involved, please revert or resign!

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