A Visit to the Gorbals, Glasgow

2 06 2011

By Scott Gibson

During a trip to Scotland in my Easter break, I drove over to Glasgow to look at an example of the development of a neighbourhood centre as part of my supermarket led regeneration design thesis.  My decision to go there was influenced by the project being referred to in a study on retailing, sustainability and regeneration as a good example of a design led development.

The Crown Street Regeneration Project is based on a masterplan produced in the 1990s to redevelop a former area of social housing which was unaffectionately  referred to by locals as the ‘dampies’.   The key features of the masterplan was for new development to be based on traditional tenement blocks, enclosing private communal gardens and to include retail, community facilities, a hotel and business premises.  One of the key objectives was to introduce a traditional street pattern with new retail units, including a supermarket, fronting onto a ‘high street’ (which is actually Crown Street itself).  The housing by its nature of being developed in tenement blocks would create a density high enough to support these facilities, whilst the mix of uses would create the diversity necessary to attract new people to this area.

Unfortunately my vision of seeing a supermarket, nicely designed and integrated within a high street  environment was horribly dashed when I arrived to see a ‘box’, albeit one which had some other retail units along the Crown Street frontage.  The rest of the development has blank walls to the side and an empty car park, service bay and rear entrance in the space between the development and adjacent major road.  Thankfully, other retail units had been integrated well into new housing blocks facing Crown Street.  Since I returned, further reading has allowed me to discover that the masterplan had planned for a supermarket with a rooftop car park to give the height and scale to Crown Street in a similar way to its tenement block counterparts.  Unfortunately, the good intentions of the mastreplan were sacrificed to attract developer interest and this highlights the importance of ensuring that a masterplan can be delivered after it is produced.

The Co-op, Gorbals, Glasgow, facing Crown Street

Unattractive Rear Entrance and Service Area

Smaller retail units have been integrated well within new tenement style housing blocks

Carley, M., Kirk, K. and MacIntosh, S. (2001) Retailing, Sustainability and Neighbourhood Regeneration, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Tiesdell, S and MacFarlane, G. (2007) ‘The Part and the Whole: Implementing Masterplans in Glasgow’s New Gorbals’, Journal of Urban Design, 12(3), 407-433


2 06 2011

by Vlado Kabat

Growing and expanding cities is a common phenomenon since tearing down the city walls which surrounded the settlements. Cities usually expand both vertically and horizontally.I found an interesting article about ambitious project -expanding under the ground of Amsterdam.

This project called Amfora is approved by the city council and is supposed to be started in 2018. From my own experience I can say, that the city is quite overcrowded, full of tourists and as many other metropolis, it suffer from traffic jams and its lack of parking spaces, even when the most popular means of transport is bicycle.

This very expensive project comes from Dutch studio Zwarts & Jansma. The underground city Amfora will be built 30m under the ground with 100 000m2 and 50km of tunnels. It will contains parking places (50 000), leisure and sport activities (cinema, bowling, tennis and squash courts…) and shopping areas. The aim of the project is to lighten overloaded city centre.  Developers believe that high costs of this project will be retuned and also this underground city will become a new touristic attraction of the city.

However, there are many people against this project, e.g. british teoretic of architecture Michael Hammond says that these plans are against principles or sustainability. Builders will have to solve the problems with underground water and many canals for which the city is famous. However, the project is technically possible and there is still time to solve the problems.

Home Sweet Home: A Tool for Community Participation?

2 06 2011

By Lizzie Bird

After being enchanted by the Pop-up book PopVille see PopVille: The Pop Out City while doing some research for my design thesis I came across a project by Subject to Change http://www.subjecttochange.org.uk/ called home sweet home – this link takes you to the interactive website.  home sweet home is an installation show where each individual audience member has the opportunity to choose a house to personalise and become part of a perfectly formed, miniature, cardboard community.  The development has a number of services to help individuals settle in, including Local FM Radio Station, a postal service, a notice board, and a local council.  Neighbours can introduce themselves and explore their community as it develops. They can make decisions on street names and other community issues.  When the community is complete a street party is held. This is when residents socialise together before taking their miniature house back to their own life sized home.   

Subject for Change uses home sweet home as a vehicle for community consultation to enable testing of a wide range of complex issues – urban, architectural, social and environmental.      The project event was held at the London Festival of Architecture in 2008 and has since then toured the UK and further afield to America and Japan. Summer 2011 exhibitions are planned in Canada. See their gallery of projects. I thought it was an interesting idea – sort of big society on a small scale?!  

Follow this link to see a BBC News article on the Norwich 2010  Exhibition – there’s a good video of the project here which shows how the community developed over the festival period.

The homo and the creative

2 06 2011

by: Ha mh Thai

“Why cities without gays and rock bands are losing the economic development race”

Richard Florida

The idea that makes me decided to search for a gay city comes from Richard Florida as he find out that the places with highest concentration of gays are also favorite place for the creative (as they are both ‘non-standard’). The list of places is quite long including Manchester, Brighton (UK), Los Angeles, California, Chicago (US), Sydney, Cape Town, and so on.

Brighton Festival Open House (2007)

Brighton Festival Open House (2007)

Within the limitation of this post, I will highlight some findings about City of Brighton & Hove (East Sussex, UK). Brighton acts as a magnet for lesbians and gay men from all over the world attracted to its bohemian atmosphere, open minded attitudes and raffish air. Brighton has now long been known as Britain’s number one gay resort. The art community in Brighton is extensive and is showcased once a year by the artist’s open house event during the Brighton Festival. On the beach, the famous Brighton Artists Quarter is located between two piers. Rows of Victorian fisherman workshops which were converted into small galleries and studio spaces accommodate a collection of artists and performers. Throughout the year, thousands of high quality artworks can be viewed, enjoyed or purchased by the general public, bring great benefit to the area.

Ouseburn and the threat of over-gentrification.

2 06 2011

by: Ha mh Thai

The art-led regeneration in Ouseburn since the 1980s has transformed the former Victorian industrial district into a trendy and increasingly sought-after location for creative industries and young professionals. Capitalizing on this success, Newcastle City Council recently initiated a major development drive to greatly expand residential and business capacity to further its “Creative City” economic vision and boost middle-class city living.

Byker Bridge Housing Project on Foundry Lane

Byker Bridge Housing Project on Foundry Lane

However, many of Ouseburn’s artistic pioneers fear displacement from their studios and the loss of the area’s distinctive character as the area may become over-gentrified from Quayside. Recently, many proposals have been put into controversy as more and more private sector developers are focusing on one or two bedrooms flats for yuppies. Protectionists describe the consequence of the new strategy’s implementation as ‘regeneration frenzy’ which may lead to the loss of Ouseburn’s soul. Their anxiety is about ‘classic gentrification cycle’ with over-ambitious developer moving in and threatening the culture diversity of the Valley; consequently, the artists and the creative who brought the development in will get bought out.

How to take the opportunities for housing, business and leisure development without destroying the Ouseburn’s unique environment?

Is the Electric Car the Urban Designer’s Friend?

2 06 2011

By Scott Gibson

Charging Points in Central London

Sustainable transport is synonymous with urban design and in an ongoing move towards low carbon and zero carbon development, electric vehicles are becoming fasionable as an answer to concerns about transport realted carbon emissions,  growing fuel prices and fear that peak oil may be imminent, if not happening already.  So Electric cars it seems appears to be a perfect solution.  Hence, it’s not surprising to see masterplans with images of electric cars plugged into stand-alone charging points.  If electric vehicles do become popular, this will no doubt result in a growing demand for charging point in car parks and on-street parking bays.  Fine if there are a few, but imagine a street scene becoming filled with them at a time when there is growing pressure to improve the streetscene by reducing street clutter?

Personally I have my reservations with electric cars.  Their limited range make them only good for short journeys in towns and cities and these are likely to be the sort of journeys that could well be met by walking, cycling and the current public transport offer.  And with incentives, in terms of free parking, exemption from London’s Congestion Charge, not to mention a huge £5,000 subsidy from government toward the cost of buying one, electric cars are likely to compete more with public transport than conventional cars.  Here it seems that we’ve lost sight of what a car should be used for.  In my view that is for long journeys, ideally with two or more passengers to get to places that are simply impracticable to get to by bus or train.  Unfortunately electric cars cannot meet this role until they deal with issues about range anxiety.  However there are advancements in other fuel technologies that must not be ignored and may be better suited to making personal mobility more sustainable.  These are low carbon synthetic liquid fuels which could be used in existing vehicles, and thus make more of the exisiting vehicle fleet and avoid wasting resources on repacing them prematurely with less practicable vehicles.  They could potentially be derived from non-food sources of biomass (advanced bio-fuels in short), capturing and converting CO2 into hydrocarbons (see  http://www.jouleunlimited.com for an example), and even finding ways to store hydrogen in a more practicable way (see Cella Energy: http://www.cellaenergy.com/index.php?page=about ), provided of course we find ways of generating the stuff efficiently.  The point here is that electric cars are not necessarily the answer if they are likely to keep people off public transport, fail to cater for the journeys where the car really does come into its own, and worse still dominate the streetscape with a forest of charging points.

Play Now for a Green Tomorrow

1 06 2011

By Sarah Muscat

Browsing through a website, I was startled to read that SimCity is being used in educational curriculums! How can A GAME be considered as a good basis to the future of urban design and planning, even by universities?!

SCEPTIC about it, I started to search out for weak points in the game. Based on the realities of capitalist economies, surely it must be the environmental sector! I was wrong. The latest SimCity Societies is not just tackling the issue, but has worked with BP to provide realistic scenarios for the economic and environmental costs and benefits of different energy options…..to be used in THE GAME!

No wonder the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change opted for A GAME, ‘Create your MY 2050 World for the UK’, to engage people in the difficult choices that must be made for UK’s Energy Future! I DECIDED TO PLAY THE GAME! It’s fun and does highlight misconceptions and the inadequacy of certain measures to alternative options.

At the end I managed to reduce CO2 below the targeted 20%. Success means that your proposed scheme feeds into the UK’s energy debate ‘2050 Pathways Analysis’. So GO ON AND PLAY!



Create your My 2050 World for the UK