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

The revitalisation of high streets

24 05 2011

By Harvé Dhillon

I am not quite sure whether it’s my own frustration towards British high streets or the news article I read about the revitalisation of high streets that inspired me to write this. It’s no doubt that we have all realised or felt that the British high street seems to be homogenised, with the same shops, similar characteristics and uninteresting streetscape. It’s not that every high street needs to provide a completely niche shopping experience, neither does the urban designer need to be pressurised in order to create a completely different public realm in every city centre. The lack of identity and experience to the city dweller is experienced when nearly every high street in the country feels its necessary to have similar materials, street furniture and retail outlets.

The benefits of good urban design of high streets are not just an aesthetic issue but can actually positively contribute to the economic benefits of high street retail. It may seem like something that is taken for granted but more than often the design of the high street does not need major regeneration schemes but rather small interventions.

The urban transformation of Kensington High Street in Central London has proven an effortless yet effective approach to the revitalisation of the high street. The reduction of street clutter by mounting traffic signals and signage on lamp columns and removal of guardrails and bollards had meant that the area provides a more attractive environment for pedestrians. In addition the removal of staggered crossings and the removal of traffic islands created the space improve the quality of the streetscape.

Read more about high street urban design and the revitalisation of high streets on http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/05/23/how-good-design-can-revitalise-high-street-retail-91466-28742533/ and also the Urban Design Compendium provides guidance about the success of Kensington High Street on http://www.urbandesigncompendium.co.uk/kensingtonhighstreet?ThumbnailID=2#largeimagesection.