There is a quality about certain areas that defines them. We develop names for them such as neighbourhoods or quarters. A quarter clearly implies being part of a greater whole, it’s identity in part, defined by the city around it. But often what is important are the qualities that make it distinctive and in particular consistent.
In our economic and social setting, the challenge in creating consistency is made all the more difficult as a result of contemporary fragmented procurement processes. Each setting is seen in isolation with each architect and developer presenting their own position - the resulting aggregation more often than not a hotch-potch of these influences. One approach we explored and participated in historically was to seek to achieve more consistency through collaboration, sitting around the table with other architects and their clients, and working together towards a common consistent setting such as at the New Gorbals, Graham Square and Moore Street.
Inevitably the experience of such free spirited dialogue allows some conclusions to be drawn, the key of which, is that it is extremely difficult to achieve consistency where you have both formal and material selection freedom. Ideally you need to choose one, form or material which is consistent between projects, or more of a collective challenge, adopt a common theme of formal and material moderation.
A series of individual projects, explored these ideas through material consistency in city centre locations at Waddell St./Ballater St. and Friary Court in the Gorbals and in formal and material moderation in the out of town housing settings in Newmilns, and Johnstone.
Looking further afield model examples cited in discussion were Donnybrook housing by Peter Barber Architects, Accordia Cambridge by Fielden Clegg & Bradley Studios, The 1960s development of Queens Park by Derek Stephenson and Partners, Kingo Houses by Jorn Utzon, Library Quarter by MVRDV, Ceramique Quarter Maastricht by Jo Coenen and Barking Central by AHMM.
The New Gorbals Housing Association project at Laurieston belongs to that current strand of thinking. Here both formal and material consistency have been adopted with our approach providing the regular formality defining the urban blocks and linking the major streets of Eglinton Street and Gorbals Street. This creates the setting for a set piece block by Elder and Canon defining the approach landscape settings.
Returning to the issue of the design of what we hope will be a new quarter, we have learned we need to carve out the formal and material characteristics that will define it and stitch it together by striking a balance between variety and coherence and between individuality and common identity. In that respect we can take into account the ideals of that 2nd generation of modernists, crystallised by Team 10, that sought to develop modernist thinking in a way that would make room for individual and collective identities, allowing local and regional qualities to influence the design, a shift from universal solutions to specific solutions for local situations - in essence a dialogue between extreme positions.