The concept stage of a new project is often the most exciting, with endless possibilities just a pen-stroke away for the intrepid Architect; an opportunity to test new ideas and refine old ones, reflected against our clients’ ambitions and the historical, cultural and physical context of the site. Many months are spent discussing and fine-tuning the proposals to ensure that before a spade is set in the ground all parties are united behind the project, from the client to the Planning department and the wider community.
The real trial though, does not begin until the ribbon is cut and the building is ready for human inhabitation. However realistic the presentation images are, the physicality of a building cannot fully be understood until it is revealed to the world and absorbed into the city (or town, or village, or landscape) around it.
Our involvement does not end here. With every completed project comes an opportunity to study this important transitional stage in the life of a building, as it is subjected to the rigours of the everyday. These buildings are a part of our own history as well as that of the people who use them and the environment within which they are placed. If we are open to it, and listen carefully, our past can, and should, inform our future.
Our recently completed housing in Laurieston was a landmark in many ways: our largest housing project to date, containing our client’s 1000th new-build house; the first phase of a new masterplan and a flagship development for this part of the city. The 4 and 5-storey blocks reference the traditional Glasgow tenement without recourse to pastiche, acknowledging the importance of streets, stairs and balconies, social opportunities alongside the private retreat.
One year in, we can say that at a city level the project has been successful, setting a high standard for the building to follow, but the greatest test for a housing project is how well it can accommodate the lifestyles and patterns – each one different – of the people living there. To quote Hogarth; “when a vessel sails well, the sailors call her a beauty”.
In conversation with the residents there is an acknowledgement of the opportunities available here. Many of them coming from high-rise tower blocks, they understand the delicate balance of communal living, the importance of convenient outdoor space and the value of knowing your neighbour. Communities are created by people doing things together, and at this density there is space for that to happen, for familiarity, friendship and an informal support network.
A year isn’t long enough to properly evaluate the ‘success’ of any housing development, but revisiting this project what we find are the tentative roots of a new Gorbals community and can say with some confidence that this vessel appears to be sailing well.