If the city is going to escape its cycle of endless reinvention it needs to recognise the relevance of its historic urban structure
Glasgow has always had a habit of reinventing itself. The Georgians ripped up the city’s medieval fabric just as the Victorians wiped out the Georgian city. The gridded city established in the 19th century ranks as one of the most robust and sophis-ticated pieces of urban fabric to be found anywhere in the country. But in the aftermath of the second world war a new order, with scant relationship to the old, was imposed again.
Built between 1964 and 1969 to designs by architect Sam Bunton, the Red Road estate was one of the defining contributions of the decade. Until the first phase of demolition work was undertaken last weekend, it comprised eight towers thatranked among the tallest in the city — a little piece of Manhattan, providing Glasgow with the skyline that it had never known it wanted.
The question of what will replace Red Road is not yet determined but it has to offer a more sympathetic response to the scale and order of the historic city than Bunton was able to muster. Development in the city’s periphery over the past 30 years has tended to be of a noddy house sub-urban character that has proved every bit as damaging to Glasgow’s urban identity as the legacy of the sixties.
If it is going to escape its cycle of endless reinvention the city needs to recognise the continued relevance of its historic urban structure and to look at ways that that structure might inform its future growth.
Does the demolition of Red Road offer cause for celebration? At present it seems too early to say. The fear must be that in another 50 years, Glaswegians will be faced with the prospect of the site being cleared once again.