What will Glasgow look like in 2057? The visions of budding young architects from Glasgow School of Art are offered at an exhibition this week, the culmination of an intensive 5 week project which, in the words of the course leader Fred Harvey, is “challenging 60 of the brightest young minds in one of the UK’s best schools of architecture to redefine the rulebook.”
And challenge the rulebook they have. Doubtless, some old timers will scoff at some of the more radical ideas put forward by the students. A beach on the Clyde? Closing the M8 motorway through the city centre? A new bridge with buildings on it? …it would be easy to dismiss these ideas as folly. But the truth is that each of these already exist in other British and European cities.
But, for me, the debate about whether these ideas are practical is not the point – none of us can predict what is likely to be economically and socially acceptable in 2057.
I felt that the real interest of the exhibition lay in two things:
The kind of issues that the students felt need to be tackled.
The way that they went about their tasks – looking at strategy for whole areas first, very much a “planning” approach.
What issues did the students see as important? Some of the common concerns that jumped out at me were health, open space, young people, locally produced food, local markets for selling that produce, and opening up access to the river Clyde. The kinds of issues that we as planners constantly say are important, but rarely address meaningfully.
These students have gone beyond our talk to produce real proposals in real places – allotments alongside the A739 north of the Clyde Tunnel, city farms, farmers markets, a revitalised waterfront in Whiteinch, and a whole host of proposals to tackle poor public health and rising obesity. All highly apposite at a time when the media are telling us that Scotland is the second most obese nation in the world.
And the way in which the students went about their task was a lesson to all of us planners. Each team of five students tackled a north-south strip of the city. They analysed their strip, prepared a strategy for how it should function and look in 2057, and then prepared a number of detailed projects to deliver that strategy. Exactly the way that planners go about preparing plans.
When used by these student architects, the results of this robust planning process were truly inspirational.
Planners beware: if we don’t embrace the kind of ideas that these young architects are
proposing, we risked being washed up on that new beach on the Clyde well before 2057.
If you’re interested in seeing more images of the students’ ideas, take a look at this slideshow on the BBC website.