Archi Velo

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City Social 01: Collective Architecture

When writing about cycling in the towns and cities of Scotland it is all too easy to focus on the negatives; lack (or removal!) of proper infrastructure, poor road conditions, and more often than not the attitude of our fellow road users. The despairing critiques are typically followed by envious glances towards our Scandinavian and Flemish counterparts as we wonder if we will ever have it as good. We believe it is possible. 

Glasgow is undergoing some significant changes, major urban regeneration projects are currently happening within, and on the periphery of the city centre. Connectivity between these new city districts will be key to their success and our hope is that the recent commitment to active travel by both the Leader of the Council and Scottish Government Transport Minister are acted upon ensuring that cycling and the cyclist are a priority in any regeneration plans.

Archi-Velo was established in 2016 as a means to encourage a dialogue between the many cycling architects focussing on how we design for the bicycle. Thoughts of urban regeneration and Glasgow were very much in our minds as we set off on the inaugural Archi-Velo City Social. Our hosts for the morning were Collective Architecture, a 40 strong award winning architecture practice who are based in the Mercat Building on Glasgow Cross. Collective Architecture were established in 2007 and have a highly varied output ranging from intimate community installations to large scale urban regeneration. 

On leaving the Mercat Building our route headed east through Glasgow Green and along the James Street cycle path towards our first stop; The Glasgow Womens Library on Landressy Street, Bridgeton. The library, built in 1903, is one of seven Carnegie libraries donated to the city and is now category B listed. Collective Architecture won a limited competition in 2013 to redevelop this local landmark for The Glasgow Women’s Library. Works were largely internal however it was the one external intervention which grabbed our attention as we turned off James Street. A new stand alone lift shaft designed as a feature art work proudly displaying significant book titles chosen by the GWL Board Members. 

The second project on the route was pointed out as we left Bridgeton heading east along the segregated London Road cycle path. The Red Tree Business Centre completed in 2013 for the Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company was once a largely derelict property but now provides office and retail space for up to 28 SME’s. Our route along London Road afforded a view of the highly visible rear elevation which displays a graphical treatment created by internationally renowned Glasgow artist Toby Paterson. 

We continued east towards Dalmarnock and took the opportunity to link back to Glasgow Green via the recently completed Shawfield smart bridge and riverside cycle paths. On arriving back to the Green it quickly became apparent that we had navigated our way around the east end and only left a cycle path for a very short section of London Road. We weren’t so fortunate as the route turned north up High Street, through Townhead and across the M8.   

Sighthill was the next stop but only after a slight diversion due to the ongoing engineering works preparing the ground for the next phase of regeneration in the area. The first phase of new housing in Sighthill was completed by Collective Architecture in 2016 and provides 141 new houses and flats for tenants of the former high rise blocks. A strong edge of three and four stories marks the edge of the development as we approach along Fountainwell Road. Pedalling through the development the overall layout of the new blocks is described as creating complete streets with clearly defined public and private space. A design intent which was confirmed in the absence of parked cars (all cleverly located in rear courtyards) a move which further enhanced the quality of the streetscape.  

From Sighthill we headed west along Keppochill Road and onto Pinkston Road passing by the Pinkston Basin, now a paddlesports centre with Scotland's only artificial whitewater course. The Forth and Clyde Canal towpath led us to our final project on the route, Garscube Road. A development of 117 new build homes situated on two previously undeveloped brownfield sites in the Maryhill area. The short descent down Firhill Road was terminated by the prominent six story corner block on Garscube Road and Henshaw Street. Collective Architecture are particularly proud about the green credentials of the project explaining that the homes all achieved a band ‘A’ energy efficiency rating. The Garscube Road housing, together with the Hopewell sheltered housing, represented the largest new build hot water solar panel installation in Scotland - at the time of their completion. A short ride via the Botanics and along Byres Road brought us to Siempre Bicycle Cafe where the end of the first City Social was marked with coffee and cake. 

City Social 02 will take place on Saturday 26th November and will be hosted by Page / Park Architects.

Michael Dougall