There has been some controversy over the past few months for the George Square redesign in Glasgow, Scotland, since we last announced the six shortlisted architecture firms in December. Following the submission and assessment by a jury in January, the project went through an upheaval when Labour leader of the Glasgow City Council, Gordon Matheson announced that the submitted designs would be scrapped in favor of a “facelift” for the square. Numerous reports on the Herald Scotland present conflicting arguments for the turn of events and the abrupt change in plans have left the council, jury, design firms and the public in discontent. It is unclear what the status of the project is today, but for the moment it is on hold as the council discusses ways in which to proceed.
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The goal of redesigning the two hundred year old plaza, full of sculpture honoring the history of the city, is two-fold. The City Council announced a competition to redevelop the square in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games while also encouraging a design that regards the values of the city for a landscape that can be used as public space. Of the thirty five responses, six were selected late last year to develop designs to present to the jury.
The competition prompt called for a removal of all but one of the sculptures with a design that included seating, greenery, water installations and pop-up cafes. As part of the review process, the public was consulted to review the six submissions. The responses that came back cited insufficient green space and water installations that were unsuitable for Scotland’s climate. Ultimately, after the jury reviewed the submissions, John McAslan + Partners was announced as the winner. Shortly after, Matheson announced that the project would be halted due to the public’s response.
But the controversy that has unfolded includes allegations that Matheson scrapped the competition because he favored a project that the jury ranked as fourth, according to a report on the Herald Scotland by Tom Gordon. It has turned into a he said, she said argument with the council denying the allegations. What has developed from this turn of events is an outreach by firm principal, John McAslan, to explain the design to the public, hosting his own version of a public consultation.
In late January, following Matheson’s announcement, McAslan gave the public a presentation of his firm’s project at George Square. As much as architects try to create a legible form of representation, it is largely esoteric and the general public can easily misinterpret the feeling of architecture and space when reading a plan. McAslan’s hope was to explain the intricacies of the design and point out its flexibility in providing hard- and soft-scape and programmable areas for many different functions, meanwhile addressing questions from the group.
McAslan has also approached Matheson for a meeting to discuss the circumstances of the competition, but details for that meeting are not yet available.