22 Jun 2018
The destruction of the Mack is a deeply depressing event. The loss is not just of an architectural masterpiece, and probably the most important building in Scotland, but also a crucial symbol of Glasgow’s creative role as a world centre for design, education and artistic expression.
As Glasgow transforms itself into a growing successful city after a traumatic phase of reinvention, we are feeling our way towards a new story for the city, a story that explains to the rest of the world what Glasgow is all about, where it has reached in its history and where its going.
Recently at a meeting with the British Council I heard Janice Kirkpatrick give a sometimes startling speech about the role Glasgow has played in the shaping of design as a concept. I cannot do justice to Janice’s thesis on Glasgow’s design leadership, but she reminded us especially that in 1753 the Foulis brothers developed an art academy in Glasgow 15 years before the Royal Academy was founded in London.
Design, creativity and education are all words we would want to include in any fresh perspective on Glasgow’s role in the world and the Mack captures the authenticity of that view.
So the Chamber will be a wholehearted supporter of whatever steps are needed to bring the Mack back to the centre of Glasgow life.
But we are also conscious that the disaster has wider implications for the city and not least for Sauchiehall Street. With a long and rich history Sauchiehall Street is perhaps the most familiar street name associated with Glasgow but it has been badly hit in recent years.
Already damaged by the popular adoption of online shopping it is now struggling with the burden of two major fires within three months both of which have destroyed well known facilities including the O2 ABC and Victoria’s Nightclub but which also involve extensive closures as the damaged buildings are dealt with. It is taking a heavy pummelling.
That is why we’re welcoming the Council’s decision to establish a Sauchiehall Street task force. We’ll work closely with the task force to deliver a co-ordinated response to the challenges the street now faces.
We already have some good work to build on. Gehl architects carried out extensive consultation to create a regeneration plan for the area in 2016 packed with proposals for improving the experience of the street.
We also have the very first of the new avenues investment which will radically improve the public realm in that part of the street that is now mostly playing its role as a busy centre for Glasgow’s nightlife.
I know this work has been causing some frustration for businesses already under pressure from difficult trading conditions but it will tackle the often appalling condition of the pavements and the road itself. Much of this work started in Sauchiehall Street because the street’s Business Improvement District argued for the street to get priority.
Now we have a much bigger task. The task force will oversee how the Council and other partners can minimise the damage to the street as the consequences of the Mack fire are assessed. It will also though take a longer-term view on the measures needed to restore Sauchiehall Street to its former importance.
Perhaps existing development proposals can be speeded up. Perhaps there are new developments to be encouraged with a more ambitious vision for the street’s future.
But one thing is sure - the Chamber will work with the task force alongside many other groups to make sure that Sauchiehall Street isn’t just a memory of life long past.