Clyde Waterfront - Scotland’s Architectural Showcase

Neil Baxter, Secretary & Treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and former Principal of Neil Baxter Associates, considers how high-quality architecture is contributing to the success of Clyde Waterfront.

The regeneration of the River Clyde corridor is regularly quoted as a great economic success story for central Scotland. However a major contributor to that success has been an enlightened attitude to architectural commissioning which has sought buildings, not merely fit-for-purpose, but of real international quality. It started in Glasgow's International Financial Services District where major office buildings by Building Design Partnership, Keppie Architects and others among the most respected of Scotland's contemporary architects, generated a waterfront of impressive scale which encouraged numerous international companies to settle.

Further downriver, high rise developments by gm + ad architects among others, new media and high-tech office developments, the Science Centre and particularly the BBC's big glass box on the southern riverbank has generated a bold new township. The scale and elegant arching form of the new surface bridge, the Clyde Arc, lends integrity to this dramatic new urban landscape. By night the subtly changing lighting of the bridge and the bold splashes of colour from the brilliantly simple lighting scheme at David Chipperfield Architect's BBC are literal highlights amid this sparkling, high-rise finance and media focussed, latest reinvention of Glasgow.

In the near future, downriver Clyde will once again welcome a new flurry of media and visitor attention as Foster & Partners' new SECC Arena and Zaha Hadid's Glasgow Transport Museum open in relatively quick succession. The museum, due to welcome its first visitors in 2011, is an extraordinary, contemporary reinvention of Gothic onto the river, sinuously and seamlessly connected to the bulk of the museum hall behind. The whole composition is clad in a sparkling metallic skin. Whether the viewer is shocked or delighted by this extraordinary composition there is no question that they will notice - always a prerequisite with museum architecture! Much more restrained, but similarly impressive in scale and impact, Foster's arena, a deceptively simple metallic "doughnut" will seat 12,000 and ensure the SECC's future as one of the most important entertainment and conference venues in Europe.

Glasgow Harbour's towering residential blocks have reinstated the scale of Partick's riverfront with some of Glasgow's most innovative new homes, set within a linear parkland. Further downriver, much work is being done to create a more attractive riverside environment with new residential development, landscaping, tree planting and vital engineering works to quay walls. However at Clydebank, largely through the endeavours of the local regeneration agency, Clydebank Re-built, a number of further, nationally important, new buildings are helping regenerate the local economy and bring new life onto the river.

The 1907 Titan Crane, one of only four of its type left from the heyday of Clyde shipbuilding, has been superbly restored by Collective Architecture as a viewing platform, providing a unique perspective up and down the river and of course, onto Clydebank itself. Sitting just below this impressive engineering monument to Clydebank's past, the new college by Jenkins and Marr Architects sits close to Aurora House, a matt grey office building of supreme elegance by Reiach & Hall Architects. The third component in this group of major developments is Page\Park Architects' Titan Enterprise Building, whose dramatic end elevation is raised on slender stilts. Together they create an exciting new architectural landscape at the edge of a riverside town, which, like much of the length of the Clyde itself is being reinvented, with new buildings of which the whole of Scotland has the right to be proud.

(See the image gallery which accompanies this article)

Neil Baxter
Secretary & Treasurer
Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland

19 August 2010

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