RIBA Stage 7
Located on the Eastern edge of the Merchant City conservation area, the long-vacant site was bought by Wheatley Homes Glasgow to provide much needed affordable housing aimed at the mid-market rent market. Building on the success of the adjacent Bell Street Stables conversion project for the same client, this development provides modern, safe city-centre housing of 1 and 2 bed flats in an excellent location close to amenities and multiple transportation links, helping to provide a balance to recent student and private rental developments in this area.
The compact site footprint and location close to the historic Glasgow Cross meant that a high-density car-free development was justifiable and supported by both GCC Planning and Roads. The site is highly visible from Glasgow Cross and, due to the medieval historic crank in Gallowgate, it also peeps into view along the listed vista from Trongate. Through physical models and extensive drawings the building’s massing, proportions and detailing were carefully developed to fit into this townscape in a positive and respectful manner.
As well as the key views from the West the building has another less formal aspect from outwith the conservation area in the East. Here the building successfully contributes to an informal townscape group of several Category A and B listed buildings embraced by the sweep of the brick railway viaduct and bridge across Gallowgate. This view and the historical influence of the railway on the materiality of these buildings inspired the choice of façade material: the blonde stock brick tones in with the sandstone of the Mercat building opposite whilst creating a visual and historical relationship with the railway and neighbouring brick facades seen from the East.
The brick has been simply detailed on this eastern side, and then on the Gallowgate and Watson Street sides has been augmented with large high quality precast elements to create variety and depth to the façade and pick up on the proportions of neighbouring buildings - in particular Bell Street Stables and the Mercat building opposite.
As well as influencing the form and material of the building the proximity of the railway was a challenge to design and construction which has been successfully managed. The building footprint and layout were developed to maximise views and development area and to create a continuous street level elevation, whilst allowing future access and maintenance to both building and railway assets. On site piling, crane and scaffold design were all proficiently developed by the engineer and contractor to respect the railway, and the site was the subject of a BAPA and watching brief from Network Rail.
The very compact site and strict budget have been adeptly managed to achieve a Glasgow Standard-compliant building, constructed with robust materials, which is high-quality, attractive and sustainable.
Upon completion, swift take-up of the flats was unprecedented for the client, with interest being so high that the application process had to be closed just 24 hours after opening. The success of this project along with the sister project at Bell Street stables is helping to perpetuate the much-needed transformation and regeneration of this eastern edge of the Merchant City.