I've been meaning to write about this for a while but it took driving past at the weekend and seeing this monstrosity bathed in sunlight to really get me annoyed. The area of the city between Albert Drive and the M74 seems to have fallen through some planning cracks and pretty much anything seems to be allowed. Not only is the M74 ploughing right through the area but quite a few of the new builds which have been fired up nearby are pretty awful too.
Its not just that the actual designs themselves are not very good, but the quality of the materials and construction are also pretty shocking. (Why are all new builds made of yellow brick, a material not natively used in Glasgow?) Take a look at the building on the corner of Albert Drive/ Pollokshaws Road with the weep holes through the render and the odd drainage pipes poking through the wall at pavement level.
Worst of the bunch is The Plaza which is such a crap building its still half empty, years after finally being constructed. (I'll avoid a full appraisal as we could be here all day.) What makes the project doubly annoying was the song and dance the developers made at the time about how they were going to be respecting and reusing as many of the original elements as possible. One of the bits of marketing bumf says "The Plaza recreates the former dance halls vigor and energy in the newly built development of 77 stunning new apartments." Personally I think it more resembles the mess left in the streets after the drunken dance hall patrons have eaten a few kebabs too many, thrown up and wandered off home.
As written about elsewhere, this section of the City has been a major gap between the City centre and the extended South; a legacy of the M74 development hanging over the area for decades. What the area needs is to fill this gap by creating more density and drawing more people into the area. While that does mean more homes, shops, cafes need to be built, it shouldn't mean, that they are built cheaply or poorly, just to ensure that they do get built. For one thing, if they are done as badly as The Plaza then no one wants to live in them and they end making the situation worse.
The Plaza is in a hugely prominent location on the St Andrew's cross junction, both for those going in and out of the City centre and what has been built is a greatly missed opportunity. There was a chance here, to build something of interest and quality which really could have attracted and drawn people into the area. What has been built doesn't even address the main sight lines, relate to the nearby building or even front the road properly.
When I sat down to write this post I did a little Google and was interested to read what other people thought. Speaking to the Evening Times one local said "I think it's an eyesore. They are condemning part of the old Glasgow." and another said "Nobody in the area likes it. I used to go to the Plaza and I can't believe what they've done with it. It's ugly."
Responding to these comments, the developers said "Residents had their opportunity to object to the design during the planning process." Which, while true, is a bit misleading. A large section of the local population probably didn't hear about the project until it was well advanced. Of those that did hear, only some will have known the process for finding out more about an application or putting in an objection. Of those, only a few would be able to take the time to go and check out the drawings at the Council and even then, planning drawings can be pretty misleading and a couple of quickly rendered images can be pretty seductive.
I was also interested to read that the building was named The Worst New Building in Scotland at the 2009 Carbuncle Awards by Prospect Magazine. The editor of Prospect said "What were these people thinking? They have ended up with a building that looks ridiculous. More balls-up than ballroom."
The lesson The Plaza seem to be teaching is, that unless we, the local residents, keep an eye on exactly what is going on, then the developers will push ahead. With a few more proposed projects popping up in the area (most notably the potential new Superstore at the Larkfield Depot) people need to make sure they have their say, positive or negative before its too late.
UPDATE: A Reader has advised that the planning application for the giant superstore at the end of Victoria Road has been submitted and can be reviewed at the Planning Department's offices.
The Council's guide to having your say on Planning Applications is here and is worth a read for those with strong views on the Supermarket Proposal.