Glasgow will regret pulling down ‘eyesore’ high-rises

The Bluevale and Whitevale towers are now just a memory
The Bluevale and Whitevale towers are now just a memory
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Scotland’s biggest city may one day mourn the loss of high-rise tower blocks in the same way it bemoans the demise of Victorian buildings swept away by the tides of regeneration, according to one of the organisers of a major new architecture event.

Brut Europe, which takes place in Glasgow tomorrow, will explore how the city has treated its modernist and brutalist buildings over the years.

Marija Nemčenko, a Lithuanian artist who has helped to coordinate the gathering, part of Glasgow International, urged Glasgow’s authorities to safeguard its remaining modernist gems against the threat of gentrification, as well as demolition.

In recent years, a slew of high-rise towers across Glasgow have been demolished, including the Bluevale and Whitevale flats in the city’s east end, built in 1969. Once the tallest residential buildings in Scotland, they were lauded by critics for their wraparound balconies and unique brutalist design. After decades of neglect they were condemned in 2011 and demolished five years later.

Nemčenko, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art, predicted that the loss of such structures will be keenly felt.

“I think it will be similar to the way people nowadays mourn the Victorian buildings in Glasgow that have been lost,” she said.

“A lot of the modernist buildings lost were impressive architectural constructions with great ideas, and more and more of them are being demolished. It’s quite common for these high rises and modernist buildings to be dismissed as ugly.

“Some of the buildings grew out of quite utopian ideas. In the Soviet Union, they helped to portray the principles of communism, while in Scotland and England, they had a purpose of helping to solve the housing crisis. There was a change in the air,” said Nemčenko.

“On the one hand, it was designed to bring about a form of social control, but equally, it helped to bring communities together.”

The Brut Europe event, a series of lectures, workshops, and screenings, draws together architectural experts and commentators from across the continent.

They include Chris Leslie, the Bafta Scotland award-winning documentary maker and photographer, who has chronicled the history of Glasgow’s high-rises. He will give a lecture and present screenings of his award-winning films, Lights Out and Red Road Underground

Other speakers include Owen Hatherley, the architecture journalist and academic; Edward Hollis, the architect, writer, and deputy director of research at Edinburgh College of Art; and Pablo Arboleda, the Spanish architect.

Brut Europe takes place tomorrow between 3pm and 9pm at Glasgow Art School. Entry is free. www.bruteurope2018.eu