Royal icing

Kathleen Morgan explores a new labyrinth of space and culture. the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Literally overnight. we have been touched by the hand of royalty. ()ur plain old ‘Glasgow International Concert Hall‘ has cast offits provisional title. and risen to higher

ist? :A ’5.

things. The pastel blue carpets which line its vast hallways have taken on a deeper shade; their virgin threads quivering in anticipation at the prospect ofthe Princess Royal‘s tread. the seal ofapproval on the Big Day of the opening gala concert on

5 October.

Throughout 1990. Glasgow has held its culturally sweetened breath. in anticipation of the pivotal event which will convincingly crown it Cultural Capital of Europe. At the top of Buchanan Street. a honey-monster has stepped somewhat cautiously onto the Glasgow horizon. shedding its protective boardings to reveal a classical visage not contemplated in Glasgow's architectural life since the days ofAlexander ‘Greek‘ Thomson. Large blocks of sandy-coloured stone. convincing enough to be real. remind the

onlooker ofthe great Egyptian efforts. where body and soul were buried forever within impenetrable walls. And that was just the workers.

Whatever tactics the city council have used to squeeze this impressive feat of construction from the contractors in a matter of a mere thirty months. they must have been radical. One set ofsacked contractors in May 1989 testifies to the council’s determination to complete the project well before the surrendering ofthe title of(.‘it_v of Culture at the end ofthis year.

The idea ofan international concert hall began a long. long time ago. when Glasgow‘s year ofculture was just a twinkle in the city council's ambitious eye. Following the fiery demise in 1962 ofSt Andrew‘s llall. home of the Scottish National Orchestra. it was proposed that a cultural hub be built at the junction

between Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street. grouping together a new concert hall. an exhibition hall. a civic theatre and a repertory theatre. The aim of the new development - undertaken by Sir Leslie Martin. project architect ofthe Royal Festival Hall in London was to create a new focal point in the city. uniting a civic development with a commercial enterprise; a ‘continuous glazed shopping arcade'. in order that cultural activities be linked to everyday travel and shopping activities. and presumably giving the arts an accessibility never before imagined. or even particularly desired by the establishment. j Duringthe 1070s. a major plan of reconstruction was undertaken ! involving the pcdestt'ianisation of i Sauchiehall and Buchanan streets. the redirecting of major traffic

._-__ _- ___ . - ....J The List H'— 27 September l‘l‘Nl83