The Front


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0n the waterfront

Our cities have a once-in-a-Iifetime chance to recreate their waterfronts. But can they learn from the mistakes others have made?

ongratulations. Glasgow and Edinburgh: welcome to the 1990s! Like the rest of the world. Scotland‘s biggest cities are turning once again to face the water. ()nly they‘re about l5 years behind the rest of the world and. boy. have they got some catching up to do. In both cities. things are now moving fast: Edinburgh‘s new architecture tsar. Terry Farrell. is working on a vast development rnasterplan to transform the huge stretch of land from

South Queensferry to Portobello with a ‘necklace of pearls'. Meanwhile in Glasgow. the development of

the old Pacific Quay into a media village promises to bring much needed new life to the Clyde.

In contrast to other European cities. were well off

the pace. but the situation should have its advantages. Scotland ought to be able to avoid the mistakes developers have already made elsewhere. 01‘ will we blow the opportunity and create Me Too waterfronts in cities that are in Europe‘s second division?

You know the history: after the industrial age. when big ships delivered heavy goods to warehouses as close to the city centre as possible. waterfronts became industrial zones. where culture and ordinary urban life couldn‘t thrive. Then came the age of the road; when goods could be transported directly from out-of—town warehouse to out-of—town supermarket. The shipping and warehousing boys promptly left the city centres. Today. of course. London. Barcelona. Rotterdam and pretty much every other town with a riverfront have already turned these zones into property goldmines.

To be fair. Glasgow and Edinburgh have long harboured grand ideals. only managing to grind slowly towards real change. ()cean Terminal in Leith and the SECC in Glasgow represent the first concrete steps towards a new approach. With Farrell on the case in Edinburgh. a new Norman Foster-designed building for Scottish Gas in Granton. and top British architects Nick Grirnshaw and Richard Rogers spearheading the developments in Glasgow. things are accelerating fast.

But alongside these ‘pearls‘. there are serious questions to be asked about the quality of the other semi-precious stones in our watery necklaces. Take a drive past Newhaven. where the Western llarbour development is emerging from the ground. It‘s too early to say how it will look when completed. btrt there are worrying signs that it could become a ghetto of luxury condominiums. without the cultural activities (aside from a health club and a bit of shopping) that are essential fora vibrant community.

Similarly in Glasgow. upriver from the flagship architecture. there are buildings that have been thrown together using tacky cladding reminiscent of the cheapest tat in London's Docklands.

()n the fact of it. this may seem a dull subject. but it‘s vital that our city leaders invest in the quality of our cities‘ futures. That‘s why we welcome the forthcoming ‘brainstorrning' summit in Edinburgh. and will be campaigning for the highest quality future for the waterfronts in both of our cities. The last time Edinburgh was so ambitious. we got the New Town.


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6 THE LIST 10—24 Jun 2004