Carefully applied transparency fosters a sense of trust and openness at the New Gorbals Housing Association offices
Over the past 20 years the once infamous Gorbals area of Glasgow has been transformed by the gradual demolition and replacement of the high-rise towers and slab blocks of the 1960s. Those were the result of a large-scale demolition and replacement of Victorian era sandstone tenements… which themselves replaced a demolished village. The physical and historical context of Page\Park’s headquarters for New Gorbals Housing Association (NGHA) is thus one of cyclical and generational change, decline and renewal over the course of a century.
The latest iteration is a postmodern attempt to return to a traditional tenemental neighbourhood, although this one has become cut off from the city to the north and the neighbouring Laurieston area to the west by a misguided infrastructure in the form of mini bypasses, dead ends and in-filled railway arches.
One of the key successes of Page\Park’s civic intervention is the way it uses the interior to identify these contextual issues and suggest new modes of connectivity at a variety of scales. This is an interior that seeks to connect with the street, the city, history, nature and people; an intelligent and creative composition of spaces in plan and section, offering a variety of ways in which to engage and be engaged.
There is a sense of generosity (but never indulgence) manifest not only through space, volume and materiality but the provision of opportunities. Social spaces that encourage interaction between staff and residents are organised within and around a timber clad balustrade applied as a finely crafted object that sweeps though the volume of the building. Principal workspaces are arranged to allow a constant view of this balustrade as well as views of the city to the north and a new courtyard garden to the south. The glazed facade that addresses the garden pulls you close to a piece of nature in the city in a manner intentionally reminiscent of the Barry Gasson designed Burrell Collection elsewhere in the city.
The main meeting space is at the building’s northeast corner, protruding through the red brick facade as a zinc and glass box, indicating the principal point of entry at street level and creating a view along Crown Street towards the city centre that re-establishes this neighbourhood within the context of Glasgow.
Opportunities to see not only places but people are carefully curated through the positioning of timber screens, columns, glazing and programmatic organisation. This permits residents to be immediately engaged by staff, allows for meeting rooms to be supervised passively without reliance on intrusive security equipment and for people who work there to communicate and connect with each other. This carefully applied transparency fosters a sense of trust and openness between the organisation and the people that it serves.
The building’s role as mediator between residents, street, locale and the wider city is also expressed through its materiality. External red stock brick used internally references its application in NGHA’s recent housing projects and drags the solidity of street into the building. Softer materials such as orange valchromat, ash veneered ply and Siberian larch identify things to be touched, followed, inhabited and explored.
Alongside the recently completed Health Centre by JM Architects and housing by Elder and Cannon, this contemporary urban block in the New Gorbals re-establishes a civic sensibility to Crown Street and connections to the adjacent neighbourhood. Its interior continues and reinforces these intentions.