CITY OF GLASGOW CIVIC RESTAURANT
My proposal is to create a civic restaurant which will provide cheap meals for everyone. This proposal is inspired by the wartime ‘British Restaurants’ which subsequently became civic restaurants as a result of the Civic restaurant act 1947 which allowed some British restaurants to continue operating after world war two. The idea is for the state to be able to provide a respectable, quality dining experience for everyone at a very reasonable price. It is about giving a level of respect back to the people who are the backbone of society and keep the country running, making sure the next generation are well fed to ensure they are able to take their places in the future and feeding anyone struggling financially to help them get back on track. The City of Glasgow civic restaurant will be open to all without judgement. You are not required to consume anything to use the buildings or surrounding public space. Civic restaurants will eventually be rolled out across the country and the City of Glasgow Civic restaurant will be one part of a nationwide network of restaurants.
In the execution of the City of Glasgow Civic Restaurant, I am aiming to fight against the continuing privatisation of public spaces in modern cities. Public space is being continually sold off by local authorities and developed in to spaces focused entirely towards commercialism. This is done by excluding large proportions of citizens that would hinder the profits of the surrounding businesses through expensive shops and flashy architecture all the way to more explicit anti-homeless defensive architecture. This forces citizens in to only consumption-based interaction with the city. This results in fleeting visits and spaces that encourage no spontaneous creative activity and therefore no sense of ownership, community or place. These spaces are palatable and seem successful from an outsiders perspective but are dead.
This project opposes this firstly by creating a public square in the centre of the site specifically for the benefit of the citizens. The square is deliberately oriented slightly off axis from the rest of the Dennistoun urban grid in an effort to separate the space from the rest of the world and create an enclosure for spontaneous activity from people all brought to the site by food. Places can only be identified by where they aren’t. This means a boundary has to be placed at some point either by physical restraints or less concretely in peoples minds. Furthermore, from any view point inside the square the sandstone of the tenements that flank the site are obscured by the restarant buildings giving you the feeling that you could be absolutely anywhere. This square and by extension the restaurant buildings are a completely separate location and place. This will create a breeding ground for spontaneous creative activity and therefore a greater sense of ownership of the space. The buildings that surround the square are a negotiation between the axis of the dennistoun tenements and the axis of the square. As you enter the the buildings and pass through the spaces that negotiate the change in axis, you transition from the sea of less defined space into the place that is the site. Because open public space is one of the main drivers of the project, I decided to prioritise it when planning the volumes of the building inspired by the figure-ground drawings of Rowe and Koetter in their book: Collage city. The buildings are just a result of the placement of the public space and have to fill the gaps.
The arches in my proposal seem to completely ignore the human scale in a similar way the Greek architecture of a traditional governmental building which aims to impose authority on its citizens but actually its dimensions are carefully considered for each vault to be able to be inhabited by a different dining table. This along with other details such as tactile door handles show that this building is built specifically to serve every citizen rather than a traditional civic building which imposes its authority and gives the impression that the citizen is there to serve the building or government. Every citizen is considered down to the way their hand interacts with a door handle. This all adds to this building giving back a level of respect to every citizen. Details like this say to the users, ‘this is for you’. This is completely contrary to the examples of techniques like flashy architecture and expensive shops above which, to a normal citizen, say ‘this is not for you’. This is conveyed even more explicitly by defensive architecture like spikes in doorways or armrests in the middle of a bench to a homeless person. This building’s architectural style is not be flashy and overly expressives but will include high quality materials arranged cleverly. A quality of materials and architecture normally reserved for commercial projects will directly serve the public.
Further contributing to the sense of ownership of the site for the local community, is the sense that the site has grown naturally. The tapering forms of the building caused by the rotation of the internal public square create organic seeming spaces. The way the massing relates to the form of the Whitehill pool by completing suggested squares in the space between the two buildings makes the City of Glasgow Civic restaurant seem like an extension of the buildings around it. The heavy material choices such as reclaimed sandstone for the columns of the colonnade and tower as well as the textured precast concrete that forms the arches are almost treated as ruins on the site and will be built to last for a long time after the timber structure restaurant buildings adjacent to it which are designed to be able to be deconstructed relatively easily. In the future the masonry parts of the structures can be reincorporated in to a new design catering to future demands. All of this is not an attempt to trick users in to believing the building is old but trying to make the building feel although it has always been there. If the users of the building get the feeling that the building has grown naturally, automatically the architectural intentions of the building are ignored by them and the user is able to use the space freely without being distracted by the intentions of an architect.