Scottish Home Awards 2020 Finalist ‘Renovation of the Year’ Submission: 166 Gorbals Street
Southside Housing Association acquired the Category A Listed Building at 166 Gorbals Street from Glasgow City Council in the late 1990’s. The building had deteriorated significantly since it was last occupied in the mid 1980’s and the building had been on the Buildings at Risk Register since 1998.
The Association had, since acquisition, attempted to secure funding to completely refurbish the tenement, and a number of feasibility studies were carried out over the years. Securing the level of funding required to restore this historic building back to its former glory proved difficult. In addition the security of the empty property proved challenging with a number of break ins occurring over the years.
The building remained as one of the very few listed buildings in the Gorbals area. The building also has symbolic and emotive significance, having been the British Linen Bank with three floors of flats above on a prominent position on a major thoroughfare into Glasgow city centre from the south side. In view of the wholesale demolition of the Gorbals tenements as part of a comprehensive redevelopment in a previous generation, this building has significance associated with its relative ‘rarity’.
The building was also one of the few remaining buildings designed by James Salmon Jr. who worked in Glasgow at the turn of the 19th century. The building was completed in 1900 and is of red sandstone, well-constructed and of significant architectural quality with Art Nouveau ironwork internally and externally, marble floors and timber panelling within the bank space reflecting a high level of investment and attention to detail.
The ground floor plan was occupied by the British Linen Banking Hall and a shop unit. The upper levels repeat over 3 floors providing a total of six flats.
Unfortunately much of this interior quality material had been lost by the time Southside Housing Association had acquired the property. The upper level flats also incorporated relatively simple but significant architectural detail (doors, architraves, etc.) unusual in tenemental property, at least in this part of the city.
In 2015 Page \ Park Architects were appointed by Southside Housing Association to develop Regeneration proposals in relation to this important historic listed building. The Association also engaged the services of Glasgow Building Preservation Trust (GBPT) a charitable trust who assist with the rescue, repair, restore and rehabilitation of significant historic buildings at risk across the city.
In 2017 the Association was successful in securing the funding required to restore this magnificent building back to its formal glory. The majority of funding was received from both Glasgow City Council and Historic Environment Scotland.
The Association’s brief for the project was to sensitively restore the building to its former glory whilst attempting to introduce elements of the building that were originally conceived but never realised.
The introduction of the roof turret was an element we felt deserved to be realised whilst staying true to the original aesthetic ambition for the building. Equally the recreation of the metal balustrading to the 3rd floor balcony and the repair of the Linen Bank gates were important elements that would contribute to the overall design.
The north gable was a new condition to the building with the demolition of the neighbouring building. Originally a party wall, it is now a prominent outward facing element of the building and makes up what is now a second frontage, facing onto the proposed public garden space on Bedford land.
This elevation offered little interaction or animation to the new landscaping it now faced and the Association, in agreement with Page / Park, felt that there was perhaps an opportunity to introduce a new building element which would anchor the corner and provide a way of addressing not just Bedford Lane but also the Phase 2 Laurieston Regeneration Development.
Gorbals Art Project worked alongside the Architects to develop proposals for the gable wall. Using Cor-ten steel, perforated panels with pronounced joints aligning with string-courses, were backlit to provide a feature marker that wraps around the blank walls of the tower which would create a landmark.
The upper levels accommodate two flats per floor, both with two double bedrooms. Living and kitchen spaces were prioritised to the front elevation.
The Gorbals Street elevation was fully restored with slate reinstatement to the roof, windows replaced in the same style as original including the arched bank windows, reinstatement of metalwork detailing and the new corner tower as originally intended.
The shop front is a simple frameless glass frontage exploiting the full height of the opening. The new close entrance has a frameless glass door with Corten perforated panels matching the gable forming a surround. Finally the metalwork gates to the Bank entrance have been restored with the entrance reinstated to the ground floor space.
The rear elevation windows have been replaced with new windows replicating the original style, while the close rear entrance has been restored to James Salmon’s original design.
The major challenge at planning stage was in getting access to the building to carry out detailed surveys, it having lain partly protected for 20 years with internal timbers saturated by water ingress, attacked by rot to the extent of having floors holed , and covered in a depth of bird guano due to its infestation by pigeons. This condition resulted in a slow start to construction and later evaluation of details and finishes that had not been apparent.
The design challenges were in the planning of modern flats with fully serviced kitchens and bathrooms while respecting the listed interior and exterior.
At construction stage many more defects were identified requiring repairs to the concrete floor at first floor level, the underpinning of settlement due to historic leak to water mains while the common stone stair required strengthening to satisfy current structural requirements.
Floors and support walls had to be replaced wholesale and in a sequential basis down to the concrete floor at first floor level. This floor’s construction, of an early concrete with in-laid steel joists, is prone to failure but mostly survived testing while the pen-checked close stairs required cautious engineering. The close tiling has been replicated and this new finish offset by new doors has managed to recreate the original.
The reinstatement of historic items was encouraged by HES who were partially grant funding this element of the works but found elements such as an unusual window design required variation to the contract. Our need to react to details and condition not apparent or accessible at pre-construction stage meant that we had often to diverge form tendered allowances resulting in an impact on cost and programme
A slow process of reinstatement built on limited evidence gleaned from archive drawings and remaining within the building itself, reconstructed the tower, unrecorded except on architect’s early pencil drawings and lost at an early stage in the building’s life. These drawings suggested the tower was topped by a bell-shaped slate roof with dormer, lantern and finial but there were no photographs of the tower and there was speculation that it might not have been built. The condition of the building meant that investigations were not possible in advance however access to roof did uncover raggle lines that suggested its former existence. Salmon’s delicately pencilled finial detail was purely speculative and was developed with the blacksmith to provide a crafted arrangement based on a flax plant.
The biggest challenge was in the squaring of two competing demands: the incorporation of new and fully serviced modern flats (for mid-market young professional tenants) while remaining faithful to the restoration of a building of one of Glasgow’s most important architects, from the city’s culturally, most important period.
The retention of the existing structure on a brown-field site with many of its original materials re-used is a major aspect of a sustainable development. Beyond this the building is fully insulated to modern building regulation standards, incorporates A-rated boilers and appliances with low-energy light fittings and is currently on target to achieve a ‘very good’ rating in terms of its EcoHomes assessment.
Southside Housing Association succeeded in pulling together a funding package amounting to £2.6million. The funders include:
Glasgow City Council
Architectural Heritage Fund
Historic Environment Scotland
Southside Housing Association
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“I reported the fault and within 24 hours all was attended to. I am very pleased.”
Resident of Herriet Street