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Sir Basil Spence Archive Project

View from ground level of hanging balconies in Area C with child in foreground, 1965. SC438977

QUEEN ELIZABETH TOWER BLOCKS

// THE GORBALS, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

By the 1950s Glasgow's Hutchesontown/Gorbals area had some of the worst housing conditions in Europe. To combat this problem Glasgow Corporation created the Hutchesontown/Gorbals Comprehensive Development Area.

“On Tuesdays, when all the washing’s out, it’ll be like a great ship in full sail”

- Sir Basil Spence

Their aim was to replace 62 acres of slums with new low and high density housing, schools and shops. The development consisted of Hutchesontown A- a group of four storey blocks (designed by Glasgow Corporation architects), Hutchesontown B (designed by Robert Matthew) and Basil Spence’s Hutchesontown C, a commission he received in 1959.

Spence's brief required him to produce 400 individual dwellings. In order to be "economic", the lifts could only stop at every second floor (of the 20 storey block) which meant that the building consisted of maisonettes as well as one to four bedroom apartments. Inspired by Le Corbusier's giant maisonette blocks in Marseille, Hutchesontown C was described as The Hanging Gardens of the Gorbals, a reference to the gallery gardens arranged in groups of four throughout the building.

“I designed the flats to make life easier for mothers and housewives. I planned the hanging gardens so that mothers could put their children and their washing out in the fresh air without going all the way to the ground”

- Sir Basil Spence, speaking to the Scottish Daily Express

The completed block became known to locals as "Hutchie C" and consisted of ten tower modules connected by drying green areas and arranged in two large slabs. The first residents arrived in June 1965. Over the next three decades the accommodation became difficult for the Corporation to maintain and their condition deteriorated. After harsh criticism they were demolished in 1993.

Images

  • Perspective drawing showing general view of tower blocks with statue, c1959. SC358382
  • Detail of specimen garden slab in Area C. SC676572
  • Area C from east showing façade and end of block, 1987. SC681258
  • Drawing showing south elevation, 1958. SC681266
  • Interior, 1965. SC1052233
  • Area C under construction from south along Sandyfaulds Square with tenements and small boy in foreground, 1961. SC681261
  • Oblique aerial view, 1990. SC681262
  • View from ground level of hanging balconies in Area C with child in foreground, 1965. SC438977

Video

  •  Demolition of Hutchesontown C Development in 1993 - Flash player required
    Gorbals Demolition (1m:43s)

Podcast

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Artist Toby Paterson talks about the Hutchesontown C Development
(running time 3:57)   

Crown Copyright © RCAHMS 2014