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Aedas Bothwell Plaza Interview

One of the largest projects on the go in Glasgow right now is a massive redevelopment of Bothwell Plaza by Aedas, the scale of which is almost unprecedented outside of London.

Skyscrapernews caught up with Aedas director Richard Blair who had more to tell us about the scheme they've come up with and how it's developing.

Skyscrapernews.com - Starting off, the feeling that I get from looking at the images is that the building is very built out across the plot. To me it seems like it's almost closed parts of the street off from it. You've got the huge tower element on one side. Do you think that relates very well to the surroundings?

Richard Blair - Yes we do because we've done extensive analysis of the streetscapes in the area, we've done extensive analysis of views to the site from a variety of locations and we feel that it's a very good response to the streetscape.

Skyscrapernews.com - What drove the desire to have an office tower element that makes up the main bulk?

Richard Blair - What drove it was we didn't want to have a simple block on the site. What we wanted to do was to create a differentiation between the two uses on the site but yet still have a building that looked as one. That was really a brief that was handed to us by the planning department.

Skyscrapernews.com - So they wanted something that I suppose was landmark in a way?

Richard Blair - Yes.

Skyscrapernews.com - Why didn't you go taller?

Richard Blair - We did go taller, in fact, we had a conversation about a 35 storey building at one time.

The problem is because of where the block sits in the city, it sits immediately behind a very important landmark building which is five or six blocks away from the site, when you look along that particular street this important building would be framed by a taller tower and would dramatically affect the setting of this particular building, the building is called GOMA which is the Glasgow museum of modern art.

Skyscrapernews.com - Is that one of the reasons I suppose which you've gone for a design that is really a conservative, restrained look? You haven't really gone for anything that screams "look at me," like Ian Simpson went for.

Richard Blair - I would say that we actually think for Glasgow the design is quite radical, but also one of the things that we've wrestled with is the fact that although it's an entire city block within Glasgow, the city block itself is not particularly big and that has restricted us in what we've been able to do in terms of commercial floor plates etc.

Skyscrapernews.com - So you have all these things holding you back and you're trying to balance them out against each other and so on? What drove the actual design we see now?

Richard Blair - It was really driven by our knowledge of the area, we are the architects for example of the Anderston masterplan which is immediately next door, we also know what other architects have proposed on sites immediately adjacent, for example the Aurora building or the 141 building, what we wanted to do was in many respects to reflect what has already been done but also create something with a bit more of a landmark, that was why we created the glass fašade.

The planners were very keen to attempt what they call "a tower in the round" but we felt that because of how the tower sat on the site we couldn't go for the tower in the round, that's why we've got a two-sided tower.

Skyscrapernews.com - What you had was the glass walls and the lifts zooming up it?

Richard Blair - At the moment the scheme that is in the public domain does not have the lifts on the outside walls. The planning department are keen for the facades to have activity, they do not like cores touching the facades because it creates blank sections.

If you've got a glass fašade they want to see it either as occupation space or as activity, so we are juggling that brief at present. And of course, the other thing we've got to do is come up with some sort of night-time lighting scheme.

Skyscrapernews.com - L.E.Ds is that?

Richard Blair - Yes.

Skyscrapernews.com - What sort of system are you going to have?

Richard Blair - To be honest I'm not aware of the detail of that, but we know we have a budget to spend which is quite a tidy sum on fašade lighting and should the lifts end up being scenic lifts that travel up the glass fašade they will all be part and parcel of that design.

Skyscrapernews.com - It sounds to me like the scheme is still under design and it's going to change more, is that going to be the case?

Richard Blair - I would say that the overall form of the building, the overall aesthetic of the building is not going to change. We are doing very detailed design on things like the core, what you see know and what we will build will not look any different to the lay-person on the outside.

Skyscrapernews.com - How are you going to manage the public space?

Richard Blair - What we are trying to create is a public space within the building and create an internal space that invites people in so that the internal will become some form of, I don't know... we're creating a feel so that it really is an integrated mixed-use development.

Somebody in the office is as happy walking through the hotel portion of the building to get to their office in the same way that a guest in the hotel is happy walking through a door that isn't necessarily the reception desk of the hotel but they can still get to their bedroom. Off the central space will be a whole series of bars and cafes and other things, boutiques that are associated with a five-star hotel but you would still see the office entrance etc from this.

Skyscrapernews.com - So really you want to animate the inside of it as much as you can?

Richard Blair - That's what we're doing, it's not something that you'd need a key fob to get in, any member of the public can go there in the same way that people using the offices if they don't have a conference room in their office they could go and rent one of the conference rooms from the hotel, if it's a larger company, say a major accountancy firm takes office space in it, they want a major conference they can use the function sweet that's in the hotel.

We actually see what is radical about the design is putting a hotel and an office block within the one building and getting a mix of uses, you know, an employee in the office block can arrive, go to the gym in the hotel, meet somebody for a coffee and then go upstairs to their work, it's the life of the building on the site that is the unique concept to Glasgow.

It happens in other places, you see bits of it happening in Canary Wharf and other developments in London but you don't see the mix of how you blend these things that comes together.

Skyscrapernews.com - You're right, it's very unusual, unfortunately. I imagine this can be a really difficult job to balance, all the pedestrian flows and so on. But the public space would be a huge open public space inside the building?

Richard Blair - Yes. It's one of the things that hasn't been picked up by the people looking at the images because you can't see it. We're actually in the process of doing a fly-through of it which we think will sell it very nicely.

The bottom two floors are glass, you will be able to see in, it's entirely transparent, you can go in there, use the facilities, the functions that we put in there will encourage people to go in, the more people you get in the more people you will get in.

Skyscrapernews.com - Thanks for your time Richard.
Bothwell Plaza, Glasgow
Bothwell Plaza, Glasgow