The dear green place?
May 17, 2005 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Best laid schemes? Back in 1945 the Bruce Plan [click on images for video footage] was a radical proposal to knock down, and then rebuild, the Victorian centre of the city of Glasgow. The city’s slums* would be cleared; new towns* would be established; Glasgow would rise again, triumphant, once again the second city of the Empire*. In 1971*, there were grand visions of the Glasgow of the future; the Glasgow of tomorrow would be a bright, shining new city, and the Clyde* would once again be something to be proud of. A fascinating film archive of the Glasgow of the 20th century. *All links contain embedded video goodness.
posted by Len (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow. Thanks, Len. What a neat site. Wouldn't it be something if all our cities were so well documented!
posted by tidecat at 6:12 PM on May 17, 2005

thanks--excellent stuff! they did redevelop tho (or did they just gentify?)--i walked thru model townhouses near the people's palace and met lots of people who've were priced out of neighborhoods they grew up in, when i was there.

In Montreal recently, i saw a great exhibit on all the plans they had--many of them partially fulfilled.
posted by amberglow at 6:19 PM on May 17, 2005

i've been watching these movies all night--wonderful! : >
posted by amberglow at 8:28 PM on May 17, 2005

I visited Glasgow for the first time last year, and recently read Bill Bryson's "Notes From a Small Island," where he praises Glascow to the high heavens. These are interesting films, which contain some nostalgia and heartbreak, but show a city transformed for the better. The creators of the site ask whether the Bruce Plan was necessary, and I am not qualified to make that judgment, but things were looking pretty bad when the plan was adopted.
posted by Gordon Smith at 12:33 AM on May 18, 2005

Great site -- thanks!
posted by languagehat at 7:07 AM on May 18, 2005

Fantastic find!

As a Glaswegian born and bred it's a fascinating insight into the past and a stark reminder of how much the city's had to change in the past decade to rid itself of the slum image - still got a long way to go in some areas but at least we can laugh at ourselves!
posted by Nugget at 10:13 AM on May 18, 2005

Great stuff Len!
*adds another link to "modernist distopias" folder*
I wonder, if I had lived in the 50s, would I have supported these plans? The propoganda is very compelling.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:58 AM on May 18, 2005

Ahh good old Glasgow - here's a bit they missed
posted by Lanark at 12:58 PM on May 18, 2005

Amberglow – you're right about the gentrification. Flats in the city's west end are absurdly priced – a friend of mine recently bought a 2 bedroom place for ~£170k, roughly $300k, give or take; cheap by London or NY standards, arguably, but twice as expensive as it would have been only a decade ago, and there are one and two bedroom properties on the riverfront currently going for £350k ($600k), which just frankly takes the piss – and in the east end, which was traditionally either the preserve of industry or cheap housing, it's getting almost as bad. Property developers are focussing on building housing for "young professionals" at the expense of families, which ultimately will probably end up fulfilling the dream of 1960s and '70s planners of eradicating the city centre of actual, y'know, people.

And Gordon Smith, yes, Glasgow has definitely transformed for the better, but there have been some catastrophic mistakes made along the way: whole sections of Glasgow's city centre population were ripped out and displaced to new towns by by planners who were convinved that an architectural and social year zero was necessary. The Bruce Plan, though its intentions were good, was, thankfully, was never implemented: it would have meant the razing to the ground of the whole city centre, with everything architecturally significant demolished, including countless buildings by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (including the iconic Glasgow School Of Art), Alexander "Greek" Thompson (Mackintosh's often overlooked predecessor, whose classical revivalism did so much to shape the city's look) and buildings by Robert Adam, amongst others.
posted by Len at 2:27 PM on May 18, 2005 happens here all the time too, Len. The middle gets squeezed and the poor shunted aside into shitty projects (or they double up). It's sad--we had Robert Moses as our own Bruce, and he bulldozed (and killed by running highways thru) many neighborhoods, but was stopped in Manhattan. Our tenement apts (where i type this) now rent for thousands and have only been improved on the surface (new windows, paint, and kitchen appliances). The march of progress? ugh.

I wonder how big a role emigration played in Glasgow's story tho--was the fight against slum clearance and all of this hurt by Canada's wooing, etc?
posted by amberglow at 2:50 PM on May 18, 2005

(and i have to go to the Scotland St. School next time i'm there, after seeing that movie) : >
posted by amberglow at 2:51 PM on May 18, 2005

Hmmm. Not sure how much of a part emigration played in clearing Glasgow of its city centre population. The majority of emigration from Scotland – to America, to Canada, to Australia and New Zealand – happened from roughly 1760 to 1900. Indeed, one of the reasons that Glasgow grew in population during the 19th century was the clearance of people from the highlands (which is well known about) and lowlands, ie central Scotland and the Borders (which is hardly mentioned in the history books), during the industrial revolution; the migration from post-war Glasgow was to new towns on its outskirts such as Cumbernauld and East Kilbride, rather than to foreign territory. Slum clearance was more of a local thing, and was designed as much to destroy the power Glasgow (and, by extension, its inhabitants) had over the surrounding area as anything else. The unionised, heavily socialist and politically active workforce of Glasgow had already caused problems in the the 1920s and 1930s (see here for a history of "Red Clydeside", and the part Glasgow played in the general strike of 1926), and the authorities didn't want a repeat show after WWII. It was easier to break up the workforce, both physically and psychologically, by moving them out to the suburbs and the surrounding area, than it was to promise them some new promised land, in the form of Canada or anywhere else.
posted by Len at 4:36 PM on May 18, 2005

posted by amberglow at 4:59 PM on May 18, 2005

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