‘If you meet anyone in a pub or at a party who says he is an architect,’ advised Auberon Waugh, ‘punch him in the face.’ Typically, the late, great Spectator columnist articulated an important truth: modern architects have scarred our cityscapes with some truly horrendous buildings, none more so than Glasgow’s notorious Red Road flats. What better way to mark the opening of this summer’s Commonwealth Games than to blow them up?
Five of the six blocks will be blown up on 23 July. These five are already empty. The sixth, which currently houses asylum seekers, is due for demolition at a later date. ‘We are going to wow the world, with the demolition of the Red Road flats set to play a starring role,’ said Glasgow’s Labour council leader, Gordon Matheson. ‘Their demolition will all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area.’ For every Briton, red or blue, this is a true cause for celebration. Our infatuation with high-rise housing has had catastrophic consequences. Eradicating these eyesores will feel like waking from a bad dream.
I was a toddler in south-east London when the Red Road flats were built, in the late 1960s. Woolwich, where I spent my early years, was subjected to a similar programme of ‘urban renewal’. Tidy Victorian terraces were demolished and their occupants rehoused in bland new tower blocks. Sure, these new flats had central heating and proper bathrooms, but the social infrastructure was shattered. We’re still living with the consequences today.
My mum had bought our two-up two-down with a loan from the headmistress of her New Cross grammar school, and so, unlike my classmates, we never relocated to this new suburb in the sky.