The Walking Glasgow: urban walkability through appropriating laneways in the Blythswood gridiron

People walk in the city. They utilise and appropriate the built form to serve the spatial requirement for their social activities. The urban narratives tell the stories of urban development and the socio-political fabric of life(s) behind them. With interest in pedestrian spatial justice and urban informality, the project investigates Glasgow’s lanes’ potential to improve urban walkability.

Developed in the 1970s, the Blythswood gridiron has changed over time, often with the Georgian townhouse outliving its original use resulting in repurposing or replacing building and plot amalgamation. While lanes in different cities are adapted to suit contemporary lifestyles, Glasgow’s laneway remains a ‘non-place’ associated with service functions. The contemporary Blythswood gridiron display such ‘disappearing’ laneways, yet opportunity in the form of unbuilt, low buildings and constrained lanes in several Blythswood blocks.

Through the typo-morphological lens of Lefebvre’s ‘appropriation’ concept, the research-led design project suggests an alternative of laneways for the pedestrian walking experience, promoting the ‘festive’ ludic city. As cities embrace sustainable developments in the 21st century, the suitable and functional laneway that embraces ‘play’ married to specific morphologies could particularise cities as places and improve their overall walkability.

People Make Glasgow, one step at the time,

lane atmosphere & mews building's sectional view

The proposal aims to create the walkable urban environment that works during the day and night, for both the general public and the residents

lane design intervention: axonomical view

A mix-media axonometrical drawing showing the project's ground floor plan against the exisiting plane of lane and street elevation. The design intervention suggests the Glasgow's Sauchiehall Lane as the (alternative) extension of the city's pedestrian network, contributing to the overall urban walkability.

design tactic: block scale

Combining the study of appropriator, acitivities and typomorphplogical profile, the project suggest different version of the urban block's inner laneway to suit the underlying social and spatial need in each individual and their neighboring blocks.

design tactic: street scale

The research suggests a smaller-grain version of the urban block, providing the finer mix of functions (activities), users (appropriators) and typomorphological profile for the more refined walking experience in the civic environment.

exisiting vs. design proposal

The proposal includes mid-block public square, people's art gallery, skatepark and a carpark-turned arcade.

design tactic: grid scale

The project was meant to propose the (alternative) extensions of the existing initiatives, all in the interest of promoting urban walkability and encouraging the appropriation of laneways for recreational or commercial use, which then, in turn, activate and revitalise the currently much-abandoned laneway.

Design tactic: grid scale

Putting the 'eyes' back to the lane and providing space (and place) for social engagement bring back the essence of the block's inner space and the underlying civic life. Ideally, the design drawing was not necessarily meant to be taken as a whole but block by block, all of which to eventually create the public interior for the users (something which has gradually been missing from the Blythswood gridiron over time).

Resaerch-led design project: the local voice(s)

The proposal raises questions about the current way planners and designers consider the urban walking experience and encourages differential conversations on how contemporary cities might move forward in sustainable urban development. And though the project may not answer every question raised, it got us thinking about how we could use the mid-block path differently.