Disappearing Glasgow: documenting the demolition of a city’s troubled past

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Disappearing Glasgow: documenting the demolition of a city's troubled past
The high rise flats in Sighthill in the north of Glasgow. Half of the flats have been demolished but several flats remain in the area.

Demolition is familiar to Glaswegians. In the previous round of mass demolition in the 1960s and 70s, tens of thousands of Glaswegians were decanted from slums into new schemes and high-rise flat developments. These represented a utopian vision for social housing – complete with kitchen and indoor bathroom, central heating and mixer taps, they were seen as a solution to some of the worst slum conditions in Europe at that time.

By the turn of the 21st century, many of these high-rise flats were the solution that had become the problem. The simple wrecking ball was replaced with multimillion pound demolition contracts, explosives developed by Nasa, half-mile exclusion zones and demolition spectacles for all the community to watch. But the simple ethos of “knock-em-down and build-em-back-up-again” remained the same.

Glasgow has the highest concentration of residential flats in the UK and, since 2006, a quarter of the city’s high-rise housing has been demolished. Councillors, officials and local media celebrate the death of a high-rise as progress. There is little time for contemplation or nostalgia in a city that markets its renaissance through trendy bars, bistros and shops, servicing a booming and diverse cultural scene. []

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