George Square and Avenues

Glasgow, UK. 2027

George Square, first laid out in the 1780s, and with the monument to the writer Sir Walter Scott as its central focus, is the prime civic space of Glasgow and the setting for the monumental City Chambers. The square is a civic, ceremonial and cultural space where Glaswegians come to relax, celebrate – and sometimes protest – but equally a tired space in need of rejuvenation in tune with the twenty-firstcentury city.

John McAslan + Partners was selected to lead an international design team commissioned to deliver the transformation of the square, and nearly 3 kilometres of surrounding streets, as part of Glasgow’s £115 million Avenues programme. This will transform the city’s landscape through new cycle lanes, green infrastructure and widened pavements, prioritizing pedestrians over vehicles. George Square forms the focal point of this radical initiative, which aims to broaden the appeal of Glasgow as a place to live, work and invest, and to counter a decline experienced by many city centres resulting from the rise of internet shopping – a trend intensified by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Glasgow hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021, and the George Square project reflects the city’s own commitment to sustainability. It has been closely examined at every stage in terms of its environmental impact. Sustainability and response to climate change were strong drivers of the brief, alongside a fundamental commitment to community engagement and dialogue, informing the process of design and involving extended public consultation. The aim is to reinvent George Square as a vibrant, culturally and socially relevant civic heart for the twenty-first century, accessible to all.

George Square and the adjacent Vincent Street will be transformed by the introduction of tree planting and rain gardens, with the currently treeless urban streetscape re-created as a place where nature and its processes are integrated into the urban scene. The widened pavements and newly pedestrianized areas at the eastern and western ends of the square will provide direct access on foot from the pedestrianized Buchanan Street – a prime shopping destination – channelling the energy of Glasgow’s retail heart into its prime civic space. JMP’s aim is to make the square a compelling place to visit, both for local people and for those from further afield – it will be an expression of the dynamism of Glasgow today.

The George Square project has been a long-term commitment by JMP – its first (unrealized) proposals for the square date back to 2012. The decision to proceed with it, as a key component in a radical makeover of Glasgow’s commercial heart, reflects the confidence of the city in its future. The square, for all its civic significance, has been a somewhat static element in the city centre. This project will put it where it belongs – as the true heart of Glasgow.