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Designers battle for city square's £15m overhaul

THE teams behind a New York park built on an elevated railway line, the revitalisation of Beirut's war-torn waterfront and the restoration of several London landmarks have been short-listed to redevelop Glasgow's George Square.

NEW LOOK: Firms bidding to revamp George Square include the designers of New York's High Line park and the architects behind the restoration of Glasgow School of Art.
NEW LOOK: Firms bidding to revamp George Square include the designers of New York's High Line park and the architects behind the restoration of Glasgow School of Art.

Six firms, including one each from France and the US, have been chosen for the £15 million transformation project, which will result in the square's statues and monuments being removed. The first of two phases will be completed in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Officials at the city council are delighted with the calibre of submissions, with the six whittled down from 35 bids from as far afield as Australia, the US and Sweden.

They also hope details of the submissions will move the discussions around George Square on from the statues and their place in the city's history and concerns the revamp is commercially driven.

The designs will be displayed in the Lighthouse architecture centre in Glasgow in January.

Among the finalists is award-winning Glasgow-based JM Architects, whose recent work includes the restoration of the Glasgow School of Art, while several firms have been involved in projects around the London 2012 Olympics.

The New York-based James Corner Field Operations is behind one of the city's quirkier civic schemes, a 1.5 mile-long park, known as the High Line, built on a section of the former elevated New York Central Railroad and running along the lower west side of Manhattan to the Javits Convention Center.

Another bidder, Gustafson Porter, created The Shoreline Walk in Beirut, a pedestrian promenade route that follows the old coastline which became a dumping ground in the 1976 to 1991 Lebanese civil war.

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: "The calibre of the companies competing to redevelop George Square clearly outlines just how iconic it is around the world. Each bidder has a wealth of international experience.

"It is absolutely essential we choose the very best designer-led team to create a new George Square fit for the 21st century."

Those on the shortlist had to answer seven questions addressing previous experience in successful design and delivery of major public realm work, experience of "balancing innovative design and practical solutions", a history of designing and delivering "major event spaces", a track record of cost control and value for money, completing projects of a similar size and scale on time and "consortium experience of working together".

The council said removing the statues, except the Cenotaph, at least on a temporary basis, would allow the winning design and construction to be efficiently carried out and also "allow a comprehensive conservation plan of statues to be implemented in partnership with Historic Scotland".

Up to £5m will be spent on the early delivery of phase one of the George Square redevelopment, with an additional £10m borrowed against future business rates income.

The shortlist

Agence Ter (France): Major international projects include Les Halles in Paris, while its design partners have worked on Cairo's Grand Egyptian Museum and the Giant's Causeway visitor centre in Northern Ireland.

Burns+Nice (UK): Responsible for recent public realm works in Leicester Square in London and new public spaces in and around London such as St Martin's Courtyard in Covent Garden, the new precinct outside the Old Bailey and Bow Courtyard. Currently working on Omonoia Square in Athens.

Gustafson Porter (UK): Designed and delivered award-winning projects including the Shoreline Walk in Lebanon's capital Beirut; the Old Market Square in Nottingham; Woolwich Square, London; Parco CityLife, Milan; and Westergasfabriek Culture Park, Amsterdam.

James Corner Field Operations (US): Projects include the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and a redevelopment of Earls Court in London, Chicago's historic Navy Pier; the High Line park in New York, a master plan for Seattle's Central Waterfront and a new waterfront development for Shenzhen in China.

JM Architects (UK): Recent work includes Glasgow School of Art, Phase 1 and public realm, Hillhead Primary School, and the redevelopment of Bonn Square in Oxford.

John McAslan and Partners (UK): Redevelopment of the Grade 1 listed King's Cross Station in London and master planner and design architect of the Stanislavsky Factory development – a mix of reusing of historic buildings in the Russian capital Moscow.

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