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Final designs for George Square revamp go on show

SIX internationally-renowned design firms have put forward their £15 million visions for the future of the historic yet tired civic heart of Scotland's largest city – but which one will be chosen?

VISION:  The six shortlisted designs include fountains, pavilions, wooded areas and even a surface based on the Glasgow tartan -- but some or all of the statues will be moved.
VISION: The six shortlisted designs include fountains, pavilions, wooded areas and even a surface based on the Glasgow tartan -- but some or all of the statues will be moved.

The designs by the companies taking part in the international competition to redevelop Glasgow's George Square have gone on display ahead of the winner being announced next week.

Fountains, pavilions, wooded areas, installations and some reworking of its statues will vie for the judges' affections in the bid to bring back the square's "lost grandeur" before the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

One design even replaces the distinctive red asphalt with a surface which, when seen from above, forms a tartan.

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

But, crucially, the shortlist is anonymous, with the judging panel making its decision blind to the design team behind it.

Perhaps most controversially, the statues which have been in George Square for the best part of two centuries will be either clustered, reduced in number or – as is the case in several submissions – removed entirely.

According to civic leaders, the winner – to be announced on January 18 – will "develop a final design for the square which will further enhance Glasgow's reputation as an international city".

The judging panel includes T in the Park's Geoff Ellis; David Mackay of MBM Architects, designers of the 1992 Olympic village in Barcelona; Professor Andy McMillan, former head of the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow; David Harding, a Glasgow School of Art academic; and city council leader Gordon Matheson.

It is expected redevelopment work will be carried out in two stages, with the first being finished before the 2014 Games.

The first entrant would see fewer than half the statues –including Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Scott Monument – moved to the southern side of the square to form a gallery'. A key element would be a mirrored pool at the square's western end and kiosks, shelters, information points, a "whisper chamber" and "play dome".

The second sees all but five statues and the Scott Monument removed, with fountains and pop-up cafes, and massive "light masts and elevated light ribbons' on Caithness stone.

Another has most statues retained but strung along the northern edge, along with the Scott Monument. The red tarmac would be replaced by coloured tiles, a pavilion stretching along the southern boundary and a fountain platform.

The final submission sees all statues removed, four diagonal avenues meeting at a water feature in the centre, and flower beds around the perimeter.

The designs are on show at the Lighthouse centre in Glasgow.

Mr Matheson said: "The calibre of the six designs is very high and I'm sure whichever one is chosen, Glaswegians will have a George Square to be proud of.

"Each bidder has a wealth of international experience and all six have delivered a number of eye-catching civic spaces acclaimed by peers and public alike. The prestige of the firms competing is a clear indication of just how iconic it is around the world.

"It is absolutely essential we choose the right team to create a new George Square – a George Square fit for the 21st Century."

Graeme Hendry, leader of the council's SNP group, said: "I would encourage the public to visit and make sure the judges get to hear their opinions.

"From one that looks like it wants Glaswegians to walk on water to another that seems to feature the Big Brother eye they all contain design features that will be welcomed and others that will get folk talking. Personally I welcome those that combine looking forward with some of our history by restoring at least some green space and statues."

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