What is going on in Wyndford ? Barnabas Calder (in his book reviewed by Florian Urban in The Drouth August 21) tells us that Architecture, and especially the production of its materials, steel and cement, is the worst of climate change culprits, yet in Glasgow a whole estate is about to be pulled down and rebuilt. We are supposed to be on the brink of some massive changes in our way of living -but not just yet! Kelly Rappleye has organised an event which might enshrine Wyndford not so much as a cause célèbre as a cause désastre.
An upcoming film screening and discussion event for ArchiFringe’s 2023 open programme titled ‘Making Home: Glasgow’s Housing in Film & the Fight to ‘Save the Wyndford’’ looks to Glasgow’s housing histories to understand its present. Responding to ArchiFringe’s 2023 programme theme of (R)Evolution!, this screening programme aims to expand architectural perspectives on urban housing and demolition, through a wider consideration of home-making and community building.
Glasgow’s perpetual cycles of urban demolition and re-development, from the infamous slum tenement clearings to the present, have been critiqued for the social, architectural, cultural, and environmental harms they incur upon the city. Considering Scotland’s worsening and intersecting crises in housing, homelessness, energy, the cost-of-living, and climate change, the idea of destroying existent housing stock through costly and carbon-intensive demolition methods is increasingly indefensible. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s March 2023 report emphasised the environmental imperative to Retrofit existent structures. The Glasgow City Council itself has vocally committed to Retrofit ‘at the heart’ of their Housing Strategy for 2023-2028. Yet, 35% of Glasgow’s high-rise housing schemes have been demolished since 2005, and another massive demolition has been slotted for the mid-century Modernist towers of the Wyndford estates in Glasgow’s West End area.
Weary refrains calling for urban regeneration through large-scale demolition reveal a pattern of cultural and historical amnesia. Political and social accountability is misplaced unto the built environment, stigmatising ‘tenement slums’ or ‘sink estates’, while the underlying causes of poverty and social exclusion remain unaddressed. This wilful amnesia decides what is expedient to forget—whether ignoring the histories inscribed within urban structures—or choosing to erase structures altogether. Scottish-Barbadian artist Alberta Whittle calls this phenomenon the ‘luxury of amnesia’ that allowed Scotland to repress or ignore its integral role in the Atlantic Slave Trade, despite the evidence stamped across Glasgow’s central civic architecture. In the wake of Glasgow’s mass demolitions of mid-century high rise housing estates throughout the 2000’s, photographer Chris Leslie’s photo project ‘Disappearing Glasgow’ (2008-2016) memorialises the dispersed communities that called these sites home, attempting to counter the wilful amnesia of urban demolition.
Looking to film as a tool for collective social learning, this screening event will ask what historical archival films, artists’ moving image, and documentary film about Glasgow can teach us about the deeper social roots of urban processes. Two films from the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive, ‘Places… Or People’ (1975) and ‘If Only We Had The Space’ (1974), produced by the city of Glasgow in the mid-1970s, mark a new period following Glasgow’s the 1960s mass tenement ‘slum clearances,’ and subsequent proliferation of high rise tower estates and suburban New Town developments. While the films’ dated voice-over narrations carry uncomfortable notes of civic propaganda, the interviews within each archival film reveal another story, in which Glasgow’s urban tenants and residents are forced to take matters into their own hands, in the face of political neglect. The films highlight grassroots, community-led initiatives that began fighting for restoration and refurbishment of their housing, including the Back Court Environmental Improvement Scheme and the tenement renovation efforts that led to a government grant programme supporting home-owner and landlord Retrofits.
Connecting these historical housing initiatives to Glasgow’s present, a 2019 artists’ film ‘A Love’ from Glasgow-based artist Anne-Marie Copestake offers a different perspective on home and community in Glasgow’s Laurieston/ New Gorbals area just South of the River Clyde. In Super 8 film, Copestake tenderly traces community nodes of Glasgow’s Somalian diaspora, reflecting on the quiet moments and everyday practices—cooking, playing, grooming hair—by which people make home, and temporary communities are improvised, throughout and beyond successive cycles of urban change and development.
Finally, a short documentary from GSA’s Mackintosh School of Architecture student Innes Dunlop captures the history of Glasgow’s Wyndford high rise estates. The Wyndford estate inhabits the former site of the Maryhill Barracks, and maintains this compound-like structure in an enclosure resting at the end of the Kelvin walkway, which snakes through Glasgow’s affluent West End, and connects the estates to the Botanic gardens. The remaining residents fighting to save the towers, which hold 600 homes, have highlighted the contradiction between Glasgow’s Retrofit commitments and this demolition. A carbon analysis report commissioned by the Wyndford Resident’s Union and conducted pro-bono by not-for-profit EALA Impacts CIC, ‘found the impact of the demolition and rebuild is nearly twice that of retrofitting – at approximately 22,465 tonnes CO2 emitted, against 12,098 tonnes CO2 due to retrofitting, which is 46% higher.’ Dunlop’s documentary shines a light on the financial incentives behind Glasgow’s demolition-drive in a poignant interview with Nick Durie of the Wyndford Resident’s Union.
Following the screening, a panel discussion with Innes Dunlop, Nick Durie, 22-year Wyndford resident William Doolan, and moderated by GSA Prof. and housing film historian Johnny Rodger, will discuss where the struggle to ‘Save the Wyndford’ is today, and reflect on common threads of Glasgow’s housing and home-making histories and present within the screened films.
‘Making Home…’ is a provocation to think beyond housing, towards the people, practices, and relationships that make home. These films help us see home-making as collective practices of care—(R)Evolution! as restoration, refurbishment, and attention to what already exists around us.
 ‘Third Retrofit Summit to Be Held in Glasgow’, Scottish Housing News, 20 February 2023, https://www.scottishhousingnews.com/articles/third-retrofit-summit-to-be-held-in-glasgow.
 Chris Leslie, ‘Glasgow Homes under the Jackhammer – a Photo Essay’, The Guardian, 18 March 2022, sec. Art and design, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/mar/18/glasgow-homes-under-the-jackhammer-a-photo-essay.
 ‘Alberta Whittle: Deep Dive (Pause) Uncoiling Memory – Announcements – e-Flux’, accessed 12 June 2023, https://www.e-flux.com/announcements/462709/alberta-whittledeep-dive-pause-uncoiling-memory/.
 ‘Retrofitting City Tower Blocks “greener Option” Claims Report’, HeraldScotland, 23 November 2022, https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/23143288.maryhill-tower-blocks-retrofitting-greener-option-says-report/.