Friday 30 April 2021


Colin MacFarlane The Real Gorbals Story True Tales from Glasgow's Meanest Streets Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 2007.

The Gorbals, Glasgow.

1882 map of The Gorbals, Glasgow.


Who murdered the Gorbals? 


This is the title of the last chapter. It was a question the author found spray-painted in giant letters onto one of the derelict tenement buildings.

The Gorbals.


A couple who had run a corner shop in Hospital Street stood and looked on aghast as their tenement and shop were flattened. The tearful woman said to me, 'They've destroyed ma tenement where ma family stayed for mair than three generations and they've smashed up ma wee shop. Now they've moved us tae a council housing estate out of this and we're only pawns in their game. The Gorbals means nothing tae them, it's aw aboot them makin' a bloody profit.'

We found it hard to understand how they could knock down a place which had its own distinctive history and way of life. Numerous majestic, magnificent buildings were torn down without a second thought. Indeed some of the buildings were comparable to the ones which still stand in highly regarded parts of Edinburgh.

. . .

the annihilation of the Gorbals . . . really started in earnest . . . in 1961. At that time, it was reported that there were 98.9 persons per acre in the Gorbals, compared with 18.7 in Kelvinside and 11.9 in Pollokshields. Distinguished Scottish architect Basil Spence was given a £1.3 million contract by Glasgow Corporation for a new-look Gorbals. For inspiration, Spence made a special excursion to Marseilles to see Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation. A Corporation spokesperson said the French buildings might be the solution to the blueprint of the new Gorbals.

Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation, Marseilles.

Basil Spence's Queen Elizabeth Square housing.

Queen Elizabeth Square today

Queen Elizabeth Square Master Plan (after the demolition of Basil Spence's towers)

Basil Spence's Queen Elizabeth Square housing.


Many of the former tenement dwellers moved into the Basil Spence-designed high-rise at Queen Elizabeth Square, which eventually accommodated 10,000 people, much fewer than the 27,000 who had lived in the tenements there before. The new buildings also changed the atmosphere of the community. People complained that the flats had left them living in 'streets in the sky',* with the friendliness and intimacy of the old days gone forever. Spence said that the multi-storey flats would 'look like a great ship in sail' on wash days. People found this observation patronising, as he must have been thinking of the Gorbals many years before, when people hung their washing out in the Glasgow Green. In 1966, downhearted residents told the papers that vandalism was rife, blaming it on the lack of amenities for young people.

Basil Spence's Queen Elizabeth Square housing.


In the 1930s, the Gorbals had an official population of 90,000 and was served by 1,000 shops and 130 pubs. But by the end of the 1960s, that would have changed, with most of them completely destroyed in the most uncaring and malicious fashion.

The Gorbals.


Many families who were angry or depressed about emigrating to the new council estates didn't stay long. They thought up every conceivable plan to return to what remained of the Gorbals. This included giving bungs to factors (bribes to officials) who still had buildings which would not be redeveloped for several years.

Basil Spence's Queen Elizabeth Square housing.


'It's the end of an era,' Mrs. Carey, my former neighbour, said. 'They've managed tae destroy one of the greatest places on earth.' She pointed to the new high-rise flats. 'Look at them - how dae they expect people tae live there? They're no real hooses, they're boxes.'

Basil Spence's Queen Elizabeth Square housing.


' . . . there's an old saying: if you stay long enough in a place, you become that place!'

The Gorbals.

Basil Spence's Queen Elizabeth Square housing.

Lest we forget.


Queen Elizabeth Square housing by Basil Spence was demolished in 2015.

Construction took place between 1963 and 1965 after being approved in 1960.

It was opened by Queen Elizabeth in person.

It lasted just fifty years, and is despised.

The tenements of The Gorbals were built over the gardens and fields of the once fashionable and prosperous area of Glasgow in the 1840s and 50s.

They lasted over one hundred years, and are remembered fondly.

The demolition of Basil Spence's Queen Elizabeth Square housing.


Streets-in-the-sky were conceptualized by architects Alison and Peter Smithson as collective space, an articulation between individual and civitas. ... The Smithsons continued to explore the idea in several urban projects, only to put it to built form in Robin Hood Gardens (1968–1972).

Saturday 24 April 2021


When first published, the project was described as a granny flat at Burleigh Heads in Queensland. The article - see: - was reviewed in The description of the work, ‘Granny Flat, Burleigh Heads, Queensland,’ was a refrain that kept appearing as the project was promoted in numerous other publications and on various sites.^ Peter Hyatt, the author of the original publication in Steel Profile, even waxed lyrical about the context: ‘In suburban Burleigh Heads, within earshot of the surf on a clear evening, Clare Design’s Granny Flat brings all of the stars into alignment.’ Where was he?

Knowing Burleigh Heads fairly well, one wondered where the granny flat might be. It is always important to see the broader context of any building: place is an integral part of the experience of a building – the neighbours; the region; the suburb; the town; the city: the aspect and prospect. The idea to seek out the particular context of a project was stimulated by an interest in Street View, and the critique that the understanding of ‘architecture’ is being changed by the special way of seeing that architects appear to promote: see – and Modernism seems to like singularity rather than community:; and

Burleigh Heads

The images that accompanied the text in the magazine, and those that appeared on other sites, all carefully excluded the context of this granny flat with a precise framing of clever, wide-angled photographs: it could have been anywhere. Only the suburb named as ‘Burleigh Heads’ identified the location. Very few visual clues remained; so the search of Burleigh Heads started on Google Earth, using the clue in the published text that told that the flat was ‘in suburban Burleigh Heads, not far from the rolling sea . . . in a suburban street.’ The search was not a difficult challenge, as this description limited the zone that one had to peruse: the ‘Burleigh Heads’ strip of the Gold Coast. Unfortunately, the project could not be found; the search started again: nothing. Where might it be?+

'not far from the rolling sea' at Burleigh Heads.

A reflected gable.

The adjacent rusty corrugated iron roof.

The rear house or flats and nearby palm trees.

Clare Design, (Kerry and Lindsay Clare),** had designed this building, so the company's site was opened in the hope that more precise information might become available. Here the listing of the Granny Flat included a series of photographs. These were studied closely in order to glean more about the context that might be useful in locating this place. One could see reflections of low, gabled homes typical of the Gold Coast that confirmed the ‘suburban street’ location; but it was the rusty, corrugated iron roof that stood out: there are not a lot of these on the Gold Coast where typically ‘fibro’ roofs were used on the older homes, with the newer houses being roofed in tiles or the more durable coloured corrugated sheeting. Different photos suggested other distinctive clues: there appeared to be a white, possibly newer home or flats behind the granny flat that also had some tall palm trees nearby.

The adjacent housing.

The fibro cottage 'six metres' in front of the 'Beat Box.'

There was not a lot of contextual information available from the skilfully edited images, so the text was perused. The Clare Design description was interesting:

There seems to be no similar reluctance to publicise all the spaces in, and details of this granny flat.

Granny Flat

The new two-storey pavilion has uncomplicated and flexible planning. Both levels consist of an open studio space that can be subdivided for living and sleeping and both have an attached bathroom.

Passive solar and ventilation strategies inform the pavilion’s plan and section, and lightweight materials acknowledge the character and scale of the neighbourhood beach shacks that are part of the Gold Coast story. Being more than familiar with this low density beachside suburb typology from our early years on the Sunshine Coast we find it natural to use simple forms and robust details.

This two-storey ‘box’ is placed six meters behind a 1950s fibro beach shack on a long and narrow site. The space between the two buildings is connected by a roofed deck with added battened doors that slide to screen the rear of the existing house allowing the buildings’ occupants to come together or retreat as required.

This project explores the concept of the intergenerational house, allowing an extended family of grandparents, married children and grandchildren to co-habitate within two dwellings on a 400m² suburban lot originally intended for one dwelling. The benefits are environmental (better use of resources), cost effectiveness and better social outcomes from increased density and mutual family support.

Design: 2013
Completion: 2014
Architect: Clare Design
Project Team: Lindsay Clare, Kerry Clare, David Currie, Britta Wingender
Contractor: ClareBuild
Engineer: Mark Traucnieks
Photographer: Peter Hyatt

The published detailed plan.

All the interiors are presented with the 'wide-angled' spaces usually seen in real estate brochures.

The best information in the text appeared to be: ‘This two-storey ‘box’ is placed six meters (sic) behind a 1950s fibro beach shack on a long and narrow site. . . . a 400m² suburban lot.’ So one was looking for a long, narrow site with an old ‘fibro’ home on it, located not far from the ocean. The scrutiny of Burleigh Heads had not revealed anything, so the search was extended. The question was: if not Burleigh Heads, then where? The region that needed to be studied was the narrow coastal strip of the Gold Coast that would have been developed in the 1950s: Fibro houses are found in many suburbs along the coastal strip, from Southport to Surfers Paradise, Mermaid Beach, Palm Beach to Coolangatta.# As an approximation, this meant the zone along the coast comprising only a couple of blocks back from the beach. The challenge turns out to be not too different to the "Where's Wally?" question, the equivalent of the search for a needle in a haystack.

Wally at Surfers Paradise : Where's Wally?

The Gold Coast
Where's the granny flat?

Where might one start? Why not look north and south of Burleigh Heads? Could the reference to the suburb have been muddled with some flexible idea of its boundary; perhaps generalised as the central zone of the coastal strip? It is interesting that ‘Burleigh Heads’ is not identified in the Heritage Guidelines as a suburb that had fibro houses, although there are still a few to be seen in the area. The date mentioned in the project overview, 2014, was useful, as it suggested that there would be no confusion with any differences between the Google Earth view and Street View: see -

One looked north of Burleigh Heads, but the project could not be discovered. As one moved into Mermaid Beach, the sites became smaller and shorter; so the search shifted to the suburbs south of Burleigh Heads. Here one discovered a mix of long and short sites; the search continued. Only the couple of blocks bordering the ocean were of interest, but could the search be limited to even a smaller zone? One thought that if the site had been on the east of the Gold Coast Highway, then the text might have boasted about there being an ‘ocean frontage,’ or could possibly have expressed some other notion of convenient adjacency to the beach; but the words were ‘not far from the rolling sea.’ This suggested that the site was on the west side of the Highway. These areas south of Tallebudgera Creek were studied.

One was looking for a long, narrow, fully-developed site with a cottage and a 'box' behind it;
complete with an adjacent rusty corrugated iron roof.

Palm Beach, Queensland

At last a likely location appeared at Palm Beach: might that be the rusty roof? The building forms looked credible. The 3D view of Earth was opened; yes, this was the granny flat, the ‘box’ with the yellow detailing seen in the publications: the clues of the adjacent features were confirmed. The view could be manipulated to allow the project to be studied from all angles; Street View showed the more particular, more familiar experienced context. Why had this location been described as ‘Burleigh Heads’? What had Peter Hyatt been doing? Might it have been that Burleigh Heads was a better known location, with it now assuming the tile of ‘The New Noosa’? Could the idea have been to avoid any confusion with Palm Beach in Florida? Had Hyatt seen any more than the photographs? Had he really heard the surf, or could it have been the highway traffic?

'not far from the rolling sea' . . . 'within earshot of the surf.'

'The space between the two buildings is connected by a roofed deck.'

Street View was perused. Yes, one could agree with the description: ‘. . . a large statement . . . artfully composed in a suburban street not known for such quiet innovation.’ Glimpses of the ‘box’ could be seen from the street, but not much of the 1950s fibro house was exposed. This low, gabled building seemed to have been shrouded in slats and painted a charcoal colour. One expected that, given the reports of the Clare’s love of the beach shack, that the raw and naive beauty of this building might have been on display instead of having what looked like a smartly refurbished shack transformed with the stylish qualities and sleek ambitions made clear in the new granny flat: The buildings had an economy of construction and attention to detail, and they developed their own character and architectural language. (Lindsay Clare).# The front fence and gate were corrugated steel just like the cladding of the flat, unlike anything nearby. One wondered why the character and language had been changed, disguised, when they had been so lauded.

The fibro cottage with the 'box' behind.

A glimpse of the 'box' from the street.

The 'box' as it appears behind the neighbour's residence.

The slatted fibro cottage.

Looking west along the street.

The front fence.

View of the 'box' from an adjacent backyard.

The surrounding open spaces are all the private backyards of the eight neighbouring blocks.

The descriptive words, ‘a large statement,’ left one pondering. The project was impressive in its planning and detailing: it filled the site. The Earth view showed how the scheme seemed to use the open space of the adjacent backyards for its comfortable, sunny success: the 'box' could be seen to loom over these nearby private places as the rear neighbour's building had apparently previously done to this backyard.* If one applied the test of precedent to this set of housing blocks, with each backyard being developed likewise, then one gets the impression that the whole area could become a cluttered cluster of undesirable development, with every granny flat having the same proximity as the older homes they sat behind, creating an awkwardly snug complexity that would test the 'passive solar and ventilation strategies.' It is with this understanding that questions about the Clare Design granny flat get raised. What might be the form of development that could be successfully replicated by everyone? Should a development consider others, or challenge their potential possibilities; limit their options?

The dominant stylish, backyard form - the neighbours' view.

Backyard supervision?

Can the Palm Beach granny flat be a precedent, a model, or is it just a one off? Its promotion in the publications seeks to display its exclusive qualities as an item; the beautiful ‘box’ that it is, free of any context. The basis of this critique of segregation, the search for and emphasis of singularity in things bespoke, is best exposed by Google Earth and Street View which carry no pretence or personal ambitions: Earth and Street View highlight the difference in the intent of perception. Here one sees what is before one’s eyes, without review, distortion, expectation, or editing. The street vistas may appear ordinarily crude, and somewhat brutal to ‘sensitive’ eyes that seek the preconceived, managed order of self-consciously arranged, stylish compositions; but if we continue to ignore our real world, our everyday, then we are promoting only a dream, a hopeful vision; possibly a deception. Our suburbs are our cities, those places that locate us, and others too. To deny their identity, their community, however muddled this might be, is to formulate a denial in order to structure a fantasy, a maybe, ‘let’s pretend’ world, where 'within earshot of the surf . . . a clear evening . . . brings all of the stars into alignment'  – if only. For this to be envisaged, one has to ignore the neighbours, their lights and noise; and the street, its lights and noise; and the overhead electrical wiring: the context.

The other side of the street.

A glimpse of the 'box' over the neighbouring eastern property.

The fibro shack / 'box' site in the street context.

The corrugated steel fence.

Stylish compositions.

One might be able to forgive the ‘Burleigh Heads’ siting ‘oversight,’ but the promotion of the scheme in such a singularly exclusive manner does little other than to perpetuate the ‘special’ way of viewing architecture that is ‘other worldly' - ethereal. We cannot expect anything else for the profession than its being viewed as ‘elitist’ and ‘exclusive’ when architects themselves shut out, deny what is blatantly obvious to everyone, as they seek what appears to be the identity of bespoke, creative experts. We need to learn how things everyday can be inclusive and rich, special in their just being there without any self-conscious pomp, or any unusual circumstance of viewing or orchestrated isolation in what looks like the struggle to have work recognised as unique, sensitive, and meaningfully beautiful.

A peep at the neighbour's shed distracts from the artwork.

One has to be careful not to be seen to be shrewdly selective if architecture is to gain any standing in the ‘ordinary’ world which is our 'everyday' experience.

Deliberate manipulation and unintentional accidents have become indistinguishable.

Paul Virilio Strategy of Deception (see: MORE IS LESS in sidebar.)



Previous searches like this have been carried out on other projects that have been presented without a context; see -



This is 'Clare Design, Architecture firm, Elanora, QLD, AU;' not to be confused with 'Clare Designs, Wedding services, Derby, UK.'


While these fibro houses on the Gold Coast were often quite different from one another, there was usually a common element. Most of these houses were modest and unassuming, small and informal in plan rather than larger and grander. They were often owner-designed and owner-built, over many weekends. Large, elaborate houses were not normally constructed of fibro.

Fibro houses are found in many suburbs along the coastal strip, from Southport to Surfers Paradise, Mermaid Beach, Palm Beach to Coolangatta. They provide a snapshot of a particular time in the history of the Gold Coast at the middle of the 20th century, when small, unassuming houses were constructed on what must have been relatively cheap blocks of land, when the beach house was a small weekender, and not a place of permanent accommodation, and when the pace of life on the Gold Coast was much quieter than it is now.

This quote from the Queensland architect Lindsay Clare captures the contribution of the fibro house to the built environment of Queensland:

The small-scale fibro beach house plays an important role in the history of Queensland housing. The buildings had an economy of construction and attention to detail, and they developed their own character and architectural language.

They were modest in plan, elevated on stumps, and had simple skillion roofs. Often they were groups of single-room pavilions, separated for living, sleeping and washing. The addition of a front verandah was commonly expressed with a butterfly roof.

These humble dwellings rarely approached the respectability of the traditional Queensland timber and tin house, but they nevertheless created a distinct identity of the community. Somehow the limited choice of materials and colour added to the character and scale of the dwellings within the coastal landscape. They became an intrinsic part of our history and an expression of aspirations for a relaxed lifestyle.

The fibro house was such a common element on the Gold Coast that Victorian architect and critic Robin Boyd, made the following observation about Surfers Paradise in 1957:

Here is a fibro cement paradise under a rainbow of plastic paint. It is any Australian country town plus optimism. It is a Utopia of souvenir shops, bamboo bridges spanning murky rock pools, night clubs, ‘fabulous floor shows’, ‘bikini bars’ selling floral wisps of bathers and Hawaiian shirts through windows open to the footpath…beer gardens in no hurry to close at 10, shops open as long as there are customers awake, Sunday movies, signs, hoardings, posters, neons, primary colours – purple, green, and orange straight from the brimming pot.

The 'Beat Box.'

There are five Wallys to be found.


In Veridian

LC: Privacy is difficult when you have this density. One reason the pavilion is there is because to the south a neighbour had views into the backyard. The pavilion increased their privacy and our client’s.

One might note the irony of the granny flat now apearing to supervise other private backyards with their ad hoc sundry shacks and sheds, supervising them, domineering awkwardly with stylish mass: ‘a large statement.’

The sectional sketch does not show the fibro cottage.

Adjacent sheds and houses are not illustrated in this elevation.

The plan does not show the adjacent structures.

The 'Beat Box' in context.

The 'Beat Box' becomes the backyard centrepiece.


The house to the east of the site.

The street looking west.

The houses on the east of the property.

The glimpse from the east.

The property to the east of the site.

The street to the south of the property.

The house at the rear of the site.

The house at the rear on the west.

The street looking towards the ocean.

The properties behind the site.

The street frontage of the Palm Beach site.

The neighbour.

The site opposite.

To equate the love of art with a love of fine sensations is to make of works of art a kind of aphrodisiac. The words “disinterested aesthetic contemplation” are a contradiction in terms and a pure non-sense.

“A Figure of Speech, or a Figure of Thought?”

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

19 MARCH 23


Could it be that there is an ambition here to have the suburban boundaries changed, as the developer has requested in the attached link – just because it sounds better?


The small area that is currently labelled ‘Burleigh Heads’ already stretches somewhat awkwardly to the southern side of the M1.