Architecture in Scotland
From the Observer 7 October 2001
THE FAILURE of high-rise architecture in Scotland’s cities is so universally acknowledged that it is often assumed that tower blocks are inherently incapable of supporting civilised life. The Wee Malkies, the urchins of Stephen Mulrine’s poem, will come as surely as rats to a cargo ship. They will put out the stair-head lights, sabotage the lifts and make the journey from entrance to flat more hazardous than any midnight walk along the meanest city streets.Not just in Glasgow or Edinburgh, but in London and Paris, too, towers have become symbols of alienation, poverty and despair, the very evils they were designed to overcome. Yet this form of urban architecture can succeed. For the rich, the high tower can be a secure fortress, guarded by concierges where residents pay their dues and repairs are carried out without delay.