Garscube Landscape Link – The Phoenix Flowers

Garscube Landscape Link – The Phoenix Flowers

Provided by Chris Rankin: rankinfraser landscape architecture




A continuous flowing surface unifies a series of planted terraces and tall sculptural ‘flowers’ to open a previously enclosed and claustrophobic space.
© Dave Morris Photography.

Awards: Future Building Winner at the Scottish Design Awards 2010

Architect: rankinfraser landscape architecture and 7N Architects

Address of project: Garscube Road, Glasgow

Construction Cost: £1.2m

Year of Completion: 2010

Client: Glasgow Canal Regeneration Partnership

Quantity Surveyor: Glasgow City Council

Structural Engineer: Glasgow City Council

Services Engineer: Glasgow City Council

Main Contractor: Land Engineering


The design problem

The brief was to transform an urban pedestrian underpass from an unsafe and unpleasant space to a bright, spacious and safe connection to north Glasgow. The original underpass was designed as part of the construction of the M8 Motorway which cuts through the centre of Glasgow effectively severing the north of the city from the city centre. This severing has seen reduced investment in the north of the city with low rise, lost cost light industrial uses appearing in the voids left after the extensive demolition carried to construct the motorway.

The Garscube Underpass is a key link between the city centre and underground system and the Speirs Lock area of the city which is currently the focus for regeneration. The masterplan for the regeneration of Spiers Lock identified the improvement of this connection to the city centre as an important early phase to signify the change was happening and to encourage others to invest in the area and contribute to the regeneration of this part of the city.


The site

The site is a pedestrian and cycle route, approximately 150m long which passes under two elevated sections of the M8 motorway which pass between 10 and 15m overhead and two motorway slip roads which pass approximately 2.5m overhead. The site was poorly lit, suffered from inadequate drainage and prolonged lack of maintenance. The site was perceived as unsafe, with steeply sloping revetments either side and areas of bare earth where planting had been removed and not replaced. Trees, planted at the time of the underpass construction remained at either end of the underpass.

The underpass also forms an important part of the pedestrian and cycle connection between the city centre and the Forth and Clyde Canal.


The architectural response

The design response focused on 3 main approaches:

  • 1. Opening up the space physically and visually, to relieve the ‘claustrophobia’. This was achieved by reducing the impact of the sloping sides by either introducing terraces or increasing the angle of the slope. A continuous ‘carpet’ of resin bound surfacing was wrapped across the footway and up one side of the space to enhance this opening up.
  • 2. To improve functional aspects of the space such as drainage, lighting and accessibility. This was achieved by introducing planted terraces to slow rainwater run off as well as providing an improved sub-surface drainage system. Decorative lighting complements the enhanced street lighting.
  • 3. To provide a visually striking design which grabs attention and signifies that the area is changing. A series of tall vertical sculptural elements running along on side of the space contrasts with the horizontal terraces along the opposite side. The choice of a vibrant colour was deliberately intended to contrast with the concrete elements of the motorway infrastructure.


The building 


The existing site was poorly lit, enclosed and clastrophobic.
© rankinfraser landscape architecture. 


The underpass connection forms an important link between the Glasgow city centre and the Forth and Clyde Canal. 
© rankinfraser landscape architecture.


Elements of the existing geology uncovered during the construction were incorporated into the design. © Dave Morris Photography.



The planted terraces contrast with the vertical sculptural elements. 
© Dave Morris Photography.


Materials were carefully chosen to include stone excavated or reclaimed from the site and cor-ten steel which will weather differentially according to its location. © Dave Morris Photography.


The space allows a diversity of use. 
© Dave Morris Photography.


resting and running

The incorporation of elements of the space which double as seat has increased the length of time people spend in the space. 
© Dave Morris Photography.


Architectural lighting complements street lighting to extend the vibrancy of the design in to the night. 
© Dave Morris Photography.



Design strategies

  • Site planning: Physical opening up of the pedestrian space under the overhead motorway. Improved lighting and drainage, improved planting and introduction of materials which aid long term maintenance.
  • Landscaping design: urban: Creating an enhanced pedestrian and cyclist connection by improving surfacing, providing resting places, improving lighting and increasing available space.
  • Site planting: Retention of existing trees where possible and replanting those trees removed on a ‘2 for 1’ principle as required by Glasgow City Council. Careful identification of detailed micro-climates for new planting ranging from ‘full sun’ through to ‘dry shade’ enabled correct plant species to be chosen and combined for aesthetic as well as structural purposes.
  • Rainwater catchment: Water catchment was required in order to limit run-off from side slopes into the space itself and to direct water to planted areas underneath the overhead carriageway where drought was a significant problem. The introduction of planted terraces helps absorb water which previously would have run straight into the footway. A series of plastic trays taken from roof garden technology are position under certain planting beds to increase water supply to plants in dry areas.


The prior preparation of a masterplan for Speirs Lock which identified this project as an important early phase was critical in building a consensus to invest in this improvement in the public realm.
The successful transformation of the Garsube Landscape Link was achieved through a full collaboration between the design team and the city council including the city council engineers and maintenance sections The space forms part of the ‘adopted’ street network and as such had to comply with all local authority maintenance and management requirements.
The improvement of the space has already acted as a stimulus to national cultural institutions who are relocating to Speirs Lock area to the north of the M8 motorway.


Take this further

  • Topos – Urban Squares, Recent European promenades, squares and city centres; Callwey Birkhauser, 1993.


Related case studies

Site planningUrban landscape design, Site planting, Rainwater catchment