The quay to success...

17 Sep 2012

Baca Architects and ZM Architecture design the UK's first 'floating urban quarter'

Glasgow is set to become home to the UK's first floating urban quarter as proposals for the Clyde Waterfront in Pacific Quay have met with approval from the Scottish Executive. UK water specialists Baca Architects working in collaboration with Glasgow practice, ZM Architecture, have created designs for a mixed-use floating urban quarter adjacent to Glasgow's Science Centre and BBC Scotland, which will spearhead Scottish Enterprise's 'Creative Clyde' rebranding initiative.

Canting basin, formerly an important part of the thriving Glasgow ship building industry and docks, will be transformed into Pacific Quay, a vibrant floating urban quarter in this resurgent city, and an important visitor destination in its own right. The floating development will incorporate a number of luxury floating homes, live/work units, offices, cafe, hotel and sports centre; all of which will reside in the water, linked by a floating promenade and access.

The entire development is conceived around the water with an 80 berth marina at the heart. Many units will have dedicated moorings, with others being offered use of the boat club, a boat sharing facility, similar to car clubs, like zip car. The waterspace, created between the floating units and the land's edge will form a canal, linking the units with the river and creating an active frontage for the land and water.

The yacht club will sit at the entrance to the quay, just off the River Clyde. The floor rises to form a projecting roof and vantage point over the water, high above the masts of the boats. Together with the Glasgow Tower form an unmissable gateway into the quay by boat. 

The 80-100 bed pod hotel will float, nearest the existing 'land based' science centre. The pod hotel rooms are stacked on a floating base, like designer shipping crates, each with a private view over the water. The two ends open up for the public facade of the hotel, with spas and pools.

The cafe/theatre is the main public attraction. The elliptical plan, set within a circular zone, allows the entire building to be rotated on the water for different attractions. A raked roof provides shelter to the cafe and clubhouse for the marina, as well as an outdoor seating area for water sports and performances.

Moveable ‘bow-string' bridges provide access down on to the floating promenade and to the rest of the development. The bold red colour is easily seen from both the land and the water and is reminiscent of lighthouse boats and water infrastructure. The main entrance to the dock will be a bridge from the large car park on the east side of the quay. Visitors will find themselves at the upper level platform - by the main entrance to the iconic restaurant - from where pedestrians can access the floating roadway either by lift, ramp or stairs. A key benefit of this arrangement is that footfall will be optimised for both the restaurateur and the other retailers adjacent to and beneath this level.

The ‘access spine' will carry all heating, power cooling and sanitation infrastructure much like an umbilical cord to service the floating community. All of the floating units will, of course, utilise renewable energy with water-source heat pumps incorporated into the floating structures along with grey water recycling and filtration. As well as creating visual interest in the foreground, the dramatic feature also adds a sense of perspective from the floating buildings in the middle of the development against the backdrop of boats in the marina. On the outer edge of the access spine a swathe of planting will provide visual amenity and a buffer to the individual units. The inner edge is more permeable to permit uninterrupted views of the marina and a feature café. Lights set into the handrails and marina gateways will dramatically illuminate the promenade and water in a continuous ring of light.

The floating development requires a paradigm shift in design as the water becomes the active space and a new form of 'aquatecture'  is conceived to harness the benefits of building on water. The new cafe, designed with a seating deck on the roof is capable of being rotated in the water by a small tug, for performances from the nesr by Science Centre and BBC TV studios, on land or water. The buildings are designed with access onto the water, to reflect light and water into the spaces and with outside floating terraces at water level, where parking your boat alongside actually enhances the out door space. The water beneath the buildings will be used to reduce energy needs and carbon emissions through heat exchange built into the floating bases. Lightweight metal cladding and framing help to reduce the weight of the buildings, allowing upto three floating stories and also to reflect the water in the buildings, creating a synergistic aesthetic.

The development is seen as an important step in creating a framework for a sustainable water-based transport system for the City. The water-based destination - with its multitude of uses and attractions - will maximise visitor journeys, which will be further encouraged by the provision of dedicated visitor berthing pontoons plus 150 berths specifically for the residents and occupiers of the development.

Key Facts

United Kingdom
Urban design

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