SPRINGBURN Winter Gardens Trust has unveiled designs for the restoration of the A-listed structure at the heart of Springburn Park.
The scheme is centred around repurposing the main hall — the largest single span glasshouse in Scotland — as a venue for performances and events, holding up to 1,800 people.
There would also be a café/bar and kitchen with outdoor courtyard and a heritage exhibition space celebrating Springburn’s industrial and social history — using artefacts from the former Springburn Museum that was closed in 2001.
A new-build ‘woodland kindergarten’ childcare centre, as well as flexible studio, meeting and office pod spaces that could support artistic and community tenants would also help to create a sustainable revenue base upon which to operate the complex on a not-for-profit basis for the benefit of the community.
The plans have been drawn up following extensive community consultation and workshops led by the Winter Gardens Trust and Collective Architecture.
The trust believe the 860-square-metre open plan glazed hall lends itself to flexible use as an iconic events and performance venue that would be of city-wide and even national significance.
The architects have drawn inspiration from similar sized venues such as The Briggait, SWG3, The Glue Factory, Old Fruitmarket, BAaD in Calton and Edinburgh’s Drill Hall in formulating their concept of how the revitalised structure might operate.
Planned capacities range from 1,800 people standing for a concert, 1,000 seated for a theatre performance, to just over 500 for a catered event like a wedding reception or conference.
The winter gardens have been derelict since 1983. The trust was formed by concerned residents in 2013 as a last-ditch effort to save the structure, which was built in 1900.
The trust was instrumental in saving the building from structural collapse in 2017, securing emergency funding from the council and Glasgow City Heritage Trust to prevent the roof from falling in, and reinforcing the steelwork.
Paul Sweeney, a founding member of the trust who later became Labour MP for the area in 2017, is currently serving as the trust’s secretary. He said: “Springburn Winter Gardens has been a skeletal structure for as long as I have been alive. I remember being fascinated by this mighty ruin as a child when visiting the park.
“Springburn saw 85 per cent of its buildings demolished, 40 per cent of its population leave and an expressway built through the area in the 1970s and 80s. Restoring Springburn Winter Gardens is a critical part of healing the damage caused by the misguided thinking of that era, in concert with the wider regeneration masterplan that is being developed for the area for the coming decade.
“The trustees have worked long and hard with the community in their spare time to reach this important milestone of finally being able to visualise what a restored winter gardens could look like.
“It is a powerful statement of intent for Springburn’s desire to restore its rightful place as a key part of Glasgow’s economic and cultural life again.
“As well as providing a fantastic community asset for the area to be proud of again, it will give the rest of Glasgow and beyond a reason to come to Springburn again too.”
The trust’s quantity surveyor has estimated the total capital cost of delivering the project to be £8.1 million, with the restoration of the listed winter gardens structure itself costing £3.9 million,
The building is still in the ownership of Glasgow City Council, but the trust hope to undertake community asset transfer prior to restoration starting.
The new design forms the centrepiece of an initial funding bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the trust say feedback has been encouraging.
The trust now aims to continue engagement with critical funders in the hope of progressing the project plan, which it is envisaged would take two years to complete once financing, asset transfer agreement and planning permission is all in place.
Paul added: “We are about to bring in new trustees from across the community at our forthcoming annual general meeting. The aim is to build a powerful alliance with residents, schools, churches, housing associations, the council, other community groups, and arts organisations.
“There is palpable enthusiasm to see the project delivered for the benefit of everyone in the local community, and indeed the city at large.”
Ross Aitchison, project architect for Collective Architecture said: “We know that preserving Springburn Winter Gardens as one of the few reminders of Springburn’s illustrious industrial and social history is more important than ever.”
“As a practice we are working extensively in North Glasgow and are witnessing firsthand the immense changes the area is going through in repairing the architectural damage this important area of the city has undergone.”
“Restoration of the Winter Gardens would play an important part in the cultural, social and community regeneration of Springburn and North Glasgow.
“We were delighted to develop these proposals with the Winter Gardens Trust and the area’s flourishing community groups. We see these proposals for a multi-generational community hub as a viable, and deliverable, opportunity to bring a much-loved and missed jewel back into active use by the local community.
“Springburn Winter Gardens are a critical heritage asset to both Glasgow and Scotland and every effort should be made to restore and bring new life to them.”