Rottenrow Gardens

An almost-temporary park in the heart of Glasgow

Glasgow is famous for many things: Billy Connolly, and the deep-fried Mars bar.

Ship building on the Clyde, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s School of Art building.

 The School of Art, before it was devastated by fire earlier in the year.

The School of Art, before it was devastated by fire earlier in the year.

 Looking down on inner Glasgow.

Looking down on inner Glasgow.

It’s not a city that immediately springs to mind though, for the quality of its public parks. That’s a bit of a shame, but also a blessing in disguise, as it means locals get to keep Rottenrow Gardens all to themselves.

The story of Rottenrow is fascinating, and it all starts with lots of loving Glaswegians searching for something to do to keep warm through the long, cold Scottish winter.

As a result of the quest to stay warm, thousands of babies were born at the Royal Glasgow Maternity Hospital. The hospital was a world leader in the development of modern caesarian deliveries, amongst other innovations, saving the lives of countless mothers and babies.

The hospital sprawled over an entire block in central Glasgow. Like most hospitals it had grown and been extended and renovated countless times.

In 2001 it was finally decided that the whole facility was too out-of-date to continue with, so the maternity hospital relocated and the site was sold to the University of Strathclyde.

The uni couldn’t find a way to convert the hospital for its use either, so the buildings were all demolished, save for a few fragments.

 The former entry to the Maternity Hospital on North Portland Street.

The former entry to the Maternity Hospital on North Portland Street.

Whilst the University of Strathclyde couldn’t use the buildings, it did have plans for the site. It was to become a future development parcel as the inner-city campus grew.

Until that happened, the university commissioned a park for the site. Some parts of the park were intended to be permanent, but a lot of it was to be temporary.

The design reflected the temporary nature of the project.

Remnant structures from the hospital demolition were incorporated.

 Arcade fronting Rottenrow.

Arcade fronting Rottenrow.

 Retained architectural elements placed as garden sculptures.

Retained architectural elements placed as garden sculptures.

Plant species that were fast to establish or quick growing were used.

Additional species create the sense of a romantic ruin, as if the plants have just emerged spontaneously on the abandoned site.

Contrasting bands of clipped hedges bring things back into order.

A huge set of stairs, plus ramps and rambling walks, connected the steeply sloping site.

 It's also great to see movable furniture, allowing visitors to chase sun or solitude as they wish.

It's also great to see movable furniture, allowing visitors to chase sun or solitude as they wish.

The belvedere structure at the top of the hill became a place to enjoy newly revealed views across the city.

The park was so well designed, so inviting and full of discovery, that it became an instant success.

A wonderful piece of public art was placed in the centre.

  Monument to Maternity , by Scottish artist George Wyllie

Monument to Maternity, by Scottish artist George Wyllie

Legend has it that when the university eventually decided it was ready to build on its site, many people complained about the loss of such valuable inner-city parkland.

Luckily the uni was in a position to be able to build elsewhere and Rottenrow Gardens remains a public park, open to everyone who lives in or visits Glasgow.

 A small resident dashes through a gap in the planting.

A small resident dashes through a gap in the planting.

Rottenrow Gardens was designed by GROSS.MAX. Visit the park at Rottenrow, Glasgow, and find out more at the University of Strathyclde's website.