High Street is the oldest and one of the most historically significant streets in Glasgow. Originally the city’s main street in medieval times, it formed a direct north–south artery between the Cathedral of St. Mungo (later Glasgow Cathedral) in the north, to Glasgow Cross and the banks of the River Clyde. Like many others the past year, Glasgow’s High Street has been hit with months of closures of businesses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, while the long-term decline had been ongoing for years, due to the rise of online retail and recent residential design turning its back to the street.
‘High Street Heritage’ is a project commissioned by Glasgow City Council - and led by Glasgow based architecture practice New Practice - to further understand the heritage of High Street and create a new strategy for its interpretation, with a celebration of built and cultural heritage at its core. This strategy will support future plans for High Street, and present a set of key recommendations to reinvigorate and retain High Street as a ‘historical thread’ in the city.
Our strategy is underpinned by a body of research which builds upon previous work and studies undertaken; as part of this research, we have conducted an analysis of the High Street. Alongside documenting the street’s exceptional architectural heritage, we have been seeking to understand the more elusive and colloquial grit essential to its unique character.
What is the tangible and what is the intangible heritage of the ‘historic thread'?
How do we move beyond ‘Blue Plaque’ culture when celebrating our heritage?
We asked for your help to answer these questions, and truly understand the High Street and how we can best care for this place and cultivate its future legacy.
“It’s not brick and stone that makes an atmosphere of a place - it’s generated by the people, communities and businesses of a place, their stories and the layers of everyday culture.”
- Dr. Alan Leslie
New Practice is one of Scotland’s most relevant architecture practices. We exist to develop the creative capacity of places and to connect people with the decision making processes that underpin their lived experience.
New Practice is led by Becca Thomas (ARB) and Marc Cairns. Their shared practice is anchored in a commitment to the design and delivery of beautiful, practical places which offer social and environmental sustainability for healthier and happier neighbourhoods. Following a number of international projects, including presentations at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, 2012 World Design Capital, 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2016 Lahore Biennale, 2017 Kosovo Festival of Architecture and 2018 London Festival of Architecture, New Practice was founded to provide a platform for projects with the specific focus of creating community-led outcomes.
Native to Glasgow, and no more than five minutes walk from the High Street, we are motivated to work with the community across the High Street to better understand the various opportunities and constraints that must be addressed to allow for the city to care for its High Street and cultivate its future legacy.
To better understand makeup of High Street and Saltmarket, we created a snapshot survey for each of the five character zones, to gather your thoughts on High Street, its heritage, community and its needs and challenges.
These surveys are now closed, but we would like to thank everyone who took part. We have consolidated the results, and all of your views and opinions are currently being used to inform the forthcoming stage of the project.
We asked you questions such as...
Do you have experience of living or working on High Street?
When you visit, how long do you typically spend there?
For what reason do you usually visit this area?
What is your favourite building or part of this area?
To what extent would you agree with the following statement: the area has a strong sense of character.
Our team spent significant time on High Street during the month of October, undertaking further urban analysis and getting to know the community. During this process, we visited and spoke to over 110 businesses located on High Street, Saltmarket and in the surrounding area.
Through conducting the Doorstep Drop-Ins we learnt about experience of working in or owning a business in the area, and local people's perceptions of High Street. In addition to finding partners to work with on 'Mon The High Street Day, all of the the views and opinions we gathered helped to inform activities which took place on 'Mon The High Street Day, in addition to shaping the direction of the project as a whole.
During September and October, the team coordinated a local campaign, titled 'Mon The High Street. New Practice, along with Dr. Alan Leslie, planned a series of activities to bring attention to the High Street again and galvanise the local community to continue working together to care for the High Street. On Saturday the 23rd of October, we conducted 'Mon The High Street Day, in locations in and around High Street.
We were based at the High Street Heritage Hub at 19 Saltmarket. This served as an open forum for members of the public to drop-in, learn more about High Street Heritage and read about our findings, and have their voice heard about High Street. There was also a free exhibition of Thomas Annan’s photography, by Street Level Photoworks in the space.
We commissioned 5 local artists to produce an 5 illustrations on shop windows along High Street and Saltmarket, each telling a heritage story about the area. The illustrations are still available to view, and can be found at Cafe Artrez, Merchant City Cameras, The Glasgow Bed Centre, Rednecks Barbers and Print Clan.
We also arranged an hour-long performance by ‘Scotland’s Street Orchestra’, Nevis Ensemble at Glasgow Cross! The band played a range of songs inspired by High Street and Saltmarket, and the performance aimed to create a new, fun atmosphere for passers-by, which would shift attention back to the heritage of the area.
We conducted 2 free Conversational Walking Tours around High Street. Dr. Alan Leslie led two guided tours around High Street and Saltmarket. Participants were provided with a disposable film camera to document their journey, and also paid a visit to Print Clan, to have a go at screenprinting their very own 'Mon The High Street tote bag.
Thank you to everyone who got involved with 'Mon The High Street Day! We are now developing the High Street Action Plan in partnership with Glasgow City Council, which will be shared with the public in early 2022.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with us at:
In early 2022, New Practice consolidated extensive site research with the findings from the wide ranging engagement and prototyping activities of High Street Heritage into a series of proposed Small, Medium, Large and Extra-Large interventions to guide any future plans for High Street. These proposals were developed to foster and refocus High Street’s heritage, refining and expanding this priority into dual imperatives of ‘caring’ and ‘cultivating’.
These two mutualistic concerns formed the basis of a nuanced toolkit of cultural and urban strategies, responding to each of the five character zones of High Street (identified by New Practice through urban analysis and study across 2021) in a range of scales and considering the needs of the area’s communities and conservation, while uncovering areas of opportunity to retain or amplify the celebration of heritage.
The High Street Visitor Interpretation Strategy was submitted to Glasgow City Council in April 2022 and approved by the High Street Area Strategy Reference Group in August 2022.
If you have any questions about the strategy, please direct these to the 'High Street Area Strategy 2019-2023' team on:
City Centre Regeneration
and City Centre City Deal
DRS – Housing and Regeneration Services
Glasgow City Council
231 George Street, Glasgow G1 1RX
t: 0141 287 6540
e: email@example.com – for anything to do with regeneration