They were notorious during their fifty year dominance of the Glasgow skyline, and even at the end they remained controversial. Today’s blow down of the remaining six Red Road towers was supposed to be the final chapter, but a final twist in the whole epic saga provided for an epilogue nobody expected – and the contractors certainly didn’t want…

If you missed the previous post that covered the history of the estate and my own musings on its architecture, you can still read it here. We’ll focus on demolition day this time…

Demolition companies don’t like spectators, invariably being cagey about dates and certainly of times, and wanting to avoid any kind of fuss where at all possible. But this is Red Road, and such was the level of interest it was only a matter of time before it became widely known. Even with the date confirmed though there was no suggestion of time, and no guarantee it wasn’t misinformation deliberately planted to keep people away. But I knew I had to come and see this.

Heading across the city this morning I wasn’t sure what to expect. The weather was set fair, a still autumn morning perfect for the blow down, but there was a final controversy unfolding in the Red Road saga: A handful of nearby residents were refusing to leave for the day; court orders were being issued to force evictions and the police once again had a major headache to deal with regarding the long problematic estate. But it wasn’t as big a headache as the demolition contractor would be left with after the deafening blast.

For four hours we had camped out in a school yard in Springburn overlooking the estate on the horizon, tripods at the ready, waiting. Information, misinformation, changes of plan – whatever. The press-publicised 12 noon blow down didn’t happen. Word on the ground suggested 1pm, then 2.30 after a helicopter had circled and an air-raid style siren rang out… but none of that happened either. And then at around 3.17pm an explosion rung out and took us all by surprise as the giant towers started to fall. It was as much as I could do to fire off a few shots as the blocks fell and a cloud of red dust spread across the area, gradually reaching us and blocking out the light. And then it started to clear, revealing something nobody had expected to see…

Two of the towers hadn’t fallen – the upper thirteen storeys of 10 Red Road Court and eleven storeys of 123 Petershill Drive perching crumpled on the twisted remains of what lay beneath. Imagine – this was the estate that was to be blown down at the opening ceremony of last year’s Commonwealth Games. Glasgow may have been out in force to get a good view, but at least the world wasn’t watching today.

This didn't go completely to plan...
  • GHA Spokesperson

Had they misfired? Had the amount of explosives been miscalculated? Who knows, but there were plenty of glum looking SafeDem people wandering round wondering how it could have happened – and doubtless how they would now tackle taking the remains apart.

I said in my original post back in June that Glasgow would never forget Red Road. And if that wasn’t already the case, it certainly is now.