Glasgow Tower explained: Why is the tower at Glasgow Science Centre often shut?

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Glasgow Tower finished construction in 2001 and is a testament to our city’s great and ongoing engineering history - but why is it so hard for locals to get to the top?

Glasgow Tower has been a feature of our city’s skyline for the last 21 years - but why is it so often closed?

The tower is described by the science centre as a ‘revolutionary structure’ - due to all the engineering that went into creating Scotland’s tallest freestanding building.

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Glasgow Tower is 127 metres high - the same height as over 30 double-decker buses - and on clear days there is visibility of up to 20 miles.

It’s the only structure on earth capable of rotating 360 degrees into the prevailing wind, and holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the world.

It can take as long as two and a half minutes to get to the top cabin of the tower and take in the 360 degree view of Glasgow.

The tower itself is fitted with top-of-the-line technology - allowing for visitors to view the city from a ‘virtual panoramic view’ using iPads and ‘geo-located augmented reality’ which allows users to zoom in to over a dozen Glasgow landmarks.

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However, it’s hard to find a Glaswegian that’s reached the top of the tower - as it’s so often shut. Given its status as a one-of-a-kind engineering marvel, the structure sees its fair share of problems, from lifts getting stuck to wear and tear on the thrust bearing.

Glasgow Tower was designed to move in the wind and begins to sway in windy weather (the sway can be up to 6 inches side to side) - which unfortunately means that the tower closes when wind speed exceeds gusts of 25 miles per hour at cabin height.

Glasgow Science Centre say this is not dangerous - the tower is designed to cope with wind speeds of up to 125 mph, which is a category 3 or 4 hurricane level wind - but it could be unnerving for guests to be present in the cabin at peak wind speeds.

Winds in Glasgow are often quite strong at an average speed of 12.4 miles an hour - this increases with the wind shear effect and winds can be a lot stronger above 100 metres where the cabin on the tower sits.

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While we get very little gale force winds, a strong wind is enough to shut the science centre’s tower at that height.

Up there you can feel that the cabin sways just a little - as the wind blows and hits the tower it will move very slightly, however if hit with a cross wind or if the tower isn’t facing the right way, the sway can be up to 6 inches side to side. It is designed to cope with wind speeds of up to 125 mph, which is a category 3 or 4 hurricane level wind.

The tower shut in 2020 during the pandemic lockdown. The glazing at the tower’s entrance was then refitted and the Glasgow Tower reopened in May 2023, a month later than planned. After it reopened, it was only available 35% of the time due to "recurring technical issues identified following the three-year lift hibernation period". It attracted 4,281 visitors last year.

The Glasgow Tower is set to reopen this month for the 2024 visitor season which is scheduled to last until September.

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