Life, Then Places, Then Buildings…

Craig McLaren, National Director at RTPI Scotland, spends a few days with a some of our leading architects…

I’m just back from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Annual Convention which brought together architects from across the country to showcase and discuss architectural good practice, current issues and new ideas.  Interestingly the programme aimed to focus on places and spaces as much as buildings, with masterplanning a key theme. It was a fascinating event with some really great speakers, some thought-provoking presentations and some interesting perspectives.

A number of key points have stayed with me. They include:

  • Tiny Saaby, Chief Architect in the City of Copenhagen, talking about how from the outset we need to look at how we can help to create urban life.  Only then should we think about how we can design spaces and places to support this. And once we have done this we can then look at how to develop buildings.  Tina outlined how the Council has taken this people centred approach to its heart through its approach to planning the city and through showing 21 separate projects, at different scales, which helped to create a city where people wanted to live, work and play.
  • Bob Allies (Allies and Morrison) describing how his practice often started projects by looking at the spaces they wanted to create rather than the buildings that would be around these places. He also made a plea for us to think about edges, rather than the centres, as the most important parts of masterplans. Masterplans, he said, had to stitch places together.
  • Tom Macartney, former Director of the Crown Street Project in the Gorbals, saying that placemaking was an underused concept In Scotland  judging by the quality of many of our suburban housing estates. He was convinced we could do better and called for a taskforce to be established to look at how we could build more homes and, in the process, deliver higher quality houses and neighbourhoods.
  • Richard Heggie of Urban Animation showing how and why community engagement and empowerment can be a vital part of the evidence gathering process which should influence how places are developed for the people who live there.  Key to this was identifying the assets and thinking of places as communities.
  • Mike Mackenzie MSP giving an impassioned speech on the need to bring together the key stakeholders – including architects, planners and developers – to see how best to stimulate development and to invest in creating well designed places, spaces and buildings.

On the downside the Convention showed that some architects still have jaded view of planners and that we as a profession need to do more to convince them that we are more than regulators who inhibit creativity and development. However there was a very positive dialogue about how the success of place based approaches require planners, architects, developers and communities to work in partnership. And a momentum has gathered on examining how best to do this. So watch this space, if you excuse the pun.

One thought on “Life, Then Places, Then Buildings…

  1. The RIAS Convention was a good cross disciplinary event and it’s great to see this blog from you Craig, highlighting opportunities for further collaboration and shared thinking (leading, we hope, to action!).
    Just to clarify my own contribution which you mention above, I was really stressing that we need to think beyond how ‘places are developed FOR the people who live there’ and consider how they can also be developed BY the people who live there.
    The point about the Tomintoul & Glenlivet case study is that the community is driving regeneration just as much as any public agency or landowner – in fact it’s the partnership between them all that is making the biggest difference.

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