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Scottish Entrepreneurs

Creative Sector in Scotland – architecture event in Borough Hotel, Edinburgh

15 Nov 2001

Scottish Entrepreneurs News

Editorial by architect Adrian Welch

Creative Entrepreneurs Club

The creative Bash (30.10.01) at the Borough Hotel was most intriguing: various artists outdoing each other in claiming pecunity with various funders in observance! The Lighthouse had organised the second Creative Entrepreneurs Club – the first being in Glasgow of course – for musicians, animators, architects and various designers gathered to talk about…convergence.

What is convergence, and between what? Some of the six speakers talked about converging arts, some about converging cities (Glasgow and Edinburgh in the main). One observed that an unstructured convergence is a crash. The event however was stimulating in its variety and informality, and for those who didn’t attend, the message I took from the evening was that it is important that government finance is channelled in efficient and effective ways. The jury is still out on whether architecture can gain real value from recently-announced funding strategies: after all, on a UK level, it would appear that the warm words of Blair on architecture have not yet reached the Treasury.

Addendum Pre-Big Debate statement 28.11.01
As stated in the previous Editorial I would like to think the various strands of architecture could agree to differ and to push forward exciting, innovative architecture in our city. Entrenchment helps no-one. The continual blocking of schemes by heritage bodies irks architects trying to effect positive change in this city; at the same time developers need to do a lot more than at present. The Evening News may knock the Cockburn for complaining about the GPO (mid-Oct), but rich out-of-town developers need to be cajoled to add something back to Edinburgh (such as an interconnection with Waverley, an obvious but costly step in this case).

The problems that I perceive some people to have with new development (see my Prospect ‘Comment‘) are little to do with style or contextuality, it’s about integrating schemes into our transport network, it’s about investing to get long-term reward, it’s about talking to the community (and sometimes about nimbeism). If local people know the [big] developer has come to explain their loss of view, the materials, the effect on noise levels at night, car parking numbers, pedestrian routes, etc., then they might be more cooperative. Too often the consultation comes after the planning submission is approved. I’m not a big fan of community design, but community consultation is a must and should not dull schemes. Developers must be pressured to accept some minute dip in profits to facilitate integrated and accepted development: the City Council has a role here too.

The Evening News Leader (27.11.01) claims we need the heritage bodies: this is correct, but I can think of a few schemes the AHSS has lodged complaints with that just don’t merit it. It could be argued that that is just my point of view, but there is no subjectivity about the effect it has on our city. I have to explain to the Client why his innocuous little sign, say, has provoked a complaint, and struggle to find a logical underpinning. Some Clients (especially small-scale local ones) might just shrug, but others will surely be thinking of developing in other less hostile cities.

I just hope that the Big Debate can effect some lasting good. A slanging match will not be a result.

Location: Scotland, UK

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Abbotsford House Visitor Centre, Melrose, southern Scotland
Design: LDN Architects
Abbotsford Conservation & Visitors Building
photograph © Paul Zanre
Abbotsford House Visitor Centre

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