Irrespective of your views on the importance of the independence debate in pushing forward change, there is no doubt that within the architecture and place policy unit of the devolved Scottish Government, huge strides have been made to position place-making within government policy. Its interrelationship with other policy units is also well developed. Two strategies stand out to us, Architecture and Planning – the advocacy of processes to support the creation of successful quality places, and Cultural Connections - supporting creative responses in the enhancement and preservation of our existing built heritage.
And it is not one way. Much recent dialogue shows that this underlying transformation and change is going the other way with more cross working between policy units and the wider environmental and development world. Joint working agreements between these policy units and external development groups are symptomatic of more creative ways to engage in particular with those bodies responsible for the heritage of our settings.
Underlying this shift, is that a change in approach of policy has been the advocacy of a sequential test for environmental transformation. The focus is clearly on ‘people, then places, then buildings'. It is hard to challenge need as a driver, then the settings people use, and then, only then, the buildings that support it. Of course this should not mean any less care be focused on our built heritage, rather, sanction appears to be being given to more positively reshaping our people contexts.
There is an inevitable ubiquity about modern environments and a sameness of architectural articulation that arises through adoption of universal floor-plates, sectional heights and elevational expression. In contrast many historic settings exploited varying plan, sectional and detail elaboration contributing uniquely to the making of places. Whilst contemporary meeting of need has to perform to a certain level of performance, its juxtaposition and response to the existing setting can result in an enhanced and enriched contemporary response.
No more so is this apparent than in our work on the masterplan for Glasgow University which has been on public display at the University in a final round of public engagement. Building on its immense historical legacy the university is looking forward to serving its broad constituency of students, staff, friends and neighbours by redefining its permeability, memorability and sociability through integration of respect for its tradition and creative provision of new space.