Sparks for Renewal

Written By

Eilidh Henderson

29.6.2021 Thinking

Awarded RIAS Emerging Architect of the Year in 2018 Eilidh has been with Page\Park since 2003. Eilidh now plays a lead role in the running of the practice following her appointment to the Board of Directors in 2018, in addition to leading projects in our Arts & Culture sector.



Having been forced apart we now seek togetherness. We each have a renewed appreciation for the social and cultural experiences that we previously took for granted.

As the virus spread, the pandemic defences leapt to protect our food, healthcare and business, but what about our arts and cultural sector? The sense of isolation that we all felt through this approach, was further compounded by the division created by Brexit.

Our economy and culture was once awash with festivals, exhibitions and concerts. Physical attendance at those events stopped with immediate effect. For many of us, this triggered a great sense of loss.

One year on, there is no doubt that our lives are less rich places. Sharing physical experiences with our families, friends and colleagues reinforces our critical thinking, and enables us to place ourselves in our contexts. For some, lockdown has ignited an entrepreneurial spark, for others it has offered a therapeutic monasticism. For many, however, it has been a sentence of isolation for no crime.

The rebuilding of our cultural community is therefore vital to our societal recovery and our outdoor spaces have never been more valuable in that context. As we re-think how we behave as individuals and operate as businesses, centres of culture, learning, sport and health; our common outdoor spaces give us optimism that we can still gather and reclaim some normality. To do so might rely on organisations turning themselves inside-out; casting a mould of their internal operations and culture, and bravely flipping them out onto the pavement. What is clear though, is we each have a role to play in the rebuilding. From grassroots organisations to national institutions, there is a need for us to shape open cultural forum for new beginnings.

Barriers to this togetherness should be dealt with inclusively, through cross-cultural thinking and debate. Organisations, and our public spaces, need to tear down barriers to exclusivity, and instead seek to create a new, universal embrace.

What might that look like? Cultural institutions are platforms for debate and dialogue. Rather than feed divisions they must sew our communities as collectives. As welcome strangers, we seek to feel a sense of ownership through inclusive, familiar environments; settings shaped to include rather than exclude. Our common spaces should therefore be revitalised as distinctive and different, but familiar and welcoming. We have an opportunity to pick apart our cultural settings to focus on our inherent differentiation, and to amplify the qualities that reflect everyone who occupies these common spaces. We need to create environments that are focused on empowering us to unite in a fresh, cultural democratisation.

We are excited to be working with a cross section of cultural clients to evolve roadmaps to enable them to emerge as catalysts for this positive change. This includes collaborating with a national museum to enable them to re-imagine themselves as an agile community living room that facilitates cultural democracy; supporting grassroots community groups who have formed to shape local platforms that explore the breadth and diversity of their collective; and with theatres who are proving that they are far from monolithic – that they are places of inherent renewal and reinvention.

There is an undercurrent of optimism and progress in the face of adversity. By challenging polarising tendencies through the embrace of inclusivity – lessons from our isolation can be sparks for renewal.”

Next Article

EO Day 2021 #BetterTogether