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OUTLOOK: Exploring Geddes in the 21st Century

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Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs presenting an award to Galashiels Academy representative

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs presenting an award to Galashiels Academy representative

Sir Patrick Geddes is often referred to as “The Father of Town Planning” and his thinking continues to inspire the work of PAS, not least his famous quote: “town planning is not mere place-planning, nor even work planning. If it is to be successful it must be folk planning”.

PAS’s inaugural Geddes conference was held over two days in August 2016, as part of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design explored the legacy of Geddes in this current century through a series of presentations and art-based workshops. The conference also launched the PAS Patrick Geddes Young Placemaker Award and was attended by planners, architects, artists, educationalists, community groups, members of the public, and also introduced Geddesian thinking to a new generation of young people.

Day 1 of the conference was chaired by former First Minister and PAS Patron, the Rt Hon Henry McLeish. The opening address was delivered by Fiona Hyslop MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs) who celebrated Patrick Geddes as a pioneer who put people at the heart of placemaking, ideas which she stated are strongly re-visited in Scottish Government publications such as Designing Streets and The Place Standard. The Minister also viewed project-work by young people from LinkLiving and Galashiels Academy, who had used the Place Standard tool to survey their own area and come up with ideas for improvement – echoing the Geddesian mantra of “survey, analysis, plan”, and presented to these young people the PAS Patrick Geddes Young Placemaker Award in recognition of their work.

“It is experiences like this that I believe are so important in firing the enthusiasm of the placemakers of tomorrow” [Fiona Hyslop]

Galashiels Academy with their awards

Galashiels Academy with their awards

Ian Gilzean (Scottish Government Chief Architect) delivered the first a series of presentations, reflecting from a Geddesian perspective on his earlier and current professional experience, including work with the local community in Wester Hailes, the regeneration of the Merchant City in Glasgow, and launching the Scottish Government’s Place Standard tool. Mike Small (Bella Caledonia) then re-examined a series of themes which relate directly to Geddes and the Scottish tradition of generalist thinking. Malcolm Fraser (Halliday Fraser Munro) then reflected upon current and previous development of Edinburgh and how it did – and at times did not – tie in with the ideas of Geddes. Phil Denning (Deputy Director, Education Scotland) concluded the session, speaking about how his organisation is guided by the Geddesian approach of Folk, Work, Place. He described how surveys of school catchment areas are increasingly undertaken from a place-based perspective – thinking about the type of area the school operates within and how it can be part of that community.

The afternoon session of day 1 comprised creative workshops led by students from Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh Student Art Festival, followed by further reflections on Geddes from artists from Japan who had been inspired by Geddes’s Outlook Tower. Professor Bashabi Fraser then offered a perspective on Patrick Geddes’s work in India where she had educational links to the International University at Shantinketan. She also explored the legacy of Geddes’s often-forgotten son Arthur who was involved in rural reconstruction and improving community cohesion in the same area.

Day 2: Re-thinking Geddes through Art and Design took place at Tweeddale Court and offered participants a series of art and place-based activities on the Old Town of Edinburgh where Patrick Geddes did so much to improve the built and natural environment. A Geddes Trail of the Old Town was led by PAS volunteer Hamish Neilson; other workshops explored using the Place Standard tool in a real-life setting and the concept of “folk” through song-writing, story telling and Celtic design.

Examples of workshops on Day 2

Examples of workshops on Day 2

PAS would like to extend a big thank you to all who attended, and to the following for their support: The Scottish Government, The Saltire Society, The Evergreen Studio, The Scottish Story Telling Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Student Art Festival, IGLU; and to James Thomson of Melt Communications for his collaboration with PAS to run the conference.

The full conference booklet can be viewed here.

PAS intends to run a series of related conferences over the coming years and continue its work with young people on the Patrick Geddes Young Placemakers Award. Please contact Petra Biberbach petra@pas.org.uk if you would like to discuss being involved.

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