Geddes-Gram: ‘Edinburgh has always had that pull for me’ – Caroline Parkinson

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We have put together a series of questions to get to know what you think about the Scotland’s (and beyond) built environment, inspired by Sir Patrick Geddes, the pioneering urban planner and geographer. Here our Board Member Caroline Parkinson answers our Geddes-Gram. 

What’s your favourite environment; town/city/country village?

City – I love the architecture, the energy, the creative and cultural offering both home grown and from all over the world on the doorstep and living in a multicultural place.

What place in Scotland makes you happiest – and why?

Edinburgh. It has always had that pull for me. It feels like home even though I come from a town over the water. The architecture is a major factor and that it holds a UNESCO World Heritage Site status. I find it inspiring every day. It presents a challenge to modern architecture to sit cheek by jowl with Playfair and Adams, and that can be inspiring too. I love walking everywhere here. I love meeting people from all over the world here.

Where do you go to get away from it all?

I used to climb on top of Ravenscraig Castle – the Queens Tower but it is closed up now as the steps are too worn away. I miss having that place to go.

I like to go to Florence to clear my head and enjoy a different architecture, language and culture. I always climb up to San Miniato al Monte and sit in the church or outside looking at Florence below.

If you had a ‘place super power’ what would you do for Scotland’s places?

In one swoop I would remove all 60s and 70s concrete ugly offices and flats and immediately replace them with something liveable and beautiful. I know some of them probably qualify as brutalist architecture – and some people love it. I am not one of them. I can appreciate the form, but I can’t live with it. Maybe they would see my super power as bad!

What do you think are our biggest challenges in the Built Environment?

Progress, decay and rebirth – how to regenerate for the future, for the better. Lack of affordable and social housing. Commuting is a waste of everyone’s energy. Homelessness.

What place here, or abroad, could we most learn from?

I liked the design ethos in Denmark and the use of design in developing their towns and cities, and the cycling in Copenhagen was the safest and most relaxed I have seen, the smooth roadway and small kerb between cycle path and road makes all the difference.

Anything make you mad in Scotland’s places?

Mostly what makes me mad is when I see unsympathetic property development.

What has ‘Scotland the place’ got that we should protect forever?

Our natural landscape and our architecture.

Optimist or pessimist for our High Streets?

Pessimistic at the moment. It may need a total revolution. I love initiatives Start Up Street, Can Do Places, Why Not? and Made in Stirling etc that are doing something really positive. But it doesn’t feel like enough.

Housing Typology Case Studies

These examples illustrate where architects and urban designers have reconciled functions of the individual house that are integral to placemaking.

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