‘Our Urban Playground’ Diary

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Introduction by Caroline Ednie

During the summer holidays of 2010, 25 young people from the Glasgow area took part in a series of workshops and activities exploring the potential for urban sports activities in Glasgow. This led them to developing design proposals. The result is ‘Our Urban Playground’, an initiative organised under the auspices of the UK Architecture for Everyone campaign, a creative collaboration between the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, created in memory of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, and UK based architects RMJM.

The Glasgow event formed part of a series of UK wide events where 90 teenagers, invited from social groups traditionally excluded from a career in the profession, took part in various Architecture for Everyone programmes throughout the UK – held in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Glasgow. In Glasgow activities focused on architecture for leisure and sport and included: a guided tour of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games site in the city’s East End; a trip to 2012 London Olympic Athletes’ Village site; a Parkour session in the city centre (Parkour, also called free running, is a way of getting around objects in the quickest way possible, often by climbing, jumping or vaulting over them instead of just walking around them); and workshops with professional architects, urban designers and landscape architects to develop design proposals for the 2014 Commonwealth Games site.

The workshops and events ran from Monday 28th June to Thursday 8th July 2010. The processes and outcomes of the six city’s workshops were presented at The Lighthouse between September 2010 and January 2011.

Stuart Watson, one of the Glasgow participants, took time out from his first year studying architecture at the Glasgow School of Art, to write his ‘Our Urban Playground’ Diary for www.scottisharchitecture.com

Stuart Watson: “I found out about ‘Architecture for Everyone’ in my final year at Uddingston Grammar School. I had applied to the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) to study architecture and it was actually the GSA that got in touch to let me know that the event was taking place during the summer. I hadn’t heard of ‘Architecture for Everyone’ before, but what appealed to me was the planned trip to London. I was also keen to take part in the Parkour day. I had never done it before but had always fancied doing it, so that was another reason that I applied.

But I didn’t know what to expect – whether it would be too serious or not.

Monday 28th June 2010
‘Architecture Inform(s)’ & ‘City Walk, Sporting Talk’

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The week started with building the tallest tower out of spaghetti and jelly beans! It was an ice-breaker, I guess. In the afternoon we went for a walk around town, taking in George Square and the city centre. We then split into groups to find alternative ways back to The Lighthouse (where the workshops took place), following maps. I enjoyed this exercise as it made us more aware of how to navigate our way through the city.

Tuesday 29th June 2010
‘Winning the Games’

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In the morning we visited the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games site – it’s still at the preparation stage, but the contractors chatted to us about the processes involved in the groundworks and gave us an insight into how the site would develop. Later, the architects from RMJM came along to talk to us about their designs for the Athletes’ Village. I found this very useful, and learned a lot about the design process.

Wednesday 30th June (and Friday 2nd July) 2010
‘We Run this City!’

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This was the Parkour day. We worked with (urban sports specialists) Parkour Glasgow at Rottenrow Gardens in Glasgow. Outside London, Rottenrow Gardens is the next most popular Parkour destination in the UK (check it out on ‘You Tube’). I enjoyed this and have even looked into doing this again. I like the idea of moving around and through a space without constraints. Travelling without limitations. It’s a new urban sport, but we did it as an exercise in exploring urban spaces.

Afterwards we went back to The Lighthouse and started to think about our own designs for urban furniture that could be used for Parkour, and more widely used at the Commonwealth Games. We were given timber, bamboo and willow (using materials like matchsticks, lolly pop sticks etc.) to build our models. At the end of this first design stage, three models were chosen to go forward to the presentation, and mine was chosen! Although I did advanced higher art at school, and learned how to follow an architecture brief and make models before, this was more about playing with ideas, which was new to me.

Thursday 1st July 2010
‘Designing Your Games’

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We finished off making our models then walked over to Central Station to catch our train to London. I enjoyed the train journey – the banter was good. Socially, the whole event was a good experience. We stayed in halls of residence and next morning had a tour around the 2012 Olympic Athletes’ Village. The project manager of the Olympic Village also came and gave us a talk about the development – we were shown a photographic record of how the site is developing from month to month and that was interesting. It’s still in the process of being built and we only got to visit the athletes’ village so we didn’t get a really strong sense of how the built Olympic site is going to look. But it was quite impressive to see the large scale of the London site.

Monday 5th July – Wednesday 7th July 2010
‘Realising your own designs.’

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We met at The Bridge in Easterhouse with our designs for the Commonwealth Games site. Architects from RMJM joined us and talked us through how we could improve our designs by taking into account structural issues – so that when we built our final models, they wouldn’t collapse. My design changed a lot as we took these things into account. This advice helped us refine our models over the next couple of days in the lead up to Thursday’s presentation.

Thursday 8th July 2010
‘Share Your Ideas’

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This was the day that all the other groups from the UK came to The Lighthouse and we did our presentations. A photographer, who had been documenting all the work that we were doing from the beginning of the event, helped us put our presentation together. We had been making our own video diaries and had lots of footage that we edited into a final video. The presentations went really well.

Conclusion
In terms of the overall experience it really opened my eyes about what an architect does. I had previously thought that they sat at a desk five days a week working on drawings or in front of a computer. But I realised that this is just a small part of what they do. I realised that there’s a lot of teamwork involved and lots of meetings with clients, contractors and other parties involved. I found out what I was letting myself in for, choosing architecture as a career. But it actually made me look forward to starting Uni even more.”

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