Press Release: Scotland + Venice announced What if…?/ Scotland by 7N Architects

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What if…?/Scotland 

Shared hopes, dreams and wishes for the future of the places where we live
Scotland + Venice commission by 7N Architects and Architecture & Design Scotland to debut at V&A Dundee 

Exhibition dates: Sat 22 May – Sun 21 Nov 2021 – Free museum entry. Book now:

Media Preview date to be announced soon – media invited to register interest at

The Scotland + Venice partnership is delighted to announce that the exhibition What if…?/Scotland, designed to be staged in Venice as part of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, will now open at V&A Dundee on Saturday 22 May and run until Sunday 21 November 2021.

Produced by award winning Edinburgh based architecture and design practice 7N Architects(7N) in partnership with Architecture & Design ScotlandWhat if…? / Scotland responds to the Biennale’s theme How will we live together?, seeking to re-engage the civic role of design professionals by asking communities from across Scotland to share their hopes and dreams for the future of the places they call home.

At the start of 2020 and prior to the first nationwide lockdown, 7N paired 25 people from 5 places: Wester Hailes in Edinburgh, Paisley in Renfrewshire, Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, Elgin in Morayshire, and Lerwick in Shetland – with 25 designers, architects, and artists – to share their hopes, dreams or wishes for the future of the place where they live.

The architects and designers then used these wishes to begin exploring ideas in response to the community challenges being faced. As we emerge from the latest lockdown, the notion of people in Scotland’s communities coming together to plan for a better future has never been more important.

This collaborative process has been captured in a series of short films by film maker Basharat Khan forming the narrative focus of the exhibition. The stories of each place, as told by its citizens and set within the rich and varied landscapes of rural and urban Scotland, are presented in an immersive environment designed by 7N Architects with O Street, with spaces for reflection and inspiration.

The exhibition at V&A Dundee will also engage with museum visitors about what they want the city of Dundee to look and feel like in the future, working together with designers, architects, and citizens throughout the duration of the show.

Project lead,Ewan Anderson of 7N Architects said: “If the past year has shown us anything, it is the importance of community and the Biennale Architettura 2021’s theme ‘How will we live together?’ is more salient than ever.

“With What if…?/Scotland, we really wanted to encourage collaborative thinking between designers and communities to demonstrate how community-led, grassroots engagement can stimulate big ideas from conversations about people’s wishes for the future of their places – how will we live together? what if…? what does the future of your place look like?  what if you could change it?

“What if…? is an open question that can and has stimulated fantastic and energetic discussion, debate and creative thinking within the communities we have worked together with across Scotland; and pointed towards ways in which we can make meaningful and positive change.

“In the face of a changing and uncertain climate, it’s vital that conversation and participation and ambitious ideas are prioritised when we design our collective future.”

Jim MacDonaldChief Executive of Architecture and Design Scotland said: Everyone is influenced and affected by the decisions involving the design of our places – good design that involves collaboration can empower communities and supports wellbeing.

“7N has a long history of working collaboratively with communities to get the best outcomes for the people who will live and work there, and they have used this experience to create this project. The themes, wishes and dreams explored in What if…?/Scotland demonstrate the creativity that comes from communities working with architects and designers to creative positive change.”

On behalf of the Scotland + Venice partnershipChairAmanda Catto commented: “Over the last year we have all had to adjust to living differently and have come to realise what we value most dearly about the spaces and places that surround us.

What if…?/Scotland explores the hopes and dreams of five communities across Scotland as they imagine the future of the place that they call home.  While we can’t stage the exhibition in Venice due to Covid-19, we’re delighted that our partnership with V&A Dundee will give us the opportunity to welcome visitors to the city and to reach out to UK and international audiences online.”

Leonie BellDirector, V&A Dundee said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Scotland + Venice to host What if…?/Scotland at V&A Dundee. What if…?/Scotland tells a story of hope, it celebrates the richness of places across Scotland and demonstrates the value of bringing people and architects together to generate ideas about how design can support aspiration and ambition.

What if…?/Scotland is more than an exhibition, it offers a space to reflect and will spark local and international conversations about what matters, and what if architects and designers, with citizens and residents, brought their expertise together to transform and reimagine the future.

“As V&A Dundee develops its new role as Scotland’s centre for design we will be increasingly working in partnership with individuals and organisations across Scotland, and I am delighted that we are able to work with the Scotland + Venice Partnership to host the exhibition What if…?/Scotland in Dundee.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “I’m delighted that the What if…?/Scotland exhibition will now be presented at the V&A Dundee.

“The ideas in the exhibition express the hopes and dreams for the future from five diverse communities from across the country.  The project is also relevant to Scotland’s response to Covid-19 which sees localism and 20 Minute Neighbourhoods as major components of our green recovery and features strongly in our Programme for Government published in September 2020.

“V&A Dundee and its new role as Scotland’s centre for design is well placed to work with the Scotland + Venice partners to ensure that the exhibition and its supporting programme is presented in an inspiring and meaningful way to engage local, Scotland wide and international audiences and networks.”

All visitors now need to book free tickets to enter V&A Dundee, as part of the essential steps to keep visitors safe and to ensure physical distancing. Those free tickets can be booked at


Thank you to all What if…?/Scotland contributors: Hosts, Designers and Citizens


Annan, Dumfries and Galloway 


Shelley Bell, Economic Development Officer, Dumfries and Galloway Council

Andrew Piggott, 7N Architects
Sam Boyle, 7N Architects
Nicola Atkinson, Beautiful Materials
Jordan McCrae + Sean Fitzpatrick, Collective Architecture
Nick Wright, Nick Wright Planning


Roderick McCallum
Calum McDougall
Ben Pool
Lynne Russell
Alan Thomson


Elgin, Morayshire


Heather Claridge, Architecture and Design Scotland


Niamh O’Reilly, 7N Architects
Lisa Mackenzie / Landscape Architecture
Ben Scrimgeour and Rosemary Scrimgeour, Building Workshop
Claire Hope, BuroHappold Engineers
Andrew Macpherson, MOXON Architects


Christy Bolland
Jennifer Evans
Sophie McWilliam
Wendy Toner
Tim Wakefield

Lerwick, Shetland


Suzanne Shearer, Team Leader, Shetland Island Council


Ewan Anderson, 7N Architects
Daniel Clark, Gaada
Thomas Hamilton, Hoskins Architects
David Muir, Rankinfraser
Richard Gibson and Emma Gibson



Jim Anderson
Alastair Hamilton
Graeme Howell
Anthony Nicol
Alisha Taylor

Paisley, Renfrewshire


Leonie Bell, Strategic Lead, Paisley Partnership


Ffion Roberts, 7N Architects
Graeme Nicholls, Graeme Nicholls Architects
Ian Alexander and Henry McKeown, JM Architects
Gerry Grams, Threesixty Architecture
Anne Duff and Cathy Houston, Voices of Experience


Linzi Clark
Johannes Gonani
Alison Love
Gillian Steel
Dr Valerie Wright

Wester Hailes, Edinburgh


Leah Black, Chief Executive, WHALE Arts + Eoghan Howard, Wester Hailes Community Trust


Katie Hay, 7N Architects
Mike Harrison, Harrison Stevens
Ian Gilzean, Chief Architect, Scottish Government
Rowan MacKinnon-Pryde and Nicky Thomson, Studio NIRO
Daisy Narayanan, Director of Urbanism, Sustrans


Bahiya Basheikh
Louize Gibson
Eoghan Howard
Eunice Main
Chuks Ododo
Ilisapeci Rawalai
Emily Stevenson


Image: Looking at Annan with fresh eyes – citizen Lynne Russell explores hopes and ideas as part of What if…?/Scotland. Image Courtesy of 7N

Notes to Editors:


  1. Scotland + Venice provides architects and artists based in Scotland with a valuable platform to showcase their work on the international stage at the Venice Biennale and is a partnership between Creative Scotland, British Council Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, Architecture and Design Scotland and the Scottish Government.


Keep up to date:

Twitter: @scotlandvenice

Instagram: @scotlandvenice

Facebook: @scotlandandvenice


  1. 7N Architectsis an Edinburgh based design practice specialising in generating innovative ideas that make better places through transformational change. The practice is focused on unlocking the full potential of places, spaces and buildings by bringing together architecture, urban design, landscape and master-planning in an integrated approach to placemaking.

The practice’s approach is embodied in their award winning projects, ranging from city strategies to buildings and public spaces, including the Glasgow City Centre Strategy and Avenues concept, the University of Glasgow Campus, the Fountainbridge and Western Harbour masterplans in Edinburgh, the Knab project in Lerwick, the Fraser Avenue regeneration in Inverkeithing, the Michelin Innovation Parc in Dundee, and the Town Centre Toolkit and community engagement Charrettes throughout Scotland for the Scottish Government.

The origin of the What If? initiative is a self-initiated study by 7N on the practice’s home city of Edinburgh. This was a collection of ideas and propositions aimed at questioning, stimulating and inspiring positive change within the city to stimulate discussion, debate and expansive thinking on how it can be a better place for all of its citizens.


For more information contact:
Anja Ekelof, Communications Manager, Architecture and Design Scotland  –

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