Scotland + Venice 2014 “Past + Future”

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Scotland + Venice 2014 will be in residency at the British Pavilion from 26 September – 25 October as part of the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Under the direction of award-winning Scottish practice Reiach and Hall, research from the case studies will be presented in a series of specially-produced newspapers.


Explore the newspapers from Scotland + Venice here.

We will publish one article from the current group in residence’s newspaper on this website.

Read – Land Works by Group 3 here.

Read – Absorbing Modernity by Group 2 here.

Read A Fresh Start – Alison and Hutchinson’s Housing in Leith – by Toby Paterson here.


Neil Gillespie, Reiach and Hall.

The 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Rem Koolhaas is titled Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014. Koolhaas considers research into past histories as a way of reconstructing how architecture has arrived in its current situation and how we might speculate on its future. He also believes a focusing on the Fundamentals of architecture i.e. the wall, the floor, the window, the door, is a way of gaining “a fresh understanding of the richness of architecture’s fundamental repertoire, apparently so exhausted today.’’

In response to the theme Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, Scotland + Venice is concerned with undertaking fragments of research, aimed primarily at opening up debate within Scotland about what a modern architecture was and what it might be? This is particularly apposite at this moment in Scottish history as Scotland attempts to look dispassionately at itself in order to imagine a better future, regardless of its political shape. Scotland + Venice also affords a number of architects and students a short period of reflection, an opportunity to make new connections and relationships within and out with Scotland.

Initially four groups, each comprising a practicing architect, an academic and two students, will research an aspect of Modernity in Scottish architecture. They will select and explore a past history, within the post war period, 1950 -1970. This period saw a great deal of rebuilding following world war two. It started with great optimism. The early years of the period were exemplified by a modernism that retained echoes of a northern sensibility, an architecture that sat between tradition and modernity. This architecture was not the pure white abstracted international style of the period between the world wars but a Scandinavian influenced modernism that placed a premium on people, materials and textures. This practical, crafted work gave way in the 1960’s and 70’s to a more brutal, conceptual, even heroic period that saw extensive inner city redevelopment and infrastructure renewal along with architecture that celebrated its autonomy that today often lies neglected and reviled by the general public. However paradoxically throughout the period architects were clearly motivated by a desire to improve, to better the lot of the ordinary citizen.

As a prologue to the 1950’s Alan Reiach and Robert Hurd in their influential book Building Scotland, Past and Future, published in 1944, called on architects to look to the potential of modern architecture to improve lives and enlighten our built environment. They cautioned however against losing a sense of our own local character. The very local voices that Koolhaas now laments the loss of, as a ubiquitous modernism and “flattening of cultural
memory’’ swept the globe. Reiach and Hurd’s call still remains unanswered.
Following the work in Scotland, the second part of Scotland + Venice will be based in Venice. Groups will take their research into a particular time and place to the Biennale. There, they will share their thoughts with the extensive architectural community the Biennale affords.

Each group will be present at the Biennale for one week each throughout October 2014. They will use the past to engage with the national pavilions. They will share their research and in return they will gather insight and references to other past histories from across the globe while reflecting on the future.

At the start of 2015 the work of Scotland + Venice will be explored further with an exhibition and events curated by Architecture and Design Scotland, initially at The Lighthouse, Glasgow.

The Scotland + Venice Project is being supported by a partnership between the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and the British Council, and follows on from a successful collaboration in 2010 and 2012.

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