Spiers Locks

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Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) has been working with a number of partners in the Spiers Locks area of Glasgow. Below is a report (PDF version can be found here ) from A&DS Head of Urbanism Diarmaid Lawlor which examines projects in the area and considers the issue of creative regenration in diffult times.

A&DS have also contributed to a short video on regeneration work that is taking place in Spiers Locks and this can also be found below.

Spiers Locks

Creative Regeneration in Challenging Times

The economic downturn is challenging physical regeneration. However, achieving better outcomes for people remains a policy focus. Delivering better outcomes in hard times requires creative thinking about resources and dynamics, the social and economic assets of a place. Working creatively with these assets can help grow the conditions for local economic ecologies. This is the basis of the regeneration being pursued at Speirs Locks in Glasgow, one of the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative [SSCI] projects.

An economic ecology allows different types of need and enterprise to mix in a place for a variety of reasons. It innovates around balancing the commercial, social and public economies. The output of this kind of approach to regeneration is a culture of creativity and competence, and an ability to connect with a variety of markets. In this context, the distinctiveness of place emerges from the ability to make, to do, to connect. The key factor to the success of these ecologies is a place which supports, nurtures, and connects people and ideas.

Speirs Locks is establishing a creative, nurturing community in north Glasgow, with culture and art at its heart. The neighbourhood is now home to Scottish Opera, the National Theatre for Scotland, Glasgow Academy of Music, Theatre & Arts, (GAMTA), the Glue Factory Gallery and the Tollhouse Studios. The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSMAD) has recently also opened a new campus to provide for a new dance curriculum. Recently, ‘The Metal Petals’ installation in the underpass of the motorway won design awards and accolades. This area has a community of people with ideas, innovators, community participation, and entrepreneurs. However, it also has a place champion in the form of the Glasgow Canal Partnership. The combination of these assets is generating an organic process of sustainable change. The process is being guided by a flexible physical framework developed by the Partnership and 7N architects called ‘Growing the Place’. It is also being informed by a creative industries action plan developed by David Barrie and Associates with A&DS entitled ‘Growing the People’.

‘Growing the People’ suggests Speirs Locks builds upon the activity of its existing cultural industry tenants around the themes of ‘creating, making and doing: the production of ideas, goods and services that have social, creative and economic value, a place for new social businesses, provision of studios and workspaces for creative industries and new community enterprise. The narrative of ‘making’ and ‘doing’ has been arrived at following:

  • extensive engagement with the communities in the local area and in the city of Glasgow;
  • the exceptional artisan skills of performing arts companies resident on site;
  • keen demand from stakeholders that the site generate near-term economic and educational value,
  • a desire to support community life and address social need through innovation, and;
  • a sense from all of those consulted that energetic and creative activity needs to be triggered to effect real sustainable change.

‘Growing the People’ recommends that a sequence of connected social, economic and environmental activities are implemented across three years. The proposed activities flow through three channels of work:

  • Channel 1: Strategic entrepreneurship [encouraging creative business]
  • Channel 2: Social entrepreneurship [enterprise for social purpose]
  • Channel 3: Community entrepreneurship [community enterprise, incubator industries]

These broad Channels of work inform more specific actions which include exploring the feasibility of developing a ‘Cultural Improvement District’ based on the ‘Business Improvement Model’; development of shared workspaces and networked community infrastructure to support small and micro businesses; adaptation of existing buildings for creative uses and programmes aligned to community need, capacities and opportunity. The plan recommends management of the programme by a curator or creative director – what Professor Stephen Goldsmith of Harvard Kennedy School has called a ‘network integrator’.

As part of the development of ‘Growing the People’, a film was produced, summarising the process, highlighting some of the challenges and introducing some of the benefits of this regeneration approach. The film highlights that the organic process of change is effective, and can be sustainable. However, sustainable change which seeks to grow the conditions for a variety of social, economic and environmental values is challenging. It needs fresh thinking, new financial models, new ways of doing things with existing resources.

The process being pursued at Speirs Locks is both creative, and innovative. It has lessons to share, and raises challenging questions about how we make places, particularly in hard times. We are very interested in developing, collectively, a better understanding of how to address these challenges. Over the coming months, we plan to develop a discussion around these issues, facilitated by the Scottish Centre for Regeneration, particularly in terms of these key questions:

  • What are the conditions to enable the sustainable success of a creative local economic ecology?
  • How do you fund and manage the process of organic change which can enable these ecologies to form?
  • What is the role of the built environment in enabling this type of place to establish, in enabling this type of sustainable community to succeed?

We welcome your views. If you would like to contribute to the discussion, please get in touch with Diarmaid Lawlor, A&DS Head of Urbanism. diarmaid.lawlor@ads.org.uk

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