This Friday Presents… Linked Via Light – interview

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On 8 August our This Friday Presents will hear from Collective Architecture and Glasgow City Council about the work on the Clyde Walkway and specifically the Westburn Viaduct has aimed to create a landmark and a way to connect two neighbouring communities. The talk runs 1-2pm at The Lighthouse, and tickets are free (but pre-booking is advised).

Heather Claridge from Glasgow City Council and Lizzie Smith from Collective Architecture answered a few questions in advance of the talk.

Lizzie Smith, Collective Architecture:

Can you briefly describe the Linked Via Light project and what you hoped to achieve by it?

The Linked Via Light project is a participatory community project to illuminate an old railway viaduct. The Westburn Viaduct crosses the river Clyde between the residential areas of Carmyle and Westburn in the East of Glasgow. The viaduct is currently closed to pedestrians and is in a bad state of repair. It has become emblematic of the tensions between youths from the two residential areas either side of the river. The viaduct became a venue for gang fighting between the two sides and was used as an informal crossing point. The Clyde walkway and National Cycle route 75 run close to the bridge and the project has the potential to create a unique landmark, both for the local communities and the local and national visitors using the active travel routes.

It is hoped the lighting project will restore a sense of pride in the structure, encouraging more people to use the unique riverside location more favourably by walking or cycling along the path networks nearby.

How did you engage with the community and what lessons have you drawn from this?

At the inception of the idea to light the viaduct, the designers were chosen by a focus group of school pupils who viewed submissions from different practices. Collective Architecture demonstrated previous lighting design which had incorporated community input. We built upon this previous experience to design a series of workshops for school pupils. S1 pupils from both sides of the viaduct in Carmyle and Westburn Viaduct come together to take part in the workshops, working in mixed teams to come up with design ideas.

Lessons drawn from this process include a recognition that lighting projects do not always move faster than bricks and mortar projects! Normally lighting projects would be seen as ideal for community input due to quick turnaround times, meaning that interest and awareness of the project can be sustained until completion. Unfortunately in this instance a number of factors have led to delays on the project and some of the engagement has suffered from a lack of continuity.

What do you hope will be the lasting legacy of this project?

The lasting legacy of the project will be a permanent lighting installation which will provide a landmark for these communities and a way finding and destination marker for the wider Clyde walkway area.

Over the longer term it is hoped that the Clyde walkway routes can continue to grow in popularity, and the lighting of Westburn Viaduct can encourage people to cycle and walk along these parts of the route.

Heather Claridge, Project Manager, Glasgow’s Green Year 2015, Glasgow City Council:

What was Glasgow City Council’s hopes for the Linked Via Light Project? How did it come about?

Back in 2009, the ‘Glasgow 2014 Environment Sub Group’ highlighted the need for a project which looked at how the Clyde Walkway could be managed and improved to encourage positive use. With support from the Central Scotland Green Network, the study (titled Clyde Walkway Pilot Project) was prepared which focused on three key areas – one of which was the eastern Carmyle stretch of the river.

Within Carmyle, the Westburn Viaduct, a former railway bridge spanning the river, was identified as a key landmark to the area. The Viaduct which had been closed to public access has been associated with anti-social behaviour and incidents of violence in recent years.

Within the study, the Viaduct was quickly identified as having great potential to be developed as a green, active travel link, connecting the neighbouring communities, either side of the river. However due to the current stigma and severe anti-social behaviour associated with the Viaduct, reopening is not currently feasible in the short term.

In order to progress the aims of the Clyde Walkway Pilot Project, a specific action plan was produced in conjunction with local people, stakeholders and community groups. This suggested a number of projects and activities to help bring both communities together. One of the actions was a lighting project and this developed in to ‘Linked Via Light’.
What feedback, if any, have you received from local communities?

Taking into consideration the history and views of the local people and organisations/agencies working on the ground, it was quickly decided young people had to be put at the heart of this project and lead the lighting design.

In partnership with Tollcross Housing Association and Education Services, 12 young people (S1) from three schools (from both sides of the river) were brought together to choose which designer they wanted to work with. This was the first time young people from both communities had come together and worked in collaboration on a project.

The young people then went on to work with their selected designer – Collective Architecture, to develop ideas and design for the Viaduct.

Following this, local views from residents, community groups and organisations were gathered and fed in to the final designs.
Why should someone come along to the talk This Friday?

This Friday Presents an insight in to a project focused on a neglected structure, an under-utlised area next to the Clyde and shows how lighting can be used as an effective placemaking tool, bringing people together to consider their local environment. Lights, camera and action promised!

Reserve your free space here.

Making Places

Making Places: This project is about community empowerment and capacity building through community events and workshops.

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