Future by Design

As part of a team of student volunteers I worked alongside a diverse team to design and build this gridshell structure that will be an outdoor classroom at Cove Park – an artist’s residency centre on the west coast of Scotland. We have been nominated in the ‘Low-Cost Project Schemes under 200k’ category in the Scottish Design Awards 2022. The text below is from Arc Architects, the lead architects, and describes the project:

“Young Architects will spend the bulk of their careers responding to the climate crisis. To do this successfully they need new materials, new design strategies and new ways of working. This project, the British Council’s Architecture project for COP26, addressed that challenge.

Future By Design brought together young designers from 17 disciplines in two countries – Scotland and Ghana, in a north-south collaboration that created structures in Accra and Argyll.

Future designers need strategies to re-use the carbon embodied in existing structures. Responding to the constraint of four lines of concrete, the team developed a 3-d curvilinear lattice structure, the most different form imaginable.

The group explored low-carbon, non-toxic technologies, natural fibres and bio-composites, constructing a curvilinear lattice gridshell of Larch, and grew furniture from mycelium and agro-waste on site in moulds in only four days.

The process fused landscape and building architecture into place design, less fixed on producing ‘more stuff’ and more engaged in creating meaningful spaces.

We discovered that the post-farming landscape was part of the original Scottish Rainforest. Partially enclosed, the timber gridshell reinstates rainforest conditions of shade and shelter, acting as an educational resource and a space that brings people’s attention in close, reducing environmental stresses.

This temporary structure suggests a more mutable, adaptive and restless architectural future, echoing the bent hazel frames of traditional Scottish Traveller’s tents. It also reflected the need for greater diversity in Construction, the least gender equal sector in the UK.

Though at times challenged by Covid and technology, the trans-national nature of the project gave huge depth to our understanding of difference in design and climate change. The Ghanaian structure addressed an urban parkland blighted by flooding, working with the diverse community, including young people without fixed homes, through terraforming and urban agriculture with native species.

By making spaces for learning, we learned many things. We learned that by recognising our place in nature we can re-discover what it is to be human. We learned how bio-materials can help us grow our way to a zero-carbon future. We learned that diversity brings strength. We learned that trying to achieve something new comes with the risk of failure, but we must take that risk. And we learned how Architects across the world face a common design challenge – one that can only be solved together.”