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Making the most of the Glasgow design experience

The Scots held their usual excellent architecture convention last week - in Glasgow, marking its City of Architecture role - and attracted a large audience to hear good speakers, with Richard Rogers and Charles Correa the biggest names, Ron Arad and Javier Marascal the wittiest presenters.

It was possible to imagine that the whole world welcomed the quality of designs we were shown, and that the only brake on imagination was the limitations of architects and designers themselves.

A session I chaired with Scottish architects Alan Dunlop, Pol MacDonald and Will Watt provided a more accurate picture of what is involved in actually bringing to completion buildings and landscape projects of real quality. It is just not that easy, faced with what can be a suspicous client, unyielding planning regime, intransigent contractors etc etc.

Happily all three appeared to have overcome these obtacles - though not yet the fierce regionalism which makes it as difficult for a Glasgow architect to work in Edinburgh as it is to get rival football supporters to make peace.

My favourite joke about this is the answer to why there are more Rangers supporters than Celtic supporters: because it is easier to say 'Down with the Pope' than ' Down with the Moderator-General of the Reform Church of Scotland'.

In a secular country in a secular age, where football rather than religion is the opiate of the people, it becomes increasingly difficult to relate architecture to fundamental or even sacred tenets of the culture and civilisation from which we have sprung - a point well made by Charles Correa in his lecture.

This is why it is so important that buildings which have symbolic significance are treated in that way, and not as the mere provision of functional space. This point is well made in the Architecture of Democracy exhibition, one of this year's Glasgow attractions which should be seen by all.

It is also the reason why the Miralles Parliament building deserves every support.

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