Our towns and cities function as a continuum, where historical momentum gives meaning to place. As architects, we adapt, adjust, infill, amend or clear areas of cities but do so against this continuum. As Rafael Moneo suggested in his RIBA Gold Medal address, the meaning of our work shifts in relation to the past and the future. Where does that leave Cumbernauld (AJ 20.04.06)?
What is clear is that Cumbernauld residents love their town. How do they stimulate interest of the key stakeholders who own most of the land? How do they create development that is meaningful? Creating diverse activities common to every town is no way to go, no matter how significant the architecture.
The workshops on this issue were particularly poignant, being attended by a few people who were actually involved in its inception and its demise as a New Town. As Gordon Murray (no relation), the first and only lord provost (mayor) of Cumbernauld, reminded everyone present, at that time there were no users to consult. A tabula rasa. No historical momentum beyond the handful of redundant mining villages which were within a five-mile radius of the hill that formed 'Copcutts Citidel'.
Given the downward 'progress' of the town centre in the last 20 years, it is surely the most bitter irony that the Scottish Development Department brief given to Sir Hugh Wilson in 1955 was that Cumbernauld, unlike other New Towns, was to be experimental, exploring new forms of living for the 21st century.
The fragments of history exist only in Cumbernauld's town centre, Gillespie Kidd & Coia's Technical College and St.
Mungo's Church. Meagre, but great cities have been built on less.
Gordon Murray, Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects