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Scotland tackles teaching sustainable design


A new Scottish award recognises outstanding student work in sustainable design, says Hattie Hartman

Architecture + Design Scotland tackled the teaching of sustainable design at a lunch event at the Lighthouse in Glasgow last week. I was invited to speak to mark the opening of an exhibition which celebrates the inaugural year of the Krystyna Johnson Award (KJ Award), launched by the very active Scottish Environmental Design Association (SEDA). The KJ Award recognises an outstanding sustainable design project by a second-year student which demonstrates evidence of ecological ideas in the project’s original brief and a clear development of those ideas in the final project.

The exhibition, designed by this year’s award-winner, Dundee student Claire O’Neill, was too modest, consisting of only one drawing by each of the five finalists (one from each Scottish school or architecture) mounted on different recycled materials. In future years, it would be good to see more drawings from each short-listed project, along with comments from the jury about why the scheme was selected.

It was encouraging that my topic, ‘Beyond Silos: Teaching Sustainable Design’, drew a good audience, including representatives from Gareth Hoskins Architects, John Gilbert of John Gilbert Architects and Tim Sharpe, who directs the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit at the Glasgow School of Art. Disappointingly, few students showed up, perhaps because it was a school holiday at the Mack.

The discussion focused on how sustainability should be taught (in separate modules or in the studio) and when it should be introduced. The KJ Award deliberately recognises second-year students. The idea is ‘to engage students early in their design development before they are completely brainwashed’, according to SEDA member Nick Domminney of Gareth Hoskins Architects, who introduced my talk.

All five Scottish schools put forward a candidate for the award, which was judged at SEDA’s annual conference by a tutor from each school, along with five SEDA members. Little evidence of this kind of joined-up approach to sustainable design teaching between schools is apparent south of the border.

We have several forums which could tackle this critical subject: the RIBA Sustainable Futures Committee; the extensive architect membership of the AECB and The Green Register; and even the UK-GBC’s education programme. I hope the KJ Award will create a ripple effect down south.

The exhibition runs until November 27 at the Lighthouse, Scotland’s architecture and design centre. For information on the 2014 award, visit www.seda.uk.net.


Readers' comments (2)

  • John Gilbert Architects

    Sorry Hattie,
    I'm not a garden designer!

    John Gilbert (Architects)

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  • Industry Professional

    Another exhibition is also currently underway in The Lighthouse, Glasgow, which considers and promotes sustainable design.

    ‘CAST: Innovations in Concrete' has been developed by Architecture and Design Scotland, The Concrete Society and the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Edinburgh College of Art (ESALA) to look at and consider the environmental sustainability, recyclability and other ancillary benefits of concrete construction.

    A number of lunch seminars are programmed, where the perception of concrete, along the impact it has had on our culture, built environment and architecture, are considered and discussed. Full details are availbel in the link below:


    ‘CAST: Innovations in Concrete' runs till 28th November in The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow.

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