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Grams steps down as Scottish architecture festival director

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Gerry Grams has resigned from his role as co-director of the RIAS Festival of Architecture 2016

The high-profile former Glasgow City Council design adviser stepped down from the position in July – three months before his year-long contract was due for renewal. Grams had been working alongside Glasgow Life head of libraries and cultural venues Karen Cunningham, who will now become the festival’s sole director.

He said the move – which also precedes the festival’s official programme launch in November – was intended to speed-up his return to private practice after close to a decade in the public sector.

Grams said: ‘It was a one year contract and I had always made it clear I wanted to do it part-time. It was something I wanted to do as a bridge back to the private sector from the council.’

His departure coincided with the Scottish government confirming £400,000 of funding towards the country-wide event which aims to boost trust in the profession, promote tourism and create a long-term legacy recognising the social and economic benefits of architecture.

Grams continued: ‘I said to [RIAS secretary and treasurer] Neil Baxter I would like to review my position after the funding was awarded because the next stage was securing sponsorship and that wasn’t my bag at all.

‘I am still retained as a consultant on the festival and I’m keen to retain an element of involvement.’

Although a number of local sources claimed there had been creative differences between Grams and Baxter, this was denied by both parties. He said: ‘I’ve known Neil for 30 years so when I took on the role I knew I would be working with the RIAS to galvanise others to get involved and that is what I did.

‘I am sure it is going to be a very strong celebration next year.’

Baxter added: ‘Gerry is still working with us as part of a steadily growing team. The Festival is looking very good.’

Grams will continue to work with festival partners to develop individual contributions to the event while developing his private practice – Studio Grams – focusing on pre-planning advice across Scotland.

Headline events for 2016 include a March opening party at St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross – inviting the public to experience Gillespie, Kidd & Coia’s ruin with sound and light installations for the very first time.

The festival will then spread out across Scotland’s seven cities with festival hubs delivering activities in Dundee (March), Aberdeen (April to May), Inverness (June), Edinburgh (June to August), Glasgow (June to August), Stirling (September) and Perth (October).

The programme’s centrepiece will be a ‘cities expo’ on The Mound in Edinburgh featuring up to 20 international pavilions showcasing ground breaking architecture from around the world. Emerging overseas practices will be selected through competitions in their respective cities for the £30,000 installations which may be moved to Dundee.

An educational programme for pupils aged three to 18 is also being developed along with further outreach initiatives by the festival’s 60 partner organisations – including Scottish Opera and the Children’s Parliament.

The full festival programme will be announced on 31 November.

What’s happening around Scotland?

Scotland map



Opening party - St Peter’s Seminary, Cardross
Adventures in Space - The Lighthouse
Ideal Hut Show - Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Scotstyle - touring exhibition



Cities Expo - The Mound
Portraits Placed - Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Ideal Hut Show - Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotstyle - touring exhibition



Ideal Hut Show - Inverness Botanic Gardens
Films on architecture in Highlands and Islands - tbc



Architecturally inspired crazy golf
Interactive smart phone app
- tbc
Minecraft challenge for new bridge over Firth of Tay - tbc



Jonathan Meades lecture - Peacock Visual Arts
Gareth Moore artist residency - PeacockVisual Arts
Scotland’s 2014 Venice Biennale exhibit ‘Absorbing Modernity’ - PeacockVisual Arts
Scotstyle - touring exhibition



Thistle to Castle - walking route
Scotstyle - touring exhibition



Lantern festival finale - The Helix

Key events: in detail

  • The Scottish National Portrait Gallery will host a ground-floor exhibition featuring portraits and busts of Scotland’s greatest architects – both historic and contemporary – alongside images of their work.
  • A touring exhibition – dubbed ‘Scotstyle’ – will invite the public to select Scotland’s best buildings from the past 100 years. A competition for a young practice to design the show is expected to be announced shortly.
  • In Glasgow, The Lighthouse will host a free exhibition ‘Adventures in Space’ exploring science fiction’s impact on architecture with works by Scottish comic book stars Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.
  • The Ideal Hut Show – which was first held during Glasgow’s stint as UK City of Architecture and Design in 1999 – will also make a return. The open-air installation which invites architects and designers to reinvent off-the-shelf garden sheds will tour botanical gardens in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.
  • In Stirling, icecream architecture and Artlink Central are creating a ‘Thistle to Castle’ walking route with installations drawing attention to nearby education and health campuses.
  • Aberdeen’s Peacock Visual Arts will stage a public lecture by writer and broadcaster Jonathan Meades asking ‘Does a City get the Architecture it Deserves?’
  • Musical commissions, architectural poetry and Gaelic language films on Scottish architecture touring the highlands and islands are furthermore expected with the final programme to be confirmed later this year.
  • The Helix – home of The Kelpies – in Falkirk will host a lantern festival featuring Scotland’s most iconic buildings for the festival’s October finale. Three yet-to-be-announced studios have been appointed to work with local communities on the lantern designs.



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