New exhibition to showcase what Scots want future neighbourhoods to look like

A new exhibition is set to open at the V&A Dundee showcasing what communities across Scotland want their neighbourhoods to look like in the future.

Launched by the Scotland + Venice partnership, the event was originally planned to be staged in the Italian city as part of the 17th international architecture exhibition, La Biennale di Venzia. Due to Covid, it will now be showcased from May 22 until November 21 at the V&A.

The showcase has been produced by 7N Architects in partnership with Architecture & Design Scotland. The What if…? event will look to re-engage the civic role of design professionals through communities from across Scotland being asked to share their hopes and dreams for the future of their neighbourhoods.

Prior to the first nationwide lockdown in 2020, 7N paired 25 people from Wester Hailes, Paisley, Annan, Elgin and Lerwick with 25 designers, architects and artists – with the contributors detailing what they’d like their area to look like in the future to the professionals.

The architects and designers then used the responses to begin exploring ideas in response to the community challenges being faced. Scotland + Venice said that visitors to the exhibition can add their own wish to a growing ‘cloud of dreams’ to further detail what people are looking their neighbourhoods to look like.

Project lead, Ewan Anderson of 7N Architects, said, “With What if…? Scotland, we really wanted to encourage collaborative thinking between designers and communities to demonstrate how community-led, grassroots engagement can stimulate big ideas from conversations about people’s wishes for the future of their places – how will we live together? what if…? what does the future of your place look like? what if you could change it?

Jim MacDonald, chief executive of Architecture and Design Scotland, added, “Everyone is influenced and affected by the decisions involving the design of our places – good design that involves collaboration can empower communities and supports wellbeing.

“7N has a long history of working collaboratively with communities to get the best outcomes for the people who will live and work there, and they have used this experience to create this project. The themes, wishes and dreams explored in What if…?/Scotland demonstrate the creativity that comes from communities working with architects and designers to creative positive change.”

The Scottish Government’s culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, commented, “The ideas in the exhibition express the hopes and dreams for the future from five diverse communities from across the country. The project is also relevant to Scotland’s response to Covid-19 which sees localism and 20 minute neighbourhoods as major components of our green recovery and features strongly in our programme for government published in September 2020.

“V&A Dundee and its new role as Scotland’s centre for design is well placed to work with the Scotland + Venice partners to ensure that the exhibition and its supporting programme is presented in an inspiring and meaningful way to engage local, Scotland wide and international audiences and networks.”