Updates: unimpressed review of this year’s Art Festival…A wall is a screen, combined walking tour and themed film night, in Leith…talking of the festival, we have artwashing and over-tourism (it was ever thus), plus the council’s call for a tourist tax…Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival inc 39! walks and a pop-up hub as part of Doors Open Days throughout Scotland…see foot for ArchiFringe 2019…Art Festival 2019 pics…ArchiFringe on YouTube…The cancellation of the Edinburgh festivals has given the city a chance to rethink them…
Edinburgh is, of course, The Festival City – it used to (at least) announce itself thus on a signpost on the A90, not far from my family home. It being 2018, such analogue delights have been replaced by a wide-ranging website, listing ten or so annual festivals including The Fringe, the original ‘alternative’ festival. The Fringe has begat further fringes, including Book Fringe and Architecture Fringe (@ArchiFringe), the latter a response to Visit Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design.
This year’s ArchiFringe took place in June, with the obvious point of comparison of CAFx. Walking Heads hails a “bold and creatively challenging menu, with unexpected happenings in both likely and unlikely locations” including “an echoing Cumbernauld underpass” (celebrating the new town) and “forgotten parts of Kelty” (street art; 2019: This is Kelty).
Having grown up in Edinburgh, the place names resonate across the North Sea, even as the places change. Many a time I have hopped on the Kelty bus, enjoying its non-stop surge down the Queensferry Road before hopping off at the Barnton Roundabout. Now when I go back it’s a process of revisiting half-remembered places and finding new ones; the Dick Vet as Summerhall, Lauriston Place Fire Station as event location, hosting a Pecha Kucha Night.
There are commonalities to be found too, with a different take, a different lens. Copenhagen’s brokvartererne have their parallels in Edinburgh’s tenements, once torn down and now gentrifying, creating a need for affordable housing.
The festival’s theme/provocation of COMMON/SENSES invited that British favourite, the play on words, and some diverse responses:
- LOCAL commons GLOBAL sense: “our everyday experiences are perhaps not as common as they once were…how do our experiences of everyday public spaces compare globally?”; at the Leith Walk police box
- Uncommon lives: “Everybody senses the common world differently. In a plural society the built environment can often be found to only reflect a narrow, defined, representation of that society.”
- The uncommon beauty of common things: exploring the emotive effect that buildings and materials have on us, via Charles and Ray Eames
- Spatial insults – common decencies: “tour taking in the scurrilous and disrespectful highlights of Glasgow’s urban environment”
Ironically, fewer commonalities here, given the local ‘one size fits all’ approach and lack of delight in the edgy.
Other provocations included Univer-City (@EdiSolidarity; see Crumble article, LFA’s Knowledge territories), addressing “the historical and ongoing domination of our city’s built and aesthetic form” and Frankentypes, for lovers of typology, “seeking to pluralise expected architectural representation and building types by creating new hybrid structures” (one | two | three).
Creative kudos to Shore 2 Shore (poetry, in Dunoon!), to Sarah Calmus for the Uber Dérive, and to Jenny Knotts for Architext, memories of Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre as a play script in the form of an architectural plan:
Where I feel less at home is with bothies and ‘hutting’ (paging David Cameron). Like Gaelic on road signs, the bothy-as-lifestyle trend seems to have emerged since I flitted to Denmark. ArchiFringe featured The Shieling Project, which doesn’t exactly capture the remoteness anticipated, resembling rather an idealised edit of hygge combined with an update of the ‘wilderness’ hut more likely to be found in Scandi proper (ie the other side of The Bridge) or Finland, yet one more tie-in with general Nordic envy.
You want more? See Antiuniversity Now’s Solus and the city, a small ‘solitude shed’ based on a bothy, in err…East Dulwich, and the Bermondsey Bothy. The Royal Scottish Academy has a forthcoming Bothy Night, celebrating Shelter Stone, a bothy book “made from 70 per cent recycled midge trap waste” (that’s surely a joke). We are now heading into full commodification, not least with Shed of the Year.
More gratifyingly, Alec (son of Iain Hamilton, creator of Adorno’s hut) Finlay has picked up the hutting ball and run with it, “responding to rewilding, ecology or the renewable avant-garde” with Hutopianism, part of Machines à penser at the Prada Foundation, a fringe event at this year’s Venice Biennale.
Where I find a sad lack of melancholy in the prevailing Danish discourse, here a brace of events (Chez Etym & more, Repurpose idea) celebrated the role of memory in constructing the present, and the future, of place. And where I sense a smoothing out and flattening of complexity here I find ‘comfortable chaos’ (Urbanistas), dissent (Pecha Kucha GLA) and disruption (Salon des Refuses), heralding new styles of living rather than a cradle to grave comfort blanket, ghettoised by age, with life starting and ending in an institution (update: see a caring place: presentations | case studies | notes).
ArchiFringe 2019: theme/provocation In Real Life, hubs at The Lighthouse (@The_Lighthouse; tweet & another) & Custom Lane (@CustomLaneLeith), and an in-need-of-an-edit podcast. Lots of creative, provocative and unsettling approaches to place, esp:
- Home, at last: Raising the Roof (@RoofRaising, ie Adele Patrick, Sue John and Janice Parker) discussion and exhibition, in residence at The Lighthouse; the podcasts made this really come alive, if nothing was actually concluded, at least issues were raised; new housing models/typologies, alternative ways of living and all
- opportunities to celebrate Irvine, Livingston…and Gala Fairydean
- three methodologies:
- exploring places through understanding the people that have lived and worked in them (in Dunoon; tweet & another & another)
- Never mind the bollards (Eventbrite) with Circus Artspace (@CircusArtspace), an artist-led walk in Inverness, hmm, but ‘an alternative view’ too
- Unofficial surveys, based on techniques developed by a 1970s primary school art course
- an installation in an airbase | an innovative kiosk (@KIOSK_Glasgow; tweet & another)
- events on Grenfell, volume housebuilding, getting to grips with important issues and open to new ideas, questioning…plus Tenements talking (event), a walking workshop about the change of Glasgow’s tenements over the years (see exhibition), and a tenements discussion event (FB | Eventbrite), with dialectogram workshop
- typologies: ReTypes: exhibition and talks (tweet) exploring adaptive repurposing of imagined existing buildings (examples: one | two | three | coastal swimming pools), featuring a reshowing from 2017’s New Typologies and 2018’s Frankentypes (New typologies/Frankentypes); tweet
- Voices of experience (exhibition & event; story | another): see project (@VoExperience)
- several in “nice, but ultimately underwhelming” corner, often requiring participation:
- A guide to being unsustainable: the Scottish Ecological Design Association ” explores what makes life bearable and why that is not at odds with what we think sustainability mighty be”; letters page and @GuideUnsust; answers still to be published (tweet)
- The flying freehold: “a piece of writing tracking a shifting relationship to the fabric of the buildings in which we live and work”, leaving no traces
- Your Space | Take Notice (@yourspace_tn; site): are we noticing and being critical of how our surroundings make us feel? take a photo of a space, respond to two statements, share – > they will add to map (example); see also posters
ArchiFringe 2020 was rolled over to 2021 even pre-Corona. Their April 2020 newsletter compensated with a roundup of the 262 pies they have their fingers in, ranging from “the Test Unit summer school and the Voices of Experience project on professional women to student-produced magazines Crumble and -ism, plus the expansion of discourse by Missing in Architecture and the call to arms by the Anthropocene Architecture School”. The vision “to help create one of the most plural, critical and progressive communities of architectural culture in the world, anchored in the wider common good” resonates.