We caught up with Neil Baxter, Secretary and Treasurer of RIAS, to find out more about the RIAS Centenary Conference and the Festival of Architecture and how Ambassadors can enjoy the public programme of events, workshops, seminars, lectures, conferences and expos in Edinburgh and Scotland.
Neil, was it always planned to have the Festival of Architecture to tie in with the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design?
It has long been planned to have the Festival of Architecture as a free standing entity, a celebration of the RIAS centenary, but at the same time linking closely with the events to be held during the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.
What is involved in the Festival and what is planned for Edinburgh?
The Festival will launch in St Peter’s, Cardross in March with a grand finale in late Autumn and eight months of activities in-between. There are over 400 events across Scotland, all aimed at the public. A few headline events in Edinburgh will include:
World Cities Expo – in June & July, a dazzling display of international city pavilions with displays of the exciting future of cities from around the world.
Ideal Hut Show – have you ever wondered what to do with your garden hut? Then be prepared to be inspired by twenty garden sheds customised by famous architects and celebrities.
Scotstyle – a touring exhibition where the public will be invited to select the best Scottish buildings from the last 100 years.
Out of their Heads – a summer exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery connecting architects and their buildings.
How can Ambassadors get involved?
In short - Spread the word and join in!
This is an opportunity to inform everyone in Scotland of the economic and social benefits of great Scottish architecture and what we have to offer. If you have conferences over the period then let your delegates know what’s on, there will be plenty for everyone.
(Neil would be delighted to speak to Ambassadors about the Festival, so watch this space as we will look to organise a talk for Ambassadors in early 2016)
After the year of events how are you hoping to see greater public engagement with architecture for Edinburgh and Scotland?
There are huge legacy plans in place for post 2016, leaving a range of tools and resources not only for professionals but also for the community and young people. One such legacy will be a collection of online Scottish architectural guides allowing the public throughout the world to explore Scotland’s entire built environment and visitors to learn more via apps and on-site interpretation.
Now as if you didn’t have enough going on in 2016, you are also planning a conference for the members of RIAS to celebrate your centenary. Why did you choose Edinburgh for the conference?
We have Chapters throughout Scotland – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling - and the conference travels to each city in turn. We are having the conference in the beautiful Mansfield Traquair and for our centenary year it seemed appropriate to have the event in a building designed by our founder and first President, Robert Rowand Anderson. In fact our first ever conference was held in Edinburgh. So I suppose you can say we have come full circle.
How did Convention Edinburgh support you whilst organising the conference?
In the early stages when you are planning a conference it is great to know that there is someone there to pass on tips and point out key elements you need to consider. When searching for the perfect venue you came up trumps. Now with thoughts turning to accommodation you have once more stepped forward to offer a free online booking service for delegates, meaning we can concentrate on, the important bit, the conference content.
We have to ask Neil, do you have a favourite building in Edinburgh?
I have to say my favourite place is The Chapel of St Albert the Great. No matter whether you are a believer or not, it is a place of beauty, contemplation and architecture at its most powerful. It uses simple materials. The work of the architect takes it to a new level of beauty. It is part of the University of Edinburgh at George Square and definitely worth a visit for Ambassadors.