Scots have always been at the heart of innovation. Whether it’s Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone, John Logie Baird creating the television or the medical advances made by Alexander Fleming, Joseph Lister and James Simpson, our nation has a history of creativity that stretches back hundreds of years.
That innovative spirit is alive and well today, in the engineering prowess of the Falkirk Wheel, the graceful majesty of the Kelpies and the stunning plans for the new Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum of Design in Dundee. Through the weaving of Harris tweed into the patterns for cutting-edge trainers and the architectural grace of the SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow, innovation, architecture and design are all flourishing in 21st century Scotland.
And all three of those elements are being celebrated during 2016 in the Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design (YIAD). Over the course of 12 months, businesses and organisations throughout the nation are being invited to use the themed year to attract visitors to view their exhibitions, taste their wares and enjoy their hospitality.
The latest themed year builds on the success of previous campaigns, including the 2013 Year of Natural Scotland, the second Year of Homecoming in 2014, and last year’s Year of Food & Drink. Homecoming Scotland 2014 generated £136m for the country’s economy, while the Year of Natural Scotland triggered a 12% surge in the number of tourists visiting the countryside and coast. Figures from VisitScotland, the national tourism agency, showed that more than one million people attended the 200-plus events organised during last year’s culinary celebrations, with spending on food and drink by tourists between January and September sitting at £804m, up from £747m during the same period in 2014.
“The YIAD has begun,” declares tourism minister Fergus Ewing. “Visitors already travel to Scotland to experience world-class architecture and top-class design and the year will build on this heritage with an enticing programme of events that shows Scotland’s creative, modern and inventive approach continues to inspire and influence audiences across the globe.
“Building on the success of Homecoming 2014 and the previous themed years, I encourage the industry to embrace this latest opportunity to show the best of what Scotland has to offer and to invite all of our visitors – from day-trippers to those coming from further afield – to enjoy the diverse range of events on offer throughout the year. The 2016 YIAD offers tourism businesses across Scotland a fantastic opportunity to showcase, celebrate and engage visitors with this wide-ranging and fascinating theme.”
VisitScotland is leading the Scottish Government initiative and is being joined by partners including Architecture & Design Scotland, Creative Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Historic Environment Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Tourism Alliance.
Ewing’s comments were echoed by Mike Cantlay, the out-going chair of VisitScotland, who is standing down after six years steering the agency’s board of directors. “With this new themed year, we have the opportunity to put Scotland on the map in a new and exciting way, catching the attention of visitors old and new, positioning Scotland as a mix of traditional and cutting-edge at the same time,” he says.
“Scotland is a nation of pioneers, home to ground-breaking scientists, philosophers, engineers and architects for hundreds of years. From the Forth Bridge to Dolly the Sheep, the telephone to the television, Charles Rennie Mackintosh to Andy Scott, and Harris tweed to the iconic Mackintosh raincoat, Scotland’s innovative past, present and future continue to inspire and influence audiences across the globe, shaping the modern world we live in today.
“The events planned for the YIAD 2016 are diverse, interesting and inspiring and we look forward to what we hope will be a ground-breaking year for tourism.”
Fans of great architecture are in their element when they visit Scotland. From classical contributors such as Robert Adam, William Playfair and Alexander Thomson through to the Art Nouveau influences of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, tourists are spoiled for choice. It’s little wonder that architecture accounts for more than 10% of Scotland’s £3bn creative industries sector according to the 2013 Creating Places report, or that the 2013 Great Britain Tourism Survey found that £187m was spent viewing architecture and buildings on trips north of the Border.
It’s not just fine buildings that attract attention either. The Forth Bridge has been recognised by the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (Unesco) as a world heritage site, while Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal linking Inverness with Fort William through the Great Glen via lochs Dochfour, Ness, Oich and Lochy still proves to be a draw for tourists 200 years after it was completed.
The plethora of breathtaking buildings and stunning structures continues to grow, with more recent works such as the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh, the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and the Mareel arts centre in Lerwick on Shetland taking their places alongside the grand designs of the past.
A series of 28 key events have been funded by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s events directorate, to celebrate the YIAD. These include: the Clo Mor Festival of Harris Tweed, which will run in Stornoway between July and November; ‘In Vogue’, a fashion show spanning the centuries at Stirling Castle on 14 and 15 May; and ‘Luminous Birds’, a series of art installations throughout Scotland to encourage communities to celebrate their surroundings.
One of the highlights of the programme will be a year-long festival of architecture, featuring more than 400 events throughout Scotland organised by RIAS. The festival kicks off in March with ‘Hinterland’, a night-time public art event at St Peter’s seminary in Cardross in Argyll, hailed as one of Scotland’s most important modernist buildings. Audiences will be able to wander through the ruins while listening to a specially-commissioned choral work by composer Rory Boyle, performed by St Salvator’s Chapel Choir from the University of St Andrews. The site is due to be partially refurbished and will reopen as a public arts space in 2018.
“Almost 50 years on from the day the seminary opened, we are witnessing the first positive steps towards a new purpose, one that accepts loss and ruination as part of the site’s history creating an evolving arts programme for local people, all of Scotland and visitors attracted to this iconic site from around the world,” explains Angus Farquhar, creative director at NVA, the Glasgow-based public arts charity behind the event. “We are setting out to ensure that the imaginative re-use of this great late modernist structure reflects the same social dynamism and ambition with which it was conceived, based around a spirit of working progressively to improve what we can and imagining a better world. It is NVA’s intention to preserve a raw sense of otherness, excitement and revelation.
“Hinterland will offer everyone a chance to visit St Peter’s seminary at a key moment in its evolution and it promises to be the must-see arts event of 2016, leading on to the delivery
of an important new creative and heritage resource for progressive public art in Scotland and beyond. You want to be able to say that you were there at the start of what promises
to be the most significant arts development for a generation.” Putting Hinterland in its wider context, David Dunbar, chair of the festival of architecture, adds: “The festival is designed to be an engaging, inclusive and Scotland-wide celebration.
“The festival will share Scottish design and creativity internationally and highlight the richness and breadth of Scotland’s architecture and the world quality of our built landscape. Across Scotland, there will be hundreds of exhibitions, workshops, film screenings, musical celebrations and other events, involving many thousands of participants from home and abroad.
“The festival is a partnership of more than 90 organisations, a nationwide event that will show how architecture touches everyone’s lives. This truly global festival is designed to reach out to the broadest audience – local, national and international. It will improve our appreciation and understanding. It will also be fun.”
EventScotland is also supporting the ‘Our Built Environment’ strand at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, which runs from 26 March to 10 April. The science festival’s programme includes a large-scale outdoor installation called ‘Tiny Homes Village’. Situated on the Mound precinct throughout the festival, this full-scale exhibition of ten tiny houses examines the changing style of homes and how small buildings may provide comfortable and realistic solutions to urban, eco and emergency shelter demands.
Respected model artist Warren Elsmore will also create a vision of a Mars habitat from Lego bricks that will form the base of Mars Master Constructors, a free children’s Lego brick building event running throughout the festival at the National Museum of Scotland.