Andy Summers: Building understanding of architecture’s importance

Installation at Mellerstain House, Berwickshire, for ArchiFringe
Installation at Mellerstain House, Berwickshire, for ArchiFringe
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It’s time to change the way people think about architecture. We are ­surrounded by the built environment, yet, unless you are actively working in it, then you might fail to realise what an important part it plays in our everyday lives.

Architecture is not just for architects, planning officers, builders and construction firms. The shape of Scotland is changing and everyone needs, and can have, a voice in that change.

This is why, alongside fellow industry professionals, we founded the Architecture Fringe, a festival of art, architecture and activism to broaden the public’s understanding of architecture and its importance.

Now in its second edition, the ArchiFringe is an independent contributor-led platform to explore architecture and how it makes a ­difference to our lives, encouraging and supporting new voices, ideas and activity.

Our programme this year hosted more than 50 projects, events, exhibitions, talks, tours and live performances across Scotland.

ArchiFringe has been ­supported by Creative Scotland. The platform is free to place work onto and to take part in. In the run-up to the festival we organise open monthly meet-ups for people to come along, share ideas and get some help.

The core programme for this year’s ArchiFringe explored infrastructure as a theme, through three strands: public life, perception and practice.

How does architecture facilitate, or affect, public life? How is architecture, and architects, perceived by both the profession and wider public? How does the culture of architectural practice nurture, develop and support new people, new ideas and new work?

We’ve explored these strands through commissioning new work. New Typologies asked architects based in Scotland and further afield to imagine how our shared civic infrastructure (town halls, schools, community centres) would exist in the future, if at all.

Yesterday our debate in Edinburgh was called Greener Grass? – is Scotland really the worst place in Europe to be a young designer or do we have the infrastructure here to support design talent?

We also welcome leading international voices with architect Sam Jacob, critic Cath Slessor and curator Beatrice Galilee to speak at our closing lecture at the National Museum of Scotland on Sunday. With a wider view of architecture in an international context, it is sure to provoke fierce debate.

The largest piece of infrastructure that we have created, however, is the Architecture Fringe itself. Established as a non-profit community interest company, it is run by a dedicated group of hard-working volunteers. The mosaic of architectural culture in Scotland includes government, institutions, community groups, academia, private practices and third sector organisations.

The Architecture Fringe, we hope, is a positive addition to this mosaic which empowers people to pluralise that ­culture and to define it on their own terms.

Andy Summers is co-producer of the Architecture Fringe.