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Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design

It has become a hallmark of Scottish tourism for each year to have a heavily flagged theme. We have had the years of Active, and, of course, the massive Year of Homecoming in 2014. In 2015 it was the Year of Food and Drink Scotland and 2016 also has its own massive theme year. It is the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, which runs from Hogmanay and rattles on for the whole year, with Scotland’s famously creative side being celebrated up and down the country. So why Innovation, Architecture and Design? Well Scotland has always more than punched above its weight in these creative fields. This is the country after all whose inventors brought the world the TV, the telephone, antibiotics rubber tyres and Tarmac. Not to mention Dolly the Sheep and Irn Bru! It is also a nation whose architecture and design is rightly celebrated, from the Victorian splendour of the Forth Bridge, through to the sparkling modernity of the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and the emerging V&A Museum in Dundee. Throughout this very special year there will be a multitude of events, not least the massive Festival of Architecture. As well as completely new festivals and events like this one, other happenings and festivals will be re-branded and given a lift as they come under the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design banner. We’ve put together seven fine examples of Scottish places, products or people, which all incorporate innovation, architecture and design to help get you in the mood and to demonstrate how impressively creative Scotland really is.

Forth Bridge © Robin McKelvie

Forth Bridge – This epic red iron lady rises like a giant leviathan from the waters of the Forth. She looks as sturdy today as she did when she first opened in 1890, a testament to the skill, craft and bravery (almost 100 died) of the workers who crafted this utterly unique triple cantilever gem, which takes trains across the Forth estuary. Plans have been mooted for a new visitor centre and Sydney Harbour Bridge-style guided walks across her cantilevers, but for now just catching any train across is the best way to appreciate her sheer scale. The Forth Bridge sports an incredible 6.5 million rivets and each of her large tubes is wide enough to take in a London tube train!

Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Glasgow’s most famous designer and architect was a real visionary, copied today from Tollcross to Tokyo. His quite brilliant work encompasses everything from small household items and elegant furnishings, through to entire buildings. Although you can find his work and designers inspired by him all around the world Glasgow is Mackintosh’s city and the best place to appreciate his true genius. Some of his most striking work can be seen at the Glasgow School of Art, the House for an Art Lover and the Scotland Street School Museum.

National Museum of Scotland – This grand old Victorian dame, with its elegant atrium and dramatic ceiling, may have made this list even without the modern addition of a sandstone and glass sibling, which was seamlessly eased on just a few years ago. This addition did what all great architectural additions do – it not only enhanced the existing building, but added to it in both practical and aesthetic ways. Together they are a truly world class museum that tells both the story of Edinburgh, but also that of the inspiringly creative country that swirls outside its striking walls.

Harris Tweed Weaving © Robin McKelvie

Harris Tweed - Harris Tweed is a deeply trendy fabric that regularly graces the catwalks of Milan and Paris. It is no tourist confection though. Instead to bear the famous Harris Tweed Authority orb it must have been produced and woven right in the Outer Hebrides on the type of loom that weavers have used to conjure it up for centuries. The Harris Tweed Authority are on hand to make sure the Harris Tweed Act of 1993 is followed and quality remains paramount in what is today one of Scotland’s most illustrious exports.

Mount Stuart - Mount Stuart is a country house that enjoys a privileged location gazing out over the Firth of Clyde from its bucolic hideaway on the Isle of Bute. Its red sandstone Victorian Gothic exterior is deeply dramatic, but only a little taster for the utter opulence and sheer decadence of one of Europe’s great interiors. The 3rd Marquess of Bute was a man who knew much of the world, who appreciated the worlds of science and the arts, which comes across in the architectural and design eclecticism of his less than humble abode. Marble and oil paintings abound in a show home where money was clearly no object. Mercifully Mount Stuart is rarely a case of style over substance.

© Robin McKelvie

Riverside Museum – It may be the work of Zaha Hadid, but the point is that Glasgow had both the ambition and gall to risk putting such a striking building on such a prominent spot right in the city centre on the banks of the lifeblood River Clyde. This epic building has won a string of awards. Whilst not everyone’s cup of tea, it has given the Museum of Transport collection a new lease of life and manages the tricky task of tying the ultra modern into the rich Clyde shipbuilding legacy that is such a big part of the Museum of Transport’s collection.

Edinburgh Old and New Towns – It says it all that in Edinburgh the ‘New Town’ dates from the 18th century, much of it the brainchild of visionary architect and city planner James Craig. UNESCO have recognised both the New Town and the Old Town on their coveted World Heritage list, such is the importance of the architecture and how that architecture informs what we think of as cities and the way in which they have grown. To wander around Edinburgh’s centre today is to savour the sheer joy of crossing from the medieval, into the Georgian and on to the ultra modern, which all happily co-exist within yards of each other.

*For more information on the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design see Event Scotland

© Robin McKelvie