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Chris Stewart

Collective Architecture's Chris Stewart discusses his overlapping roles as architect and member of the Scottish Ecological Design Association in promoting green design to a wider audience.

Fortnightly Blog 5 - The Day of the Dead Alive

August 25th, 2013

'A misogynist slap of a castle', the parting metaphor of a deteriorating night but just standing, I could claim, I was there when Disembodied Energy was born.

It began with a day time ferry trip, mis-timed in an attempt to get a ringside view of the destruction of Inverkip Power Station, mis-timed as a night time demolition had been arranged. Disappointed, the remainder of the journey was spent counting the high rise blocks of Glasgow stripped for demolition and shrouded in the banner of those proud to remove them. None of these heroic structures would enjoy the exit of Inverkip but were being slowly disemboweled by long limbed machines picking out what could be sold. Embodied Energy is the sum of all the energy required to produce any goods or services, considered as if that energy was incorporated or 'emodied' in the product itself. Never does the sum of the parts equal the whole, or so we thought that night.

What followed saw the resurrection of a broken pact to complete the work of the good villagers of Golspie, who for the last few years had been picking away at the bottom left hand corner of the 100 foot tall statue of George Granville Leveson Gower and encourage it's collapse. George is better known as the First Duke of Sutherland who plonked his likeness on Ben Bhraggie for all to see and was chief architect of the Highland Clearances. One of the proud three named on the urinals of the Lismore Bar where inebriated males are encouraged to pish on their memory. His fellow shower companions being Patrick Sellar and Colonel Fell.

My mistake was to claim expertise in explosives when my knowledge actually only extened to weed killer recipes and a sense of humour which enjoys loud bomb making conversations at the airport check in. Big Mac, the Rothesay nationalist seized on this and the pact was re-born as a complicated pulley system to deposit a pot of (water based) red paint over his head. I enjoy relieving myself in the Lismore with the best of them but shy away from nationalism being more of a believer in the Glasgow City State with an empathy with fellow industrial cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle. More of an un-independence, which will be explored at SEDA's 2014 conference in Ullapool together with the reclaiming of land from the few by the many. What did the SNP do for us apart from build the aqua-ducts.

Big Mac chairs the Bute Film Club and shares the love of a good film, the night before we kind of enjoyed World War Z where Philadelphia borrowed the body of Glasgow for the first and best five minutes. Their explanation of the zombie, a host to disease, fast moving and desperate, reminded us of the various plagues to sweep our industrial cities. The motorways (can anyone believe we built the M74 extension), the ridiculous Bruce Plan (can anyone believe we are building a model of this) and the demolition of the Victorian tenements (can anyone believe we are still bringing them down). I have yet to understand how latent steam at 100C is hotter than boiling water at 100C, or where 21 grams disappear at death, nor remember The Charing Cross Hotel. Not just zombies are killed twice, our body dies and then later we are forgotten. Those who destroyed the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan; removed the Stalin Monument from Prague (locally known as the queue for meat) or slapped the head of a toppled Saddam Hussein carcas with the sole of a shoe, understood the value of memory.

A more sober exploration of Disembodied Energy is now being taken seriously at Scottish Universities and methods to measure all that is lost beyond bricks and mortar judged as pertinent. Little we knew that evening, as we brought our session to a close with a series of jocular metaphors, 'what if Brad Pitt was a building'. No decent suggestions rose that night (answers on a cinema ticket to Bute Film Club), on the other hand 'what if Sean Connery were a building'.


Bute Film Club winter programme now available on

SEDA Conference April 2014, Ullapool - exploring the theme of independence and the power of community. Check for future details


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