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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 - Bumper Summer Special

July 18th, 2013

Lying on the beach in my hand knitted speedos, I decided it was about time Fortnightly Blog got serious. This earnest note was prompted by my holiday read, Eco Minimalism or as I much prefer The Antidote to Eco Bling, a must for me, having had so many in depth conversations about a book I've never read. Unfortunately here on Bute the distractions are many and unusual for the Glasgow Fair the weather is hot. The speedos dry out quickly after my early morning dip (be careful wool sags when wet) and I go in search of an ice cream.

Pondering the merits of oysters versus double nougats, seriousness returned as I reflected on last month's SEDA conference. It was here that I blindly conversed about Eco Bling and was mesmerised by Sandy Halliday's reflection on the work of Howard Liddell, Gaia and herself. The fight against Greenwash and poor Ecological Design has been brewing for a while and it brought pleasure in the knowledge that although Gaia's rumble is quite technical it shares the outcome of our own spiritual approach to sustainability. While Collective Architecture put faith in the value of enjoyment, collaboration and longevity through ecological design, Gaia understand the quality of material and environment, challenging Building Control's over emphasis on airtightness, a window can be opened to let in fresh air but also to smell the roses, call the children and enjoy the view. Sandy and Chris Butters laid the foundation with a workable ideology to combat Greenwash and SEDA now march forward with the pinched call 'Deeds Not Words'.

It was refreshing to both eat my world famous Zavaroni ice cream and notice the minimal ingredients milk, sugar and water; more a reserve than a wash and a reminder that the grass is not always greener. A point being stressed right now by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Reforesting Scotland and Lesley Riddoch with the 'Help Make a Thousand Huts' initiative. This is a fantastic way to encourage home grown holidays and improve health and well being for the many. The Scottish Government has proposed there should be a provision for huts within the Scottish Planning Policy and the call is out to support the development of hutting culture. Contact details are below and the consultation ends on the 23rd July, so email today, 'Huts Need You Now'.

Double nougat finished we notice the fun-fair is in town and although not the most ecological of distractions we cannot resist a shot on the Waltzer. Lunching on ice cream, even with the purest of ingredients, is not the cleverest mix with a high speed dance. Seasickness remedies come to mind and I focus on the most distant point, acid coloured cartwheels. Mindfulness and transcendental thinking flash before my eyes and recent photographs of Buddhist monks in a private jet, drinking champagne. This spin takes on greenwash proportions where Eco Hummers claim high performance, low emissions and zero guilt; where 'Barbie Bcause' flaunt plastic bodies decked out in recycled clothing and where MacDonald's corporate logo bleeds from red to green. I am startled out my meditation as the ringmaster issues the command 'Everybody Scream' and I let out a blood curdling shriek matched only by my 20 year old son. Parents accompanied by younger offspring cast looks which we put down to the dyed red mohican and ox blood doc martins with yellow laces but I suspect it has more to do with the sagging speedos.

We leave the fun-fair with our bodies satiated and a desire to feed the soul. For an architect there are snacks everywhere from Robert Rowan Anderson's Victorian Pile at Mount Stuart; Gokai Devici's residential tower; Greek Thomson's Craigmore Villa; James Carrick's Rothesay Pavillion and our own humble Bute Recycling Centre where I pick up a Puch classic road bike out the bargain skip for a fiver. Jumping on with the Last of the Mohicans we cycle off to the Victorian Pile to take in the fabulous Lucy Skaer exhibition, worth a visit to Bute on it's own. Everything at Mount Stuart is in the best possible taste, even the smack of your entrance fee finding it's way abroad and including the stunning Munkenbeck & Marshall visitor hut.

The weather forecast for the remainder of the Fair Fortnight is climate changing scorching, so like a green Bill Murray tomorrow will be much the same as today, the day after the same again, although multiple dips in the Firth of Clyde have shrunk my speedos and I head of to Bute Fabrics for some off cuts. It is a little known fact that Plastic Bertrand had a bit part in Groundhog Day but a better known fact that supposedly  UPVC (and not tight trunks) is the main culprit for reducing sperm count and endangering marine wildlife, so in the immortal French bards mistaken words 'Ca plage pour moi'.


'Help make a Thousand Huts' please cast your vote at

Lucy Skaer's exhibition at Mount Stuart will run from 23rd June 2013 until 31st October 2013, for further information please refer to

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