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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.

Festive Fortnightly Blog - horribilis or mirabilis

December 27th, 2013

Humans are not natural cannibals, at arguably the most demanding time of the year they prefer to show feelings of bonding and togetherness. This is because as a species they need to work 'cheek by jowl' to survive however the stronger urge to propogate, leads to power and control. This desire to rule can be such that as with Cronus, chief Titan of the Golden Age, to prevent his sons from ruling, he ate them.

Complicated stuff, but how about an anarcho-syndicalist commune where turns are taken to act as executive officer for the week (search for the Holy Grail, 1975). Or what about buying your Christmas presents from a mega rich company who use vast ware houses, pay no taxes but offer a huge selection, the cheapest prices and deliver to your door (Amazon, 2013). Or even the most glorious building designers in the world checking your bank balance to be sure you can afford to work at their feet for free (Libellous, 1984).

The winter solstice is the darkest time but not the most demanding, this will arrive as reserves run low and the biting cold of late winter has still to be overcome. Recessions follow a similar path, as when finally there is an economic reversal the wolfs continue to pick off the weakest, with more companies going under during the upturn than the recession itself. At this time it is important that we shrug off the dark side and avoid the urge to consume ourselves, feasting on low fees, poor quality work and further loss of public confidence.

Come the revolution will we still have the Queen's Speech, from what I can tell 'annus horribilis' was an invention of our fine monarch during one of her better known recitals. Many believe this a reference to the antics of her offspring and is spawned from the lesser known 'annus mirabilis'. This was a description of 1666, the year of both the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, stangely 'annus mirabilis' translates as the Year of Miracles. The original poet John Dryden searched for the positive and his title was re-used by Philip Larkin in reference to his miraculus loss of virginity in swinging '1963, rather late for me'. Those with a love for poetry should have a think about entering The Empire Cafe's poetry competition, an opportunity to participate in the cultural activities of the Commonwealth Games, and enjoy tea, coffee, sugar and cotton, in the company of Jude Barber and Louise Welsh, entries to be submitted by 12th January, details below.

We harvest what we sow; for me 2013 has been more mirabilis than horribilis. SEDA is reinvigorated, Collective Architecture plough new fields and the Glasgow Institute of Architects make steps to scatter seed far and wide. If karma can be chameleon, it will surely come out of hiding in 2014  in the fluttering form of architectural anarchy; the individual shall flourish rejoicing in the group. The G.I.A.'s task would put Santa to weep, it's size and variation is diverse. It spans from Oban to Dumfries and Moffat to Tobermory; it houses the urbanity of Motherwell and Greenock to the isloated splendour of Bowmore and Campbletown; while it's wealth is kept in Helensburgh and Hyndland witheld from Cumnock and Calton. Memebers are called to arms from top down to inside out to participate in 2016 The Year of Architecture. Glasgow will be host from Burns Night to Leap Year Day, those interested please make contact, details below.

As the New Year approaches and as you look back, what if Keir Hardie had not settled in Cumnock, Walter Blackie not built in Helsnsburgh and Campletown Loch was whiskey; surely revolutions would go wrong, revelations become a disappointment and resolutions be broken; let's just give each othe a bit of mirabilis.


Glasgow Institute of Architects 'Call to Arms' for members across the chapter, check for details.

To submit a poem to The Empire Cafe prior by the 12th January 2014, check for details.

SEDA Green Drinks 30th January 2014 with Frank McAveety discussing urban cycling at Siempre Bike Shop, 162 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow. Check for details.

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