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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.

All things bright and beautiful

July 8th, 2018

Friends, God created the earth and everything on it. Man may have dominion over the earth but let us be clear, he must respect the laws of nature and protect the earth for all men to come. We are part of nature, we are not it’s overlords, we have to care for all as nature is our common home. We are the stewards of God’s creation.

The heathen tars the believer with the brush of climate change denier when nothing is further from the truth. They proclaim Christian beliefs and conservative ideology are bedfellows, and while the odd evangelical extremist may lack empathy for a polar bear, this is not typical of our flock. Religion is not the root of all evil, nor as Mr Dawkins put it non thought, we embrace science.

The thinking class looks down its nose at religion but fails to understand that religion is not a rejection of modern science, it is part of being human. What does life look like for the 7 billion souls who share the planet, 6 billion hold faith with a religious group. A further half billion practice traditional beliefs; Aborigines, American Indians, Chinese and African folk religions. More than 9 out of 10 humans have a spiritual perspective. The thinking class on the other hand dismiss the idea of God, they dislike the idea that human beings have the right to be on earth, they idolise mother Gaia and consider humans a flawed polluter on their perfect planet. If you hinted at caring for God’s creation you were already on the slippery slope to Pantheism. They think we live in a state of constant awareness of our sins and are fed a steady diet of ‘biblical steps’ to overcome our shortcomings. In other words it is Men and God who are the problem, why are Christians considered unsustainable.

Christians understand that "La cura della casa commune" (the care of the common home) is by far the most important challenge we all face, we understand that it is a deep love of nature that binds us all. This sense of connectedness gives rise to awe, humility and an awareness of humankind’s heedless arrogance and shortsightedness. That is why the one true world leader Pope Francis published an Encyclical on Climate Change & Equality ‘The Pope can see what atheist greens can not.’ A courageous, accessible, effort to make the world feel how real and serious the changes happening in our climate are and our joint responsibility of taking immediate action. Not all welcome the Encyclical and point out his ignorance regarding population growth, an issue where the Catholic church could make a real difference. This man will lack credibility until he acknowledges that contraception is a vital component in the fight against climate change, they fail to understand the preciousness of life. It is now not just safe to be Catholic and green, it is obligatory.

Paving the way is Operation Noah, the climate change charity has long preached the connection between caring for creation and faith. Most agree that climate change is real and caused primarily by human activity, but this is not an issue of faith. Churches are coming together to respond to a changing climate and explore threats through Scripture, testimony and practical application. We no longer struggle to see the connection between environmental issues, the teaching of the Bible, our daily bread and walk through life.

Some may say that in 7 billion years our ageing sun will burn off the last of it’s hydrogen, bloat up into a red giant and swallow the Earth and barring catastrophe the Earth, could sustain human life for another 2 billion years before the sun boils off the oceans. We agree that the planet was here before us but only by a few days, why argue the concept of time when we all share the need to care for God’s creation. Souls live forever.

“You shall not pollute the land in which we live … You shall not defile the land in which we dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people." NUMBERS 35:33-34

Reverend Green


The above is an extract from "A Guide to Being Unsustainable" which will be published by the Scottish Ecological Design Association in the next few weeks. To recieve a copy you require to be a member of the Scottish Ecological Design Association, membership information can be obtained at our new web site at the following link;

Repurpose Idea (an archi fringe workshop)

June 3rd, 2018

‘Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.’ T.S. Eliot

An important part of recycling is the reuse of narrative and memory. This can be extended to the reuse of idea, where thoughts, memories, emotions and physical possibilities can be kept alive, stolen, passed on and reinvented. Do we understand fresh thought, should we promote a right to copy (as opposed to copyright), can we make it easier to recycle ideas.

How do people come up with things, everyone associates their discovery with Archimedes screaming Eureka as he watches his bath water rise in proportion to his immersed body parts. Unfortunately this is far from the norm, strokes of genius happen over time. They come in to the world via false starts, observations, memories, revisits and most often through the ideas of others. It is no surprise that Pablo Picasso’s most famous words are ‘Art is theft’.

Stealing ideas does not come naturally, we are hard wired not to copy. Some say there are no new ideas, nothing comes from no where, this is not entirely true. No one makes a perfect copy, some will join ideas together, they morph with character. Imitation is one step from emulation, and comes in the form of precedent, research, transformation as opposed to copy, theft, plagiarism. Dig deep, steal from the many, always give credit and mix things up.

How is all this made easier, do we need to bounce ideas, do we need solitude, do we need identity, do we search, do we store these up, do we need a vocabulary. The word creative is no longer just an adjective and is now used as a noun. Millions of workers are now tagged creatives who each day have to come up with ideas, designs, solve problems, strategise and think. They are obliged to add more than the sum of parts on a daily basis. This type of job may seem a dream however there is pressure to produce ideas at a given time.

As the world changes recycling ideas in a free and open manner will become more and more important. Through a series of interlinked workshops spread over the course of a short day we will explore the premise of repurposing, research how ideas are created and explore the right to copy. Merging thoughts generated at the workshop together with physical walks we will create an ideas map (no pressure). The walks will be centred around Glasgow Barrowland heading North to the Cathedral and it’s Necropolis; South to the open spaces of Glasgow Green dotted with it's monuments; West to the the Merchant City with it's shops and East to the dual Bridgeton Libraries.

Our map from the workshop will form part of the Scottish Ecological Design Association’s (SEDA) Expedition Series and be developed by graphic artists 'Designers on the Run'. Ideas Expedition will be published on SEDA’s website for download by the general public. The workshop will be held at Collective Architecture’s office which is centrally located in proximity to Barrowland. The project forms part of Archi Fringe and is supported by Zero Waste Scotland and the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre. Please come and join us details and booking at


March 11th, 2018

Darkness descended over Glasgow Airport as the six arrived on a gloomy February morning to depart on this years Strath Arch field trip. Young Nick brought fresh blood but arrived under the weather, clutching his stomach. Sam’n’Isa’s luminescent shoes jarred against the dark tones of architectural garb as they tried to lift the mood. Ayrshire Gordon finally rose from the gloom and Don Pedro gathered the six like gathering blight, nursing us through customs, security and a Gatwick sojourn to arrive safe in warm Seville.

Sunlight burst through the parting mist as we sipped freshly squeezed orange juice and caught a glimpse of an awakening Seville. Bright eyed students chattered and laughed as we followed Pedro through the hotel door and pictured ourselves in a city by a river. We skipped through orange trees squashing the fallen fruit into a marmalade floor, the students called out and Pedro answered quite slowly ‘a gigantic parasol fills a kaleidoscopic plaza, badly detailed wood of yellow and green, towering over our heads’ we looked up in dismay with the sun in our eyes and were gone.

Metropol Parasol by Jurgen Mayer (2005 - 2011) more marmite than marmalade became the subject of bickering as we bustled through Seville, surroundings morphing through history until we were faced with a looming gothic monster. Buttress upon buttress strangled the life out of form, as the full weight of Christianity screamed for attention. Built where once stood an ancient mosque, supplanting Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral in the known world, we wondered around the beast searching for a hole into it’s belly. A snaking file of humanity wound round until stonework turned into decoration and was gobbled into it’s depths. Left over respite from Islam is offered by the Giralda, part minaret, part bell tower offset at it’s base by the soothing Patio de los Naranjos entered through the door of forgiveness. We gathered away from the beast averting our eyes from the carnage towards the beckoning ramparts of the Real Alcazar. Pedro felt further penance was necessary and dragged us away to ensure an architectural education.

We ticked our way to the pleasantly integrated Triana Ceramic Museum by AF6 Arquitectos (2010 - 2014) with it’s alluring facade, past the congenial pavilions of the 1929 Seville Expo with their nationalistic art deco exteriors and strolled through Maria Luisa Park in perfect harmony, eating ice cream and discussing the future of our profession, to be confronted by the enormous Plaza de Espana semi en-circled by the Pabellon de Andalucia all by Anibal Gonzalez (1928). Dr J stepped forth to remind us about Spain’s history and the pile of wealth generated by South American gold which helped stroke many an egoistical monument. ‘Integrated ceramics may influence your bourgeois kitchen’ he scolded ‘but do not forget conquistador brutality’. Super ego and ice creams melting we walked around Anibal Gonzalez’s id to discover DL+A’s housing complex (2013) where “one could invite neighbours to a watchtower, to a finger, outdoor spaces pointing to each other talking about invisible relationships”. Out of Dr J’s earshot I had to admit to Ayrshire Gordon that I kind of liked it, ‘Architectural Porn’ was the reply, I did not know where to look.

Day 2 began as Day 1, happy faces, freshly squeezed orange juice and a big yellow bus. Merry prankster Pedro herded us on board with his cheery banter ‘stand up if you are not here’ we all chortled; ‘The restaurant serves breakfast at any time’ joined in Young Nick, ‘I just ordered French toast during the Renaissance’; we silently stared out the window and carried on our way to Cordoba. A quick stop off at the Madinet Al Zahra Museum by Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos (2009) built up the growing awareness of Christian destruction of Islamic Architecture (Historians cast a blind eye over similar treatment by Islamic Warriors of the Visigoths however when faced with physical evidence sympathies look towards Mecca). Arriving at Cordoba, Dr J settled into lecture mode to describe a city where in the 10th century education was universal; jews, christians and muslims lived cheek by jowl and Cordoba was the world’s centre of knowledge boasting 38 lending libraries. Since those heady days the extraordinary Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral has suffered the Reconquista and the insertion of a full blown gothic cathedral into it’s heart. Ordered by King Charles V who in an unexpected burst of decency browbeat his clergy "You destroyed something unique to build something commonplace”. This remains a solitary blip as Spanish Muslim requests to prey in the Mosque continue to be refused by both the Spanish Church and the Vatican.

Day 3 began as Day 2, happy faces, freshly squeezed orange juice and a big black clad Don Pedro. ‘Don’t trust atoms, they make up everything’ he guffawed describing this mornings journey to Seville Expo 2 and it’s emphasis on discovery. ‘I’m reading a book about anti- gravity’ joined in Young Nick ‘It’s impossible to put down’, we walked quietly through the hotel door and crossed the Rio Guadalquivir into Expo-land. Created in 1992 in competition to the Barcelona Olympics, time has not been kind. As built corpses lurked around, none creepier than the Avenue de Europa (Normier and Hennin) and it’s 12 ghostly towers. Students slumped around the redundant structures like a scene from the walking dead, slowly dragging their feet behind us, we quickened our pace. Stumbling upon the bizarre bulbous Hungarian Pavillion, part church, part owl, part whale, part political insult and masterpiece of naturalist architect Imre Makovecz. Now wholly abandoned, boarded up, graffitied, and covered in overgrown trees; we looked around and suddenly we were within biting range. Don Pedro gnashed his teeth and with a strange drawl explained how the Mexican pavilion is a giant concrete X, while Sam ’n’ Isa drooled over the neglected Finnish Pavilion by MONARK embodying the duplicity between nature and man. In need of lunch, we left the post apocalyptic landscape behind us, the students colour improved as we crossed back over the Rio Guadalquivir to seek out the Real Alcazar.

Facing the birthplace of the inquisition, the Real Alcazar promised sanctuary from a bustling city. We walked through it’s gates and calmness washed over us. Intricate decoration accepted as geometric form puzzled colourful patterns in stone and ceramic to form courtyards of splendour transforming into garden, into park, into introspection. The atmosphere was intoxicating as student and tutor settled into trees, into archways, finding solitude amongst a crowd. Minutes seemed like hours and hours passed like seconds, calm expressions spoke millennia as we nodded to each other. Renowned as the finest example of Mudejar architecture we were sad to leave, and retreated through the gates for a last look at the beast and bustle of Seville.

Student and tutor together found their way to a favourite square near the hotel, to eat and drink in our last evening before gathering in El Rinconcilla, Seville’s most ancient of bars. Sevillano food had been unkind to young Nick who finally confessed to an allergic reaction to cheddar cheese, thankfully only mild. We wept tears of laughter at the inadvertent parting shot while Ayrshire Gordon helped Don Pedro onto the back of his donkey, from where he pronounced his parting farewell  ‘Adios Amigos, je recherche la vraie espagne, jusqu'à l'année prochaine’, this time our tears were full of sadness as he rode into the sunset.

Thank you Peter Welsh for organising another superb field trip, thanks also to the ever patient Tania and special thanks to all the third year students who are a credit to themselves, Strathclyde University, and Escocia.

A Guide to Being Unsustainable

December 10th, 2017

We live in a world which over uses the term sustainable to such an extent there are multiple meanings. This is partly because the ultimate definition renders our world as unsustainable, eventually everything finite comes to an end. Should greater emphasis be given to the joy of life while it is still with us or should we stave off the impending horror for as long as possible. This is not a selfish manifesto to encourage personal satisfaction but to show that much of what makes life bearable is not at odds with what makes it sustainable.

There is no dictionary definition of sustainability that does not include time. In 7 billion years our ageing sun will burn the last of it’s hydrogen, bloat up into a red giant and swallow the Earth. Barring catastrophe the Earth could sustain human life for another 2 billion years before the sun boils off the oceans and turns it’s surface to a cinder. In the short term scientists predict that half of New York, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Miami and London will be under water within the next 50 years. To quote the UN Environmental chief Erik Solheim “We still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future."

Catastrophe in the short term is always about us. The Earth could well be better off without humanity and many see our future away from this planet. Not an unrealistic prospect however when we realise that the nearest planet with any hope of sustaining humanity is 50,000 years away, we will still have to hang around for a while. So what should we do while we wait, enjoy ourselves as we are still here, stock up the cellar for a long cold winter or try looking at things differently.

The first point to grasp is that the waiting for the many is likely to be incredibly horrible, famine, plague, war and death will ride rampant through humanity whilst the rest of life will experience something worse. Awareness of the evils of oceanic plastic is frightening however people only sit up when they realise plastic will enter their food stream while sea birds feeding bits of plastic to starving chicks seems an empathetic trick. There is bounty on this planet but how do we turn around a cultural super tanker with an emphasis on the few.

Over the next few weeks working with SEDA magazine and it’s editorial team of Jamie McCallum and Lewis Grant we will explore some of these complex issues as the first step to the preparation of a ‘Guide to Being Unsustainable’. Questions are already being asked about the role of science and religion; is, as Lynn Marguilis wrote in 1995, "Gaia is a Tough Bitch”; can economics be rethought as capitalism dies; how important is love; is our future lab meat, electric cars and should we review Bladerunner 2049.

Our title ‘A Guide to Being Unsustainable’ was at first seen as a straightforward possibly humorous exploration of the view from the other side, through the eyes of those who still believe the earth is flat or that climate change is a conspiracy theory. It has taken only a few sittings with the editorial team to realise that the idea sinks deeper than we imagined, it can still give guidance what not to do but it can also ask everyone to enjoy doing it. We will undertake this in earnest starting in 2018 and are very welcome to recieve contributions or ideas. If anyone wishes to pass something on please do that to myself at

The Electric Blue-Aid Marseille Test

April 23rd, 2017


‘From Paisley to Marseille,

Big blue buildings all day,

From Unitie to Corbusier,

Under a concrete bries soleil’

Went the pounding inpromptu student rap as we boarded the bus and waved bye bye to Alsop and Stormer’s Big Blue (1993), an impenetrable local authority headquarters. It was day two of Strath Arch’s 2017 annual third year field trip and as we headed on towards Arles my second steak tartar in under 24 hours started to kick in.

The trip started the day before when at dawn, Der Pierre (our leader) showed up in a black cab, joking with the driver about Groundhog Day.  Same price as last year Der Pierre barked, same tip growled the driver. The Groundhog is a close relative of the whistlepig or to the layman a large dog like rodent. To communicate the rat alternates between chattering, squeaking and hissing, whilst the dog barks, whines and enjoys a good sniff. So went their conversation all the way to the airport where we were joined from Ayrshire by Gordie and Sam ’n’ Isa who brought youthful optimism and a welcome dash of colour. Off we flew as Gordie explained how the winged dog was the official symbol of Marseille whilst the rat was the adopted symbol of their underground culture, this made in his opinion the Groundhog an appropriate mammal to bridge the class divide. Heard it before yelped Der Pierre who scratched his ear when he realised he had been allocated the same seat number as last year and demanded to be moved. Sit commanded Gordie, sheep dog trials being one of his hobbies.

The pain of the early flight was rewarded by a bonus afternoon in the city. The walk from La Gare Saint-Charles to our hotel took us past Port d’Aix, a monumental triumphant arch built in 1839 to celebrate French victories in search of colonial domination; perversely it now sets the backdrop for a make shift market where immigrants swap meagre possessions. Impressions somewhat stifled we dumped our bags and sauntered through the Le Panier an historic quarter which makes up the North side of Vieux Porte. Most of Le Panier was dynamited by the Nazi’s in WW2, in an effort to get rid of those they disliked a lot and rebuilt in the 1950s by a number of notable French architects including the likes of Auguste Perret. The frontage onto Vieux Port is strikingly simple whilst behind the lanes weave through a tapestry of cultural graffiti art. Statues commemorate the persecuted and sit uncomfortably next to posters promoting the French National Front. A bit of alright that Marine Le Pen purred Der Pierre gazing into her poster blue eyes, the inspiration for his noir sports range. For those not in the know, Der Pierre recently launched his underwear collection ‘hang to the right’ as a result of the success of his Adolf Boxer, that bit more slim fit for the gentlemen who boast a solitary testicle.

Fascist boxers also featured prominently in day one, as awakening from a feast of oysters, crab and clams the city had taken on a more changeable nature. Flitting between scorching sun and freezing wind, we started our day at Norman Foster’s L’Ombriere on the harbour front surrounded by a wriggling fish market. It is but a massive mirrored canopy under which you can look up. Frightened by what we saw we quickly moved on to the Abbaye Saint - Victor a nearby ancient religious site. Built high up on the South side of Vieux Port we entered to discover that originally the Abbey was built down from whence we came and a series of ancient arches and buttresses tumbled dramatically down through the carved interior. Startled by this revelation we climbed back out and struck ever upwards to the Bascilique de Notre Dame de la Garde by Henri Jaques Esperandieu (1864). The over proportioned golden Madonna and infant Jesus who feel a bit stuck on, are the best known icons of Marseille and look down over the city. Homage duly paid we headed off to the la Citie Radieuse better knows as the Unite de Habitation for some serious architectural pilgrimage.

In the same way you can’t hit a guy in specs whined Der Pierre as we laughed at a photograph of Le Corbusier boxing on the beach, you have to love his buildings. We all held our breath as we stared up through the massive pilotis at the textured concrete frame and patchwork of primary colours. Tadao Ando was also a boxer piped up Sam ’n’ Isa, he carried all the reminders of every blow that cut him until he cried out in his anger and his pain they sang. High above we heard a less harmonious screech, perched on the Unitie itself we caught sight of Dr J in full murderous black beckoning us up to Bar Corb. Sipping overpriced lager, overlooking Marseille from a Le Corbusier masterpiece was a fine way to end Day 1.

Back to day 2 and I boarded the big yellow bus for Arles realising I had overdone the steak tartar. My brain pounded to the Big Blue Rap as we headed into Arles and pulled up outside the LUMA by Frank Gehry (2018) half built on the outskirts, a kind off out of town cultural centre. ‘Are you on the bus or off the bus’ yelped Der Pierre as Dr J refused to even don Monsieur Gehry that level of respect and replied ‘Don’t look back, it will turn you to stone’. Weirdly Arles centre was a delight, cut from a beautiful jaune sandstone inter-dispersed with Van Gough tourist traps jumping out at you in distorted perspective. Hang on to your ears (Van Gough lost his here) was Der Pierre’s cry as we boarded the bus and my head spun towards a whistle stop tour of Nimes. By the time we returned to Marseille my time was due and a fevered three days of seafood and raw meat had to come to an end.

On the third day I rose reborn and we retraced our steps back into Le Panier to La Vielle Charite by Pierre Puget (1671), an early Ellis Island where immigrants from Africa where once housed. Strolling through the narrow lanes towards Fort Saint Jean the graffiti art took on a new form and blended in front of my eyes the mix of culture which made up the city. On reaching the Fort, home of the Foreign Legion, it was pointed out that the cannon did not face the sea but faced back to the city as it was from here which came the greater threat, I felt an inkling of an understanding of Marseille.

Built alongside the Fort Saint Jean is MuCEM, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations  by Rudy Ricciotti (2013) through whose grandiose web like Bries Soleil one can stroll down to the quayside and marvel at the cantilevered structure which is the Villa Mediterranean by Stefano Boeri (2013). A right couple of modern white elephants which one can not help but like. Glowering over the pair of them is the massive Cathedrale de la Major by Leon Vaudoyer which for a Romanesque Cathedral is surprisingly new, constructed  as recently as 1896. I very much enjoyed this sequence of buildings however then made the mistake of taking the hike out to Zaha Hadid’s Tour CMA (2012). A twenty storey blue glass office tower built for the local ferry company, some would describe it as elegant, until one might visit and witness the building nestling into ring roads, horrendous pedestrian routes and meaningless art. I could not leave Marseille with this bad taste of neo liberalism in my mouth so I choose to take the even longer hike to Friche La Belle De Mai. In English, La Friche is the Fallow or Wasteland and Friche La Belle De Mai is a crazed, dystopian jungle of culture located in a former tobacco factory. If you ever choose to visit Marseille and need to quickly get to grips with the city, head here.

The final evening was rounded of by those ever brilliant Strath Arch students who this year took over the solitary restaurant open on the elegant Place de Lenche to enjoy some safe pizza, a little fine wine and dance the slosh. By the time we returned to Glasgow Airport I had begun to feel human once more and boarded my taxi with Pierre to be greeted by a familiar driver ‘anyone for a steak tartar’ he barked.


A huge thank you to Peter Welsh for organising another wonderful Strathclyde University Field Trip. Special thanks to the Strath Arch students for their reliance in adversity, their constant good nature and their never ending energy. Good luck to everyone in their exams.