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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.

Bilbao wow wow

March 31st, 2019

Pedro sniffed the Renfrewshire air and prowled through the Basil Spence archways where within the cavernous interior a pack of black clad stray tutors haunched down on all fours. A horrible wail echoed through the airport bazaar, as Pedro raised himself up onto his hind legs and sucked in the rabid spirit of Dr J. Sam & Isa tore off vibrant coloured robes in deepest respect of the Stratharch sage as Pedro led the chant J.. J.. J.. J.. J. Or so I was told, as having missed the first day I traveled solo to deepest Basque to hitch up with Stratharch’s annual third year field trip.

I caught up with the pack as they rounded off day one wolfing into Chorizo hot dog Pintxos washed down with vast bowls of Rioja. Stories of fine architecture and food from the earlier walk through the Basque industrial capital ran deep into the pequena horas. Finally curled up in my basket for the night I fell into a deep sleep to be abruptly woken by Ayrshire Gordie ‘put on your best collar today the way is San Sebastian’. Dressed kind of like priests and resembling a cross stag party, we herded our flock onto the waiting coach and headed for San Sebastian.

Our drive was short but the destination was spectacular. The February sun warmed our backs as we strolled around la Concha Bay. Young Chris could not contain himself, running around in all directions yelping, look at that, look at this; a wiser Nick ran after him, you missed that, you missed this;  eventually Pedro’s patience broke as he whistled ‘away to me’ and the young pups rounded up the students towards a panting Pedro who pointing at the El Real Club Nautico by Joaquin Labayen (1929) barked the following description; ‘a modernist ship like gem hung over the the promenade like an architectural ark’. Dazzled by his verbosity we scrambled up the steep sided Monte Urgull to the Napoleonic stronghold of Castillo de la Mota with its strategic view of the harbour. We circled round the ramparts and gawped at the gigantic Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart) statue, better know as the Cristo de la Mota. Measuring 12 metres tall the huge Jesus stared down to Donastia, the old town, to which we tumbled and headed for the San Telmo museum.

San Sebastian is often described as a Giant Mastiff nestling into a rugged landscape, crashing cliffs and water are imbedded with artworks, the best of which created by the rival sculptors Chillada and Oteiza. This dynamic was not lost on the studio of Nieto Sobejano and their remodelling of San Telmo Museum (2011). Geometric forms emulate the rocks and ramparts forming a bond between rugged coast and shore. In love with the raw strength of the building, we drifted across the adjacent art deco Zurriola Bridge (1931), which straddles the Urumea River closest to its mouth, and gazed towards the Kurasaal Congress Centre by Raphael Moneo (1997), a big lump of a building which was shut. With no where to go the flock scattered until Pedro let out a high pitched whine sending out flankers to guide the flock to a waiting coach. Back in Bilbao we were met by intrepid Iberian writer Chip Landau and his ex pat tash who had joined the trip to pen a guide on unsustainable travel. Forced to walk we all set off towards Party Street (Golenkale), where the Basque underbelly gathered each evening, both students and tutors blended in with ease.

Ayrshire Gordie’s alarm cock crowed the next morning and we gathered for breakfast where Pedro with a giant register between his jaws, joked and jested with the students. All accounted for he barked (jaws full Pedro can speak through his ears, being a rare breed reared to communicate in marshy ground). The students laughed at Pedro’s jokes and wondered at his talking ears. Very proud of his itinerary, Pedro had cleverly left Frank Gehry’s masterpiece to last, we placed our ears next to his and listened to what he had to say; ‘the landscaping around the Rio Bilbao is astonishing (Javier Lopez Chollet, 2005), the Post Modern Artklass apartment block by Rob Krier (2011) is terrible and the Zubiarte shopping mall by Robert A M Stern (2004) even worse, while make your own mind up about the Universidad de Deusto Library by Raphael Moneo (2008) and I would listen to opinions on the Bizkaia Aretoa de la UPV-EHU by Alvaro Siza (2010). Each of these buildings acted as an hor de oeuvre  in anticipation of the grand entrée itself, the Guggenheim Museum by Senior Gehry & his Associates (1997).' We slathered outside waiting to enter this ultimate urban catalyst when with giant register in his jaws, Pedro froze and let out a low blood curdling growl.

Facing us stood a huge dog bedecked in glorious colourful flowers, wow gasped the students, wow. Cameras poised they moved towards the Jeff Koons creation while a green Pedro pounced deep into its midst. Ripping and tearing, the topiary creation was flung skywards transforming into a shower of beautiful petals which fell over tutors and students alike. Black garb transformed into a multi coloured festival and Pedro danced the troop into the museum. We lapped up the curvaceous interior and vowed never again to draw a straight line, never again to make a structure work, and never again to use materials in a sensible manner. With the sound of our own voices in our ears, we left in a dream and headed for Party Street to discover it shut on Sundays.

All dressed up with no where to go, we sat in our most loved Plaza while student detectives used digital smoke signals to discover the one and only bar in Bilbao which opened on the Sabbath. Falling under the underbelly our colours faded as we entered a heavy metal nirvana where a Basque Cruella De Ville served up local brew while eying up our coats. Etiquette agreed with the local zombies, we shoe gazed our last hours in Bilbao head bashing to Spanish hard rock while Pedro slowly revamped back into his lovable darker shade. We all patted his back and tickled his chin congratulating him on another already legendary trip.

 

Thanks to Peter Welsh for the incredible effort he puts in to make the Stratharch field trips such a success, thank you also to my fellow tutors for being tremendous company however the biggest thanks of all to the Stratharch third year students who are a credit to themselves and the University. Long live Dr J.

A Guide to Being Unsustainable - Climate Alarmism by Donald Clarkson

December 16th, 2018

‘Snow falls on the Coliseum in April’ read the headline and still we are told climate change is here. What is the reason for the snow, the arctic is having a heat wave this winter. There is no sun in the arctic in winter, a heat wave with no sun. It is not just this year, this is the third year in a row, with no sun. The scientists think we should believe this.

Apparently we do not understand the difference between weather and climate, weather is what we get while climate is what we expect. Everyone knows we never get what we expect, did the scientists predict sleet spoiling Easter in St Peters Square, no they did not. Will the sun rise tomorrow or do we predict it will rise tomorrow. Is the Pope a Catholic or do we predict he is a Catholic.

So who was in charge of these scientists, who was the high predictor, that will be John Charles Beale, senior policy adviser of the Environmental Protection Agency to the United States Goverment. And what is John Charles Beale best known for, scrupulous science and a search for the truth. No the guy responsible for explaining why the Tiber freezes in Spring, is a convicted fraudster.

This is not new, when ever society sets an established view, in this case climate change, along comes someone who disagrees and is subjected to abjure, curse and detest. The best known is Galileo Galilei who was trialled and convicted in 1633 for supporting the Copernican theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The Catholic Church immediately chastised him, he denies the scriptures, he places the Sun at the centre of the universe, burn him. Poor old Galileo was found guilty of heresy and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. The same is happening today and the biggest farce is that scientists studying climate change have actually enlisted the help of the Flat Earth Society, yes a Flat Earth also suffers from climate change! Galileo would revolve in his grave.

You are still not convinced, you don’t even believe Galileo. Tell me then what was the best selling science book of last year, was it ‘How do we tackle Climate Change’ or ‘How to Save a Planet’ no it was ‘Shackled’; Chris Turney’s environmental best seller, a true account of an epic voyage to Antarctic waters. In 2013 Mr Turney, the acclaimed Professor of Earth Science and Climate Change, galavanted southwards to measure the melting of glaciers in Antartica and got stuck in thick ice. ‘Ship of Cold Fools’ ran the headlines, ‘From Melt Down to Iced In’ went the stories, ‘Scientists with Red Faces and Blue Feet’ they laughed. Mr Turney explains the disaster with his own personal brand of science, ‘climate change has caused dramatic changes to currents and winds in and around Antartica. These changes have resulted in warm water melting the ice from below and undercutting vast glaciers. That is making them melt and everyone knows that fresh water freezes more quickly than salt water’. In other words the ice turned back into ice however somehow got bigger. The Huffinton Post described Shackled or ‘How a scientific expedition to Antartica became a fight for survival’, as a bloody good read and apparently Mr Turney held back from eating penguins unlike the real Shackleton. Hooray for the eco system.

Why should we the public trust the media, false news has been with us for years. Cheap slanderous pamphlets led to the American War of Independence, while more recently we know Nasa’s moon landings were stage set, the Sun newspaper spoke the truth about Hillsborough and that Barack Obama is not a native born American. Our post truth political world relegates facts to a concern of secondary importance, simply take a look at Brexit and the US presidential election. It is no longer important whether Donald Trump was correct in stating that ‘Climate Change is a Chinese invention in order to make U.S. manufacturing non competitive’, what is important is what I think and I have to agree.

A Guide to Being Unsustainable part 1 has recently been published and includes Climate Alarmism by Donald Clarkson. Part 2 is now under development and when finished the two guides will be combined to form a lifestyle Colour Supplement to help us all tune into our changing world. It will include fashion, travel, your money, relationship advice, film reviews and a horoscope. The publication started a year ago with the original blog, if you want to find out more try …….

https://www.urbanrealm.com/blogs/index.php/2017/12/10/a-guide-to-being-unsustainable-a-happy-new-year?blog=24

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; https://www.seda.uk.net


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

http://architecturefringe.com/#/repurpose-idea/


Sevill-ized

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.