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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.

COP26 Day Three

November 4th, 2021

Groundhog Day, ten to the right, ten to the left, wait a bit, negative. Covid test, passport, and delegate letter in hand, I was berated by the stewards for bringing to much proof of existence, my UN blue lanyard was all that is required to enter sustainable heaven. Through the pearly gates I floated around the blue zone dragged down by the guilt of privilege.

A day of mixed emotions panned out ahead, unsure about what the ‘high heid yins’ were agreeing, I clocked in with my RIAS pals. Finance was the theme of the day; however, Peatlands was a hot topic of debate. Avoiding the nature tent, which was mobbed by homo sapiens desperate to pay homage to Mr Attenborough, I made for what has become my favourite watering hole, the Cryosphere Pavilion. A spot brimming with science, and I wallowed in a talk from the Peatlands and Land Quality Unit, to discover our Scottish Bog and Peatlands rival the Amazon Rainforest as a carbon sink and there is much we can protect, restore, and increase.

The next hour I spent dipping in and out of pavilions and talks ranging from African finance to Dutch rising sea wall technology, which having moved on from the thumb in the dike, to world leading engineering cannot cope with a rise greater than one meter (a real possibility) and are planning a move to Germany. Thinking about calling it a day I stumbled across some architecture at the Nordic Pavilion. A young Danish architect, an old Danish architect, a young observer and the elderly president of the U.I.A. we’re having a chat which summed up my day. On one half of the platform the two younger panellists shone with forward thinking ideas centred around collaboration, reuse of structure and net gain architecture while the other side dwelled on, can architects save the world, will we miss iconic buildings, are we supermen or even god. To be fair I think there was an element of provocation and the president of the U.I.A. made some very good points, however I left with the feeling that the era of the starchitect was still alive and kicking, or at least through their Ann Rand designer lens.

My day flitted from darkness to light and back again however I chose to leave with the brighter, youthful thoughts of a net gain architecture, in my head.  There is though still time for the darkness to return, I know not what happened in the ‘high heid yin’ tent apart from Biden has gone home and everything seems to have been agreed up front. I might just leave the telly switched off.


COP26 Day Two

November 3rd, 2021

Early rise to stick a swab up my nose, ten to the right, ten to the left, wait a bit, negative. Covid Test, passport, and delegate letter in hand, I walked the high road to COP (low road blocked by Polis), joined the queue and voila, I was now a formal RIAS COP26 Observer, pretentious moi.

Chest puffed out, my plastic ID dangled from my UN blue lanyard and I strutted around totally lost. I managed to figure out where I stood when I saw the Rolling Stones ten years ago and indeed where I got my vaccinations 10 weeks ago but ended up walking around the big world hanging from the ceiling, photo bombing interviews. I had better call my RIAS pal Mhairi, who being a seasoned campaigner (was here on Day One) could take me under her wing.

Mhairi saved me from the exhaustion of circumnavigating the globe once too often and we glided off to the Blue Zone. Hundreds of stands, exhibitions and talks filled our senses and we flapped around picking up snippets about biodiversity, water management and the flow country. Finally, we perched ourselves in the Nordic Stand to feast on a most excellent discussion between Scotland, Norway and Denmark about their different approaches to 20-minute neighbourhoods and the Place Standard through a climate lens. Suitably stuffed it was time to leave.

The sun was setting as we rotated our way through the gates while a vast array of activists filled the squinty bridge held back by the high vis polis. A chopper hovered above, and we somehow felt on the wrong side of the wire. We consoled each other with determined discussion about what we would do to help our own architectural bubble. Mhairi headed off to the opening of ACAN’s ‘Architecture of Crisis: Hopes + Vision’ exhibition at the New Glasgow Society Gallery in High Street. While I settled down to catch the tail end of Chris Leslie’s wonderful film ‘Disappearing Glasgow’ and his discussion with our own Jude Barber at the ‘The Sustainable Glasgow Landing’ by New Practice.

Loads happening, find out about them all at  More information about the events and activities described above please see below:

Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Inspiring Futures website including COP26 activities

Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) COP26 events

The Sustainable Glasgow Landing



COP26 Day One

November 1st, 2021

Feeling a bit embarrassed by my efforts on Day Zero, I decided to redouble them for Day One. Rising early, I discovered that the Red Rebel Brigade were catching a train from Bristol to Glasgow Central this very afternoon. If they can manage that, I think I can manage the four stops from Partick. They did not disappoint, in a bizarre ritual they paraded around the railway station dressed in red satin depicting the lifeblood that connects all species and makes us one. Forgiveness, compassion and understanding they bear witness to the climate and ecological emergency. My growing thirst needed quenched, and I set of for more.

There was certainly plenty to be had, French and Tamil groups gathered in South Glasgow; the Rainbow Warrior sailed up the Clyde carrying young activists from Mexico, Uganda, Bangladesh and Namibia; while Greta and the ‘Fridays for Futures’ gathered next to the Cop campus. I missed all of these. But sensing some action I followed a crowd into Kelvingrove Park as the sun set and the helicopters hovered above. Dark it was and everyone seemed to have a torch except me, determined I clambered on. After a few wrong turns I managed to catch the last speaker ‘take care everyone, and do not travel back on your own through the park’.

Tomorrow is another day, I thought as I ran at great speed towards the park gates.  As promised to the Red Rebel Brigade, I ask will you stand with us and please contact Alok Sharma, COP26 President, to tell him why we need urgent and drastic change. Tweet @AlokSharma_RDG or email

COP26 Day Zero

October 31st, 2021

Wearily I dig through two weeks of emails to try and register as a delegate. Put off by the prospect of downloading Aps and covid tests, I had been procrastinating, but finally I am accepted. Feeling more optimistic I pick my lockdown heavy frame of the sofa and take a Sunday walk around the campus and see what is going down.

Glasgow certainly looks photogenic, all windswept and interesting peppered with high vis polis, she could not look more apocalyptic. I wandered around the concrete bollards, blocked roads and bomb proof gates in search of some activity but all was quiet. I turned up the Clyde and thought I would source some action on the Green, but not to be. Perhaps George Square, but all I could find were some guisers looking for a night out. It was only yesterday on Sauchiehall Street at chucking out time I witnessed five firemen in yellow trousers having a fight. Not real fireman just some fancy dress, and unbelievably spider women came to their rescue. It was now becoming hard to figure out who are the authorities, the activists, and the locals. 

Following my meanderings I now feel ready to get beyond this calm before the storm and get stuck in. My first visit is likely to be Tuesday and if I can get past the barriers and onto neutral territory, I will try and write some proper stuff.


Obituary - One Million Species

October 5th, 2020

It is with deep regret that I have to inform everyone of the passing of our good friend One Million Species. She, him and it have been our close companion throughout, what seems like an entire lifetime. Together we have shared the ups and downs of the last four million millennia however all things have to end somewhere.

Although not painless it brings some relief that dear old One Million was oblivious to their demise. The hard hearted blame shrinking habitat, over exploitation of natural resources, pollution and even the myth of climate change. Rather than reflect on a planet ravaged by an ever-growing human population, we prefer to remember One Million Species in the glow of youth, scratching and scuttling around in the dirt and puddles.

It is relatively well known that One Million Species came from a very diverse background. She him and it made up almost a half of our amphibian creatures and a third of all marine mammals. Old One million included another third of all those colourful coral reefs and even a tenth of those itchy insects. On the more edgy side, she, he and it bit into a third of the entire shark family.

What is not so well known and not even included in old One Million’s basic arithmetic is all those microbes, they probably add up to billions. A bit more tricky to calculate and a bit less in your face than a wolf or a rhino, they are though still pretty important and something old One Million should take more credit for. It is all those lesser well known achievements which should be acknowledged, it takes a lot of effort keeping nature clean, breaking down all those dead plants and bits of animal into usable organic matter. One Million Species understood that we were all connected and knew that if a soil microbe disappeared, then perhaps a tree may fall, fruit may be lost, birds and monkeys go hungry and can no longer be eaten by large predators such as ourselves. 

It is a blessing that One Million Species left behind no relatives or immediate dependants. This is not to say she, he and it were not prolific fornicators, the exact opposite in fact. Old One Million produced one bloody large brood who all unfortunately passed away just before One Million, it is one of life’s tragedies when a parent outlives their children. Another unwelcome anomaly is that Old Million appears to keep growing. This is more than some hammer house set of long finger nails or straggling hair, this is a fresh set of numbers capable of outdoing the achievements of One Million themselves. It could include vast areas of oceans, a third of all our land and the Bengal Tiger. Who says there is not life in the old dog even when she, he and it are dead.

One Million Species has made the request not to send flowers to the funeral and would prefer that contributions are made to resolving the situation. She, he and it believe it is not too late to make a difference. Please start at every level from local to global, let us all build up to an overhaul of our economic systems, that is how I think they would like to be remembered.

Unfortunately due to pandemic restrictions only 20 close family can attend the funeral, to be held at Eden Garden Crematorium. Fortunately everyone else can witness the event as it will be broadcast live on all major channels and I am sure will touch us all.


It is the intention that the above obituary will form part of a developing SEDA publication 'A Guide to Being Unsustainable' which builds on previous SEDA magazines.  The publication will take a satirical look at life to help generate constructive criticism and draw attention to the serious issues which affect us all.