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Bringing Glasgow and Edinburgh together

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5 Jun 2008

EDINBURGH & GLASGOW:  Are they inevitably rivalrous competitors or does their future lie in closer collaboration?

Over the last few years the Design Champion initiative has contributed to the debate on connecting up Glasgow and Edinburgh to form either a larger metropolis or a regional city. But whatever it is called, it is clear that there needs to be closer links between these two great cities. Inter city collaboration and connection have been on the agenda for some time. Stuart Gulliver of Glasgow University and others have been leading conferences and writing papers for nearly 20 years and this has helped to give the project momentum. There is now a specific project funded by Edinburgh, Glasgow, Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian and Scottish Enterprise Glasgow: “Glasgow:Edinburgh Collaboration” is controlled by a steering group made up of the funding partners and the Scottish Government. Laura Gordon is the project Director; their mission statement is ‘Edinburgh Glasgow Collaborating To Compete’.

In recent years, the benefits of larger cities pooling together has become increasingly evident in Liverpool/Manchester, Southampton/Portsmouth and Birmingham and its neighbouring satellite cities. A key international example is the Oresund Project linking Copenhagen and Malmo, where a shared airport, universities and other major ‘infrastructures’ have enabled the two cites to leapfrog competitors, elevating them into the major league of European city complexes. Within the UK there is little doubt that Edinburgh and Glasgow could be a formidable combination. Not only because they are so complimentary, but also in the words of architect Malcolm Fraser - ‘Imagine San Francisco and Chicago located just a few miles apart’. Each has a spectacular location. One sits on the estuary of the Forth, the other on the estuary of the Clyde; one faces out to the Atlantic and the Americas, while the other looks to Europe and the North Sea.

We are working to help develop the potential of this idea, just as is being done on the Thames Gateway project in response to Gordon Brown’s appointment of Terry Farrell as Design Champion. While much work is being done, it is clear that there needs to be a more spatial framework based approach to the collaborative possibilities between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Much of our work demonstrates the fairly close physical relationship between the two, and more recently has explored the potential for developing an urban design and architectural rapport. Glasgow’s high-profile 1999 Festival of Architecture and Design which lead to the creation of The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and the City should be complemented by the creation of a sister organisation based in the capital with an urbanism/place remit. The recently formed Academy of Urbanism, which can count among its Academicians Sir Terry Farrell, Trevor Davies and Riccardo Marini has been in discussions with the Design Initiative and the Lighthouse about the reality of a national urbanism centre located in Edinburgh.

The idea of large regions coming together has immense appeal, particularly in view of the considerable changes in city and regional competitiveness. After all, these two great cities form the economic and cultural backbone of Scotland. Collaboration also has advantages when facing up to the major challenges of our age, notably climate change, which is spearheading a different approach to issues such as ecology, agriculture and landscape. Edinburgh and Glasgow are set in the most extraordinary landscapes of water and rural and urban terrain. This could give rise to a landscape-led framework approach that considers existing assets and the effects of future climate change in a genuinely joined-up way.

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