What does the future of your place look like?...What if you could change it?...What would you do? The collective lockdown experience highlighted the importance of local places. It also showed bringing communities together to plan for a brighter future is as important than ever. A new exhibit at the V&A in Dundee Scotland, ’What if…? / Scotland’ re-engages the civic role of design professionals by asking communities from across Scotland to share their hopes and dreams for the future of the places they call home. What if…?/Scotland was to be staged in Venice as part of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibit responds to the Biennale’s theme ‘How will we live together?’ and pairs local citizens from all over Scotland – with designers, architects, and artists.
In July of 2021, we worked with a local group from Dundee, Scotland in the community of Fintry. This project was completed in two days following a similar process to our prior two day design challenges. We began our walk together with local residents at the Finmill Community Centre. From the centre, we walked towards Finlathen Park, a large green space created on the site where old mills once stood. The Dighty Burn that powered these mills, weaves through the park. Finlathen Park is centrally located to three primary schools and a care centre. The park has football pitches, woodland and paths connected by a green circular cycle route. The group also explained, however, there were elements in the park that contributed to a sense that the area was unwelcoming for some residents both young and old.
The group asked..."I WISH...for a safe place for sports." During our walk three overarching themes were also identified. There were opportunities to: enhance the comfort and accessibility of the park, support a wide range of activities to learn and play, build spaces for people of different age groups to meet and socialize. The group also suggested: a wide range of healthy play facilities (including basketball), a space for teenagers to hang out, a designated electric bike track in the park, a ski slope for the winter , community gardens as a place to learn and socialize, art installations created by the community under the newly restored Finlathen aqueduct, demonstration gardens for learning and play, enhanced lighting to improve safety and offer enchanting opportunities, a new rugby pitch, greater opportunities for the elderly to enjoy the park. Collectively these suggestions would enhance overall safety and expand the range of activities in the park for people of all ages to enjoy. Following the walk we sketched out the group's suggestions for the area and divided them into categories on a map into: activities, sports, and wishes. The work is now on display in the V&A along with work from local artists and designers who collaborated with community groups across Scotland. Starting with an open ended question ‘What if’ - the exhibit demonstrates how community-led, grassroots engagement can stimulate local discussions and creativity. While the group enjoyed sharing their dreams and answering ‘What if…?’ The group also asked an equally important question - ‘what’s next...?’ When designing our collective future, conversation and authentic participation must be followed by real change.