Annan will feature in a new exhibition called ‘What if…?/Scotland’, opening in V&A Dundee on 22 May, which will explore the relationship communities have with their built environment.
The project, commissioned by the Scotland + Venice partnership, is the creation of Edinburgh-based 7N architects together with Architecture and Design Scotland, Scotland’s design agency, and a number of local partners. Initially started in 2019 it paired five local people from Annan with five architects and designers to discuss how they would improve the spaces where they live and what their hopes, wishes and aspirations for the future are.
The designer responded to the wishes of the people by proposing a way to make the hopes a reality – asking What if…?/. The process was filmed by film maker Basharat Khan. The exhibition of the wishes, alongside the films, were initially prepared for the Scotland + Venice exhibition for the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2020 – the world’s leading architecture exhibition. However, with the 2020 exhibition postponed and uncertainty around travel in 2021 due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, the organisers were able to adapt the exhibition to premiere at V&A Dundee.
Annan’s town centre opportunities
In Annan the locals discussed a number of areas they’d like to see developed, they were all keen to inspire local young people and future generations to understand the town’s impressive past and look forward to a bright future with pride. One of the key topics was finding new spaces to host events and gather together.
The groups discussed the re-use of some of the derelict buildings in Annan and how bringing these beautiful buildings back to their former glory would make a difference to the appearance of the town and how the local people feel about it.
The High Street was a main focus for the groups, Roderick McCallum introduced architect Sam Boyle to the town, they discussed the potential to utilise empty spaces within the town centre for housing, which would result in more people living in the heart of the town.
Local resident Ben Young spent some time with planning specialist Nick Wright discussing how making small changes like repairing broken windows and painting shop fronts would renew feelings of pride in the High Street, with the ambition of working towards bigger regeneration projects.
The group also thought the harbour had great potential. The area has a rich maritime history and heritage and the harbour has several old buildings, which have potential for development. Alan Thomson showed architect Jordan McCrae around the area and they discussed how it could become an important part of the town again. They discussed a workshop where older members of the community could pass on their boat building skills to young people, they also imagined how a community café would bring people to the harbour area, as well as a shared community space for events and gatherings.
Sean Marshall Chair of the Annan Regeneration Steering Group, who hosted the workshops said:
“It was a really positive project to be involved in and it confirmed to me that within our local community there is a strong pride in our town and a will to improve it for the future.
We were delighted that Annan Regeneration Steering Group could get involved in hosting the group, however the success of this project is testament to our local people; Callum, Roderick, Ben, Lynne and Alan, who worked alongside the visiting architects and were so generous with their time and ideas.
The great news is since this project began in 2019, the Annan Harbour Regeneration project has secured funding to purchase a building and some land, so some exciting progress has been made in realising this wish for Annan. The plans include a workshop, exhibition space and café which we hope will be a place for local people and tourists in the future.
I hope visitors to the What If…?/ exhibition in Dundee will gain an insight into our town, the engaged local people and the interesting future ahead.”
Annan was one of five communities taking part in the project alongside Elgin, Wester Hailes in Edinburgh, Paisley and Lerwick. Dundee will be added in time for the opening at the V&A. As well as themes individual to the local communities there were many overarching themes of regeneration of lost and iconic buildings, the issues of closed shops in High Streets, community spirit, pride in local areas and how to create a meeting space that’s accessible to everyone.
In addition to the five films there will be an interactive installation called the Cloud of Dreams, where anyone attending the exhibition can submit their wish for their place.
Ewan Anderson of 7N Architects said:
“When we first met with these communities in late 2019, who could have foreseen how much our lives would change? It’s interesting that even prior to a year in lockdown, community and spaces to gather and meet were of common importance throughout Scotland. I’m delighted we have found a home for the exhibition as it is important that these stories are told. And how fitting that this exhibition examining our places and how design affects them will be presented at Scotland’s first Design Museum V&A Dundee.”
Exhibition dates: Sat 22 May – Sun 21 Nov 2021 – Free museum entry.
Booking open at: www.vam.ac.uk/dundee