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10x10 Agile City

Golden Teacher Play

Golden Teacher Play
Glasgow School of Art MFA

Glasgow School of Art MFA
Test Unit Summer School

Test Unit Summer School

3 September 2019

Tell us about yourself or your practice.

Agile City is a community interest company that creates space for work, events and learning.  We operate across two buildings – Civic House and The Glue Factory – and deliver a public programme of events, talks and workshops that explore cultural and social approaches to city development.

We are based in Speirs Locks, north Glasgow – an area that has been dramatically affected by loss of industry and the construction of the M8 motorway in the 1960’s. We have worked in this area since 2011 and our projects respond to this context by considering sustainable approaches to repurposing industrial buildings and addressing issues of vacant space through activation, testing and learning.

What are you working on at the moment?

Over the last two years we have been considering the environmental impact of our work through events and collaborative research. A key outcome of this work is a capital project to reduce energy consumption of Civic House - a building we are currently developing as a workspace and venue that supports creative learning and socially engaged city development.  The building is a 1920's print works and like most industrial buildings of the period it is incredibly inefficient to run. A core principle of the building’s development is to retro-fit the building up to PassivHaus standards - vastly improving its thermal performance and generating electricity via PV panels. Once completed it should be energy positive and generate more electricity than it consumes over an annual basis.  It will be one of the first projects of its kind in Scotland, and we hope it can influence the design and development of similar buildings in the future. 

Cement production contributes over 8% of global CO2 emissions so it is essential we improve our ability to repurpose existing buildings and make them ready for a low carbon future.  Glasgow has an abundance of post-industrial buildings, and this project aims to create a case-study on how to sustainability re-purpose buildings for cultural and social activity.


What impact do you hope to see through your work? / Why is design important?

We want to see a culture of repurposing buildings and materials to reduce the vast amount of waste associated with architecture and city development. I studied architecture in Glasgow and the focus was explicitly on the design of new buildings - not engaging with the abundance of existing vacant buildings in the city.


Tell us about something you’ve worked on that’s made you feel proud.

In June 2019 we delivered the 4th edition of Test Unit - an art, design and architecture summer school and events programme. This year we explored the theme of ‘Material Flows’ through discussion, workshops and making. Its an intensive week, but a highlight of our year - it’s a pleasure to work with such an amazing group of talented, engaged and smart participants and facilitators from a range of disciplines and countries.


What is the role of design in addressing/ communicating global issues?

I think it’s essential that we all start delivering projects that manifest the change we want to see. There is a growing awareness within the architecture community to address the climate emergency, but there is a big difference between discourse and change.  We are a small company and are on a journey to work out our own approach. For us, learning through doing is central to this - it’s not until a project is delivered that we understand the barriers that can dampen positive ambition - often created by the economic pressures linked to taking a longer-term view.