The RIAS celebrates its centenary this year and it means to have fun
You have to hand it to the RIAS, the RIBA’s sister organisation in Scotland. The Royal Incorporation is 100 this year – happy birthday from us! – but this is also the Scottish Assembly’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. The idea of the larger celebration is to include everything from fashion to engineering, including renewables. It would perhaps be easy for architecture to get lost in the mêlée. Instead, the RIAS has spent the last couple of years planning one of the biggest architecture programmes I have seen since 1984’s UK-wide Festival of Architecture.
Its members will have one programme of centenary events while the general public will get the Festival. The former will include an annual convention in Edinburgh in May which bursts with national pride, bearing the name ‘World Greats and Great Scots’. That tells you that they have international and English speakers as well as natives and those from the Scottish diaspora, so you will find Rafael Moneo, Benedetta Tagliabue, Eva Jiricna, Alison Brooks and Ian Ritchie there alongside the likes of Robert Adam, Rab and Denise Bennetts, John McAslan, Neil Gillespie of Reiach and Hall, David Page of Page + Park, Donald Canavan of Hurd Rolland, glass engineer Tim MacFarlane and so on.
The outward-facing festival is another thing entirely. Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer of the RIAS, thinks his organisation has scored a first here. He says: ‘This is not only the largest architectural festival in Scotland’s history but has the greatest geographic reach of any arts event ever. Most islands, many remote communities and every local authority area will host events, community activity or some of our educational programme.’
The ‘Ideal Hut Show’ sees 20 standard prefab garden sheds ‘pimped’ by a selection of architects, artists, designers and celebrities
Key to this is Baxter’s ‘umbrella’ model. By bringing in over 100 partners including government, arts, education, business and international organisations, he reckons the total value of what is happening amounts to some £3.5m. To sustain this, the incorporation’s chapters and partner arts organisations are each asked to concentrate their efforts for just one month – the months being spread out.
This all amounts to more than 400 events and exhibitions right across Scotland. Some are conventional celebrations of architects and places, others are more off-the-wall, such as the ‘Ideal Hut Show’. This initiative sees 20 standard prefab garden sheds ‘pimped’ by a selection of architects, artists, designers and celebrities. Artist Adrian Wisziewski started things off with the first. The 20 Ideal Huts will tour Scotland from May to September.
No such celebration would be complete without Gillespie Kidd and Coia’s ruinous St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, which is where the Festival starts on 18 March, exactly 50 years after the building first opened.
Of the mass of events, the ‘Coast to Coast Journey’ sounds intriguing – described as ‘a customised architectural craft taken along the Caledonian Canal and playing host to changing art work along the way’. Meanwhile the touring ‘Scotstyle’ exhibition of photographs will feature 10 buildings from each decade of the 100 years of the RIAS, 1916-2015. The public had a say in the nominations.