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Rising Star: Scott McAulay

Words:
Eleanor Young

Sustainability warrior and ‘significant influencer’

Scott McAulay is a RIBAJ Rising Star 2020.
Scott McAulay is a RIBAJ Rising Star 2020.

Coordinator, Anthropocene Architecture School
Part 1: 2017 Part 2: 2019

‘He is getting the message out there in a fresh and different way.’  This is how judge Jo Dimitri describes Scott McAulay’s ‘innovative’ self-driven teaching about sustainability. 

McAulay was galvanised by the 2018 IPCC Report detailing the catastrophic impact of global warming and the need for urgent action. He was shocked by the lack of change in architectural education. He writes: ‘In the face of a climate and ecological emergency, architecture schools should be recognising and teaching that every line drawn has an impact upon both people and planet… and that architecture can – and should – have a positive ecological impact.’

He surveyed fellow students to identify gaps in their knowledge and came up with the idea of the Anthropocene Architecture School. It started its public life as an event at Scotland’s Architecture Fringe as he finished his Part 2 at the University of Strathclyde in 2019. Then with Extinction Rebellion he led a session for the public, NGOs, activists and architects to look at what was holding back their cities’ emergency response. Next came his Crisis Studios which paired industry tutors with students to design sustainably. Offers of sponsorship in cash and venues gave it a life of its own with McAulay going on to offer sessions in climate literacy in CPD slots at practices and public sessions. He was asked to set the tone on climate at the RIAS’ annual convention last autumn.

 

 

McAulay’s Crisis Studio brought together practitioners and students on sustainable design projects.
McAulay’s Crisis Studio brought together practitioners and students on sustainable design projects.

These activities were juggled with freelancing, and looked like they would all disappear in the coronavirus lockdown. But digital sessions have allowed him to reach a huge number of people – more than 2,000 over 71 events since July 2019. They include working with architecture schools in Scotland and Birmingham and at the Architectural Association. He has run sessions with Trada and the Landscape Institute. An Instagram library of climate emergency reads and regular research keeps his teaching visible and powerful. Though he is keen to get back into practice this is now giving him a living. He also coordinates the Architecture Climate Action Network’s group on Climate Literacy. 

His referee, Sandy Halliday FRIBA, director of the Gaia Group, describes him as ‘significant influencer’.  She says: ‘Scott is an exceptionally proactive, engaging, articulate spokesperson for the modern architectural profession. He has an extraordinary ability to get things done.

 

McAulay co-edited Activism in Architecture, an edition of the RIAS Quarterly.
McAulay co-edited Activism in Architecture, an edition of the RIAS Quarterly.

How would you most like to improve society through architecture?

I want to empower society: democratising architecture and its knowledge, removing barriers to access and participation – particularly on the built environment’s potential to be a climate solution. If we are to decarbonise society, the public must understand the impact of buildings and their operations upon climate change. This means creating educational opportunities from school age upwards, sharing our knowledge outside of architectural institutions in new ways in public spaces, and urging fellow architectural practitioners to champion a Green New Deal.

What existing building or place would you most like to tackle?

I would love to tackle the deep-green retrofit of 66 Portland Place to turn it into a live classroom, aiming to be the first Living Building Challenge certified retrofit in Europe – creating a 2030 Challenge exemplar. 


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