Back to Blog

WEdesign in Glasgow: bringing intergenerational living to the boil

Posted on 21 November 2019

Written by:

Guest Author

As part of our WE design event series, The Glass-House invited participants who attended our first event in Glasgow on 7 October 2019 to share their thoughts and reflections with us. 

By Brian Proudfoot

Last month, I had the pleasure of working with The Glass-House in facilitating the Reconfiguring Place: Intergenerational Cities event within Glasgow.

As a design practitioner and tutor, the topic of redesigning human space and making its content meaningful is becoming an increasingly pertinent issue. In Scotland, our ageing population is set to accelerate from 2021 at a faster rate than the rest of the UK. This growth will require new initiatives and infrastructure to adapt to this dramatic change.

After some brief introductions with The Glass-House team and the arriving guests, I was allocated the table with the theme of “Sustainability” to facilitate. It became apparent very quickly through our initial discussions how much this term was applicable to many scenarios and issues; from “sustainable” decision making in respect of current policies and legislation, through to the material “sustainability” of the current housing stock in Glasgow. Around the table sat architects, urban designers, active seniors, product design students and social workers and the breadth of discussion reflected the diversity of participants.

With only forty minutes to discuss, analyse and create, the group quickly had to decide how we could formalise our initial and wide-ranging discussion into a tangible form and idea.

With so many aspects of sustainability emerging, it was decided that the visual metaphor of a boiler could be used as a means of expressing a central component or hub that connected the various strands. The boiler would represent a shared community resource where aspects of housing, cultural and skills exchange, coexistence and collaboration could plug into. This “Community Boiler” would act as a facilitator for the all the related “sustainable” needs and would ultimately be the responsibility of the community to maintain and “power”.

The construction process of the model was a perfect example of the spontaneous cultural co-production and multi-generational effort that the boiler itself represented, with each member of the team taking it upon themselves to complete a constituent component part related to their particular area of interest or skill.

Although initially slow to contribute and put themselves forward, by the end of the forty minutes the table had found its own voice.

Being involved with the workshop highlighted to myself the passion and determination that exists to achieve a more integrated society. Whilst only formed from cardboard and pipe cleaners, “The Community Boiler” represents the type of ambitious vision required to mobilise energy and reach goals.  Without a vision of what is possible the opportunities for genuine coexistence and collaboration risk being lost within the routine of everyday life.

Brian Proudfoot is a director at GOODD design consultancy.