Glasgow put to the test: the summer school putting urban development first

Glasgow put to the test: the summer school putting urban development first

We take a look at a Glasgow summer school committed to speeding up the city's urban regeneration process

How do we occupy the post-industrialist city? It's the eternal question that we all wrestle with on a daily basis. Happily, a select group of international and local participants are set to tackle this conundrum, once and for all, as part of Test Unit 2017.

In a nutshell, Test Unit is a summer school / symposium, which aims to test new models for urban development. This means looking at vacant areas of Glasgow (in 2017, the focus is the Glasgow Canal), and imagining new ways of utilising the empty spaces for the benefit of the city and its community.

Laying down its roots in Civic House, Test Unit is Scotland's first live city lab. During this week-long programme, architects, designers, producers and members of the local community will all come together to transform part of the Glasgow Canal area, with the goal of improving the city's relationship to development and creation in the future.

The idea has its roots in practicality, and is all about getting something done without endless meetings and discussions blocking the route to productivity. Speaking about the motivation behind the project, Test Unit's Rob Morrison says that when it comes to urban regeneration in the area, 'there's been a huge amount of consultation over the years – workshops, discussions and meetings – all reiterating the same points.'

He describes Test Unit as a way of 'trying to bridge the gap between the consultation and construction phase in how we plan cities,' which is an interesting approach. Simply put, this isn't about filling whiteboards in meeting rooms with ideas. It's about practical regeneration in a city.

Throughout the project, a number of influential facilitators will lead separate teams, exploring different aspects of development. The teams then have a week to design and build prototypes that address issues in the area, which may inform and assist development in Glasgow in the future.

Notable facilitators include Turner Prize-winners Assemble, who are set to work with Glasgow agency TAKTAL on how we occupy and develop vacant spaces. International lighting designers Jason Bruges Studio will be exploring the role of responsive lighting in public spaces, and artist and architect Valentina Karga's team will explore alternative forms of economy in an attempt to build a stronger and more resilient community.

Organisers are hoping that this new interactive model will have staying power, and influence city structures in the future. 'I think what we really want to see is that it becomes a recognised model of how we develop buildings and spaces around cities,' Morrison explains.

'A huge number of Scottish cities have a lot of vacant buildings and industrial sites. This is an opportunity to see how, through an education programme, we can generate some really interesting ideas about how these buildings can be used for public good.'

Test Unit 2017, Civic House, Glasgow, Sun 18–Sat 24 Jun; Symposium, Sat 23 & Sun 24 Jun.

Test Unit 2017 Symposium

A two-day public programme of talks, debates, workshops and discussions following the week-long design and build summer school, exploring the theme: Occupying the Post-Industrial City.

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