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A Regional Renaissance? Critical Regionalisms in the Current Context of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Darren Park
Robert Gordon University | UK
Regionalism has been an influential tendency throughout architectural history, whether in the observations of Vitruvius in the times of antiquity; to more recently with the work of Alvar Aalto in the early twentieth century. However, in the 1980s, theorists identified a new direction in regionalist architecture which disregarded the sentimental and kitsch productions prevalent in previous forms of regionalism. Instead, this new regionalism involved a process of critically analysing the architectonic knowledge of a specific region in order to disassociate any romantic connotations imbued in such elements. This architectural development was subsequently conceived as ‘critical regionalism’; a movement which has persevered in architectural discourse since the 1980s.

Contemporary architecture within Scotland has recently been referred to as undergoing something of a regional renaissance; realised in the productions of a new ‘Scottish school’ of intellectual thought which aspires to represent the area in which it is grounded. Such conjecture is further compounded by the current quasi-independent political situation within Scotland; a context which perhaps Kenneth Frampton and his aspirations for an “architecture of resistance” would have sympathised with. My dissertation therefore aims to determine whether domestic architecture within the Highlands and Islands of Scotland can be collectively bound together as an emerging Critical Regionalism particular to the area; or alternatively whether the principles and theoretical intentions of Critical Regionalism can be moulded and adapted to suit a variety of loose circumstances.

Darren Park

There has been a great deal of discussion recently about the possibility of a renaissance in Scottish architecture. Unlike similar discussions in the 1990s in which attention was focused on the Central Belt, today there has been particular attention paid to the practices working in the Highlands. A debate provoked by the Scottish Executive and Lighthouse publication and exhibition Building Biographies 2006-2008 led this student to take a closer look at contemporary regionalism.

The student used a straight forward art-historical approach to look at the debate on critical regionalism from Kenneth Frampton et al to the present day and produced a good clear analysis of the historic material and a good survey of the contemporary discussion. Darren demonstrated a good grasp of some of the more abstract ideas presented by Frampton.
The dissertation uses case studies to develop an understanding of some of the practices operating in Northern Scotland today.

Darren’s dissertation has been nominated because he independently embarked on a study of a highly topical and controversial area and dealt with it in a consistent and mature way. The dissertation deals with questions of context, politics and publishing and questions of architectural language in an interesting and balanced manner. Darren covered a wide range of material. The dissertation is well written, clearly structured and thoughtfully illustrated.

Penny Lewis

Penny Lewis
Penny Lewis
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