Glasgow, the UK City of Architecture and Design, has been enjoying a cultural renaissance comparable to the beginning of the century, when it was at the forefront of technological innovation in manufacturing, design and architecture. Then it was home to a leading exponent of the Scottish Art Deco movement, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Today, at the cusp of a new millennium, the city is rolling out an impressive list of cutting edge designers, innovative products and interiors.
The buzzing atmosphere this month is due in part to the Glasgow Collection, a project started in 1997 culminating with First Batch: The Glasgow Collection, an exhibition of over 50 new projects opening at the city’s Lighthouse building on 9 October. Defined as a sort of ‘dating agency’, the Collection’s mission has been to instigate the creation of innovative products by introducing designers to manufacturers and helping them to fund research and development prototypes.
The Glasgow Collection – which was granted Millennium Product status by the Design Council in November 1998 – has been funded by the Glasgow Development Agency, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish Design.
The initial target was to develop 45 products, with the aim of seeing 15 go into production over a three-year period. That figure now stands at 51 projects, with 18 of them already in production and more expected to be manufactured. The products selected are an eclectic and exciting list of visionary designs. They include: Ursula, the stainless steel bath, designed by Submarine; Skins, a digital hand drum by Digital Cow; the Chasm chair by One Foot Taller; Argyll, a fabric designed by Jasper Morrison in collaboration with Bute fabrics and an ergonomic buggy, trowel and paintbrush handle, invented by dentist Glen Heavoner and designed by ID8 Design Associates.
Asked how the collection fits within the UK City of Architecture and Design year, Deyan Sudjic, director of Glasgow 1999, says ‘It was important to leave a legacy of concrete examples at the end of Glasgow ’99.’ He sees the collection as ‘intervening, allowing designs to be turned into reality instead of just an abstract exercise’.
The collection is intended to be an inspiration to a city where 70 per cent of graduates from the School of Art leave Glasgow to find work. The project was to fund, encourage and promote challenging products that would not normally have seen the light of day. ‘It was the designers who decided the projects and not marketing strategies,’ says Bruce Wood, director of the Glasgow Collection. ‘If a couple of years ago we had carried out market research say, for the steel bath Ursula, we wouldn’t have found a niche for it. Instead, the product was put before the market and now it is selling everywhere, from California to Holland.’
The Glasgow Collection also challenged Scottish manufacturers to try new directions. As a result, hi-fi manufacturer Linn Products is producing a limited edition watch, designed by London consultancy Seymour Powell.
Wood also sparked off a collaboration between local plastics manufacturer British Polythene Industries and designers The VK&C Partnership, Bear Factory Design and Paul Pearson, who came up with a range of outdoor furniture using a recycled material Plaswood.
Local institutions were also involved. A collaboration between the Hampden National Stadium and the Glasgow Collection produced the Glasgow ’99 Outdoor Luminaire, a lighting system for the car parks and entrance areas of the complex. Born out of concept designs by Graven Images, McKeown Alexander and Gerard Taylor, the project was eventually developed by Philips Lighting.
Seven products from the Glasgow Collection have been awarded Millennium Product status. Created by the Design Council for products put on the market since January 1995, the scheme seeks out the country’s most innovative products and services.
The show continues at the Lighthouse until 9 January 2000. It then tours to Paris and in May 2000 to Vienna. Other venues will include Turin, Barcelona and New York. For more information about The Glasgow Collection contact Karen Ward on 0141 287 7157.
Written and researched by Sara Manuelli and Natalie Spencer