Who Is The Designer? celebrates Dundee's design

Who Is The Designer? seeks to highlight the creatives behind design projects in two UNESCO Cities of Design – Montréal and Dundee

Article by Stacey Hunter | 20 Nov 2023
  • V&A Dundee Community Garden - Gary Kennedy + Linsey McIntosh

Great contemporary design in the public realm is rarely celebrated – it’s typically only in the spotlight when it goes spectacularly wrong, massively over budget, or both. A new project aimed at righting this wrong and giving some kudos to the architects and designers behind a variety of exceptional projects is Who Is The Designer? The campaign was conceived of by digital architecture and design platform Kollectif who are based in Québec. Now in its third iteration, it simultaneously spotlights projects by architects and designers from two UNESCO Cities of Design, Montréal and Dundee.

The joint initiative has emerged from a desire to highlight the importance of acknowledging architects and designers and their contribution to everyday life as Martin Houle, Architect and Director and Founder of Kollectif explains: “The enthusiasm generated by this campaign underlines a real challenge in recognising the essential contribution of designers and architects in materialising various projects intended for all citizens. If artists and photographers, for example, are systematically credited for their work, we believe at Kollectif that it should be the same for our colleagues in the various design fields to raise awareness towards design culture here and abroad.”

This joint initiative between Dundee and Montréal, emerged from a desire to highlight the importance of acknowledging architects and designers, and a desire to collaborate and share best practices aimed at supporting the design sector in our cities.

“Collaborating and learning from fellow UNESCO Cities of Design around the world is what makes being a part of this network really special,” says Annie Marrs at UNESCO City of Design Dundee. Marrs and her team appointed photographer Grant Anderson to capture designers in situ with their projects resulting in a very personal and atmospheric series of portraits. “Through this series of stunning photos, the initiative introduces us to some of the designers who are helping to make Dundee a city of design,” she explains.

With international campaigns like Who Is The Designer? the featured cities tell the story that behind each photographed project, regardless of its scale, stands a committed team of city representatives, engineers, contractors and trades led by many talented designers and architects.

It’s rare that the design teams behind long-term design projects receive any public recognition in Scotland. With no national design policy or government department for the promotion of design, it’s a breath of fresh air to see this campaign launch and to gain an insight into the people and thinking behind great spaces and places. This commitment to collaboration and the sharing of best practices is an important part of supporting the rich design culture we have in Scotland..

Some of the featured projects in Dundee are new, others are well-established but all are part of the story of the city. 

For more than a hundred years the elevated site of Seabraes Viewpoint on the Perth Road has been a focal point to admire views across the River Tay. In 2022, Dundee City Council embarked on a redevelopment project for this small but important public space, making use of reclaimed and sustainable materials and planting. The planting design by Callum McRobbie and Rachael Higgins creates an unobstructed whole view which guides visitors through the greenspace. Modern permeable paving slabs and twig-shaped seating create a central hearth area. Planting at different heights, textures and forms evokes natural grassland while cobbles reclaimed from Dundee streets become a paving feature and sections of railway track run through the space, recalling past industries. The much-loved mini Bandstand retains its pride of place in the new design.

Two people sit among plants and trees at the Seabraes Viewpoint, holding a sign which reads 'WhoIsTheDesigner'
Rachael Higgins (L) and Callum McRobbie (R) at Seabraes Viewpoint. Photo: Grant Anderson

Opened in 2017, V&A Dundee’s Community Garden is an innovative co-design project creating a world class, contemporary public space linking the city, Slessor Gardens, and the museum. The project was led by architectural design studio kennedytwaddle and designer and co-design specialist Linsey McIntosh. The design team worked collaboratively with 20 people who formed the community co-design team. Features include a sunken ‘hearth’ for people to socialise or partake in workshops, and a stage to facilitate performances. The double-pitched roof, informed by potting sheds, provides shelter and the varying height planters provide easy access to gardening for the volunteers. The root-inspired ‘water catcher’ collects rainwater, maximising sustainability and access to water. One of the purposes of the garden was to have a positive impact on health and well-being and it continues to achieve that today. 

Commissioned by Nature Scot, the much-needed shelter of Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve Education Pavilion acts as a welcoming point for visitors to the reserve, showcasing information about the local wildlife and nature you can see there. Designed by Kirsty Maguire, it serves as a place of education where children are encouraged to explore and learn hands-on – feeling the sand in their fingers, picking up feathers and watching insects. The roof shape is reminiscent of a bird wing in flight, the sail of a boat, the historic tents that gave Tentsmuir its name and the ever-shifting dunes themselves. The site has been carefully chosen to minimise the impact of a build on the fragile landscape and habitat. It is designed for deconstruction at the end of its life – leaving no trace on the environment in which it has been located.

To see all of the projects visit cityofdesigndundee.com and to get involved yourself, you can participate by mentioning an architect or designer in your social media posts (or by flagging up any posts or articles that overlook mentioning the contributions of their design team) by using the hashtags #Whoisthearchitect #Whoisthedesigner

Follow Design Montreal, Design Dundee and Kollectif on Instagram at @designmtl @designdundee @kollectif
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