Industry, Landscape and the City

For as long as cities have existed, they have held a relationship both productive and destructive with industry and landscape. Raw materials are extracted from the ground and processed into energy, building materials, and consumables at an ever-increasing rate, but at the same time, our individual responsibility to understand these processes has diminished. Wealth is created by exploitative global industry on an unimaginable scale, but just as vast is the damage that this is causing to the natural environment. With wealth comes invention and population growth, and with that comes the need to invest in public health, but sprawling cities have urbanised the land to the point where nothing is left untouched by human activity.

This presents the question: can industry, landscape and the city hold an ethical, mutually beneficial relationship today where innovation and progress can be made without relying upon the destruction of the earth? The thesis considers the natural capital available to Scotland – the timber of its forests, the stone beneath the ground, the water of its lochs – and asks how they might become the starting point for responsible new industry for contemporary life in the city and beyond. Focusing on the stone industry, the project firstly identifies the steps to be taken to make quarries in rural Scotland viable again, and goes on to explore how the properties of the stone in the ground could be used to develop a contemporary architectural language.

The design proposal places a stone innovation campus in the heart of the city, where the University of Glasgow meets Kelvingrove Park, on the site of the quarry where, in 1840, stone was extracted to build Gilbert Scott’s iconic tower. Revealing a historic landscape and engaging with the subterrain, the proposal explores how a civic building might encourage a deeper understanding of the topography of the city and the materials from which it is made, and ultimately foster a more meaningful relationship between life in the city and the nature of the land.