Category: Scotland

The Galloway Glens Paddle Sports Trail

This is a short film we made with Emma Harper SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament for South Scotland, and Alex Lumsden, Level 5, White Water Coach with Dumfries and Galloway Council.

It follows their journey by canoe through some beautiful areas of Dumfries and Galloway, from St John’s Town of Dalry to Castle Douglas.

Emma is a complete canoeing beginner, but placed her trust in Alex. This film shows the new trail they both want to promote, and you only have to look at her face to see how much she enjoyed it.

 

Scotland and the EU

Brexit has rekindled the voice of the foreign adventurer, the buccaneer, among some in the UK and also (incredibly), Imperial dreams. But most Scots feel differently. We don’t, I suspect, feel the need to stride the world stage anymore. Cautiously and in small stages, we have been allowed to become aware of the consequences of past UK actions. The harm we have done to others. We understand that the military adventures in the Middle East which have followed the collapse of the British Empire have been disastrous and unsuccessful. We are aware of the pain we have caused, the societies we have ruined, the neglect we showed to our own kind, and the lies that were told to ourselves and others while this happened. We no longer trust the ruling establishment, the ambitions of the rich and powerful or those of the old left. These people and their actions disgust us.
The EU, on the other hand, has proved to be a force for good and has acted as a check to some of the wilder UK ambitions.
Given a chaotic post-Brexit landscape, we choose to move forward with the EU. It seems a stable and responsible organisation, where decisions are made by and for 27 separate states. No single state has too much power over the others, and there is a strong emphasis on working for the common good.
We need to give this feeling political expression. We realise that it is better to live in harmony with our neighbours and we want to co-operate with them.
We benefit from them already, and here’s how.

Scotland gets 5.6 Billion Euros in grants via CAP, EU Structural Funds and the Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

The European Investment Bank is also lending to Scotland. To borrow from it you have to be a member state.
“The European Investment Bank is the European Union’s nonprofit long-term lending institution. The EIB uses its financing operations to bring about European integration and social cohesion.

It is the world’s largest international public lending institution.”
(source-Wikipedia)
Here are some current EIB lending projects:-
Hospitals – Edinburgh Sick Children’s €112,072,090
Dumfries and Galloway Hospital €154,811,270
sub total €266,883,360

 

Roads-Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route €340,982,279
M8 Motorway €212,830,016
sub total €553,812,295

 

Further Education – Edinburgh University “Capex” €256,953,812
City of Glasgow College € 95,285,774
Horizon Funds”-mainly to education €296,000,000
sub total €648,239,586

The Beatrice windfarm off the Caithness Coast has also attracted EIB lending.
It will give energy to more than 400,000 homes. That’s equivalent to one in every six Scottish homes.   An EIB document states that:-
“The €605,335,484 EIB loan will support more than GBP 2.7 billion of overall investment.” (source-EIB)

That makes a total in these examples of over seven billion Euros. These sums really matter. They represent Infrastructure spending on a scale which, in the past, the UK government has rarely bothered with.
After Brexit, would the UK maintain this?

Now let’s look at the rest of the built environment. Wherever you live, in Scotland’s towns, villages and cities, how many old or worn out buildings can you see? Many date from Victorian times or earlier. Why is that? Why haven’t they been replaced or renovated? What else was the money spent on? Over the past hundred years, shouldn’t UK governments have been concentrating on those things as well, or were we just too far away or to insignificant? Did we just not really matter?

Europe can also have a positive influence on our personal lives. Today we have a set of living expectations which UK politicians have struggled to satisfy, and make no mistake, we want these expectations met.

We want good quality jobs, to be safe at work, to work for an ethical employer.
We want a balance of work/life time which enhances our lives.

We want to be satisfied that our lives and time are well spent. We want to have a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.

We want all our people to live free of deprivation. To have an income which gives a good living standard, to live in good quality housing.

We want to have good physical and mental health.
We want to live in conditions which promote a happy, full and long life for all. And while we live that life, we all want access to good quality health care.

We want to protect our environment. We want a sustainable future that we can build on and pass on to our children.

If you want Scotland to grow and prosper, you need a Scottish Nation engaged with Europe.

Again it is worth emphasising that the UK government has struggled to satisfy these demands and often seems uninterested. Yet these same demands represent no more than citizens of other European countries enjoy today.
Much recent EU legislation and regulation has been put in place to help to give us these things. We recognise and value that fact. EU law and treaty obligations have made improvements to our quality of life when the UK did not, did not wish it, or did not care about it. Now that this link with EU help is being cut by a UK decision, we are seeking a secure future within EU structures. Scotland can prosper in Europe.

D

Language in our DNA

Long before the EU came about, when I was a wee girl, my father taught me to count in German and Italian – ein, zwei, drei; uno, due, tre………

I loved it, the sound of the words and the feel of them in my mouth.

Despite spending time in a POW camp in northern Italy and then in an internment camp in Switzerland, working on small farms in both countries, he still thought it worthwhile to teach me the basics of German and Italian.
He brought home a tiny German bible, printed in a dense black Gothic typeface; a battery powered bakelite torch with a noisy spring ratchet action that you had to squeeze repeatedly to get a glimmer of light; a pair of wire rimmed glasses with German lenses. Fascinating foreign things.
He also brought back a smattering of both languages and a love of Italian lyric opera. Alongside these “foreign” languages, I was learning Burns’ songs and poems and reciting them on demand for visitors. Burns was challenging too, with lots of words I liked getting my tongue round, but had no reference for. Chapman billies and bowsing at the nappy, or a “skellum, A bletherin, blusterin, drunken blellum”. Even if the words were unfamiliar, you could hear the disgust.

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And nonsense songs like….. There was a Wee Cooper wha lived in Fife, nickety nackety noo noo noo…

As I grew older, the pull of languages grew stronger.
I was schooled in Latin and French, under the old Scottish academy system. Latin was great for unlocking the English language and the Romance ones, while learning German revealed much in common with Scots. Later on, I learned to speak Italian, its rolling r’s and rounded vowels entirely at home in my Scottish mouth.
I was able to get close to the meaning in the writings of Virgil, Dante, Moliere and Thomas Mann and even though I never became really fluent, I could feel the power of the words in a way that is mostly diluted, when translated into English.

Teenage school exchanges brought Flemish kids from Aalst, with their impressive self confidence and alien sounding conversation. I had pen pals too, Jamil, from Morocco and Dieter, from north west Germany.

Jamil looked like a young Camus and sent me photos of a warm gaggle of little brothers and sisters with his mum. It looked hot and dusty but friendly.
Dieter was pale, blond and distant and sent photos of the massive statue of his national hero, Hermann, set in green forest.
His letters were written on graph paper, and the landscape in his photos wasn’t unlike Scotland, but the scale of the monument had no counterpart here. I didn’t really understand why a boy my age would send me that; I was into pop music and boys, not William Wallace – not then!
But in retrospect, good for him and good for the education system that taught him about his country’s history and its heroes. It’s more than I was getting in Scotland.
And the same thing happened with all the Europeans I met. They were proud of their countries, proud of their towns, unashamed about their language and culture. It was normal to be an independent country and represent it. I had very little sense of my country’s identity, its history and its past, despite my knowledge of Burns.

School brought foreign language assistants in from Berlin and Rabat, in French Morocco.
Fraulein Inge loved walking in the mountains at home, so four of us took her up Ben Lomond. She sucked on slices of lemon as she climbed, while we gasped and slugged bottles of ginger. She was stereotypically Germanic too, tall, slim, blond and scarily polite in all her dealings with us, but extremely kind. She left us each a little Berlin Bear charm when she went home.

Mam’selle proudly showed us slides of her home town with its wide, scorched streets. She had dyed red hair and a foul temper but she loved the Rolling Stones and threw a farewell party for us kids in her digs and played them very loud. She was raucous and intolerant in class but otherwise treated us like adults. I first heard Edith Piaf in my French class at school.

A further two young French language assistants lodged with a friend of mine, in her parents “chalet”, on the shores of Loch Lomond. The chalet was a large wooden shed at the back of the garden, with plenty of room and even a verandah. It must have sounded idyllic when you were stifling in Paris in August, but it suffered from Scottish damp, rain, muddy paths and midges. Both girls had high octane Gallic personalities, smoked and used lots of make up, creams and lotions.
They pushed their hair up into the Bardot look.
They were always falling out with each other, rivalries were high, and frequent bouts of French screeching came from the chalet. When the Luss Games came round, it got worse, as they vied for the attentions of the strong men, the caber throwing giants. Watching them flirt with the kilties when you were 14 was an education in itself.
Organised visits to the French and German Institutes in Park Circus were rare opportunities to mix with foreign students in an easy way, watching their films and eating their biscuits.
All these encounters with Europeans taught me something valuable: that despite fascinating superficial differences, we were essentially very similar and we found a lot to like in each other.

But I have now finally got round to learning Gaelic and it seems strange to have spent a lot of my life learning other peoples’ mother tongues, having never listened properly to my own.
Gaelic has had a bad press, of course, it’s been suppressed and reduced to a fringe activity, but is now enjoying a renaissance across Scotland.
Having been out of favour for so long, it does not have its own vocabulary for the currency of the 20th C, politics, banking, technology, lifestyle etc.

What it does have in spades, is a deep and elemental bond with the ancient landscapes and weather of Scotland and with the peoples who live here.
Its placenames are both poetic and unashamedly descriptive.
It is able to carry stories, ideas and feelings that allow us to connect with our own culture again. And its music travelled the world with the emigrant Gaels.

Language is our birthright, it tells us who we are. While few Scots can speak Gaelic, most of us have a good grasp of Scots and English. We are, in varying degrees, bilingual and many of our Scots words are only a heartbeat away from their Gaelic roots. They are also quite likely to be the words we turn to in moments of strong emotion. English has a civility that disnae dae it, when yer greetin or beelin – or feelin’ smashin.

Britain is an insular place in language matters. The domination of the English language in international trade and financial systems has made us lazy. We don’t make much effort to learn the languages of other countries. But a lot of them do spend time and effort on learning to speak English, to a degree that is significantly higher than classroom level.
When Brits travel abroad, they mostly make little effort to acquire some language for the country of choice. There is an expectation that they will get by without trying.
And, mostly they will. Others are required to make the effort to communicate. In the hospitality industry, it would be rare to find accommodation abroad where there are no English speaking staff on hand.
In the UK, only the largest chain hotels trouble to hire staff with language skills.
In schools, language teaching is on the decline too. But without these skills, so much is lost. The chance to communicate and relate to other cultures is absent. The average Brit moves around the non English speaking parts of the world in a bubble of Britishness, deaf to other ways of speaking, living or thinking. That creates feelings of otherness.
Speaking another language is challenging, whenever you start. I don’t deny that, but its what we humans are good at. Our brains are hard wired for language.

And nursery rhymes, songs and ditties are a great way for little kids to get into language. Many of our fairy tales come from Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm, with their dark tales of forests, witches, magic, and stories of good versus evil.

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We shouldn’t worry about not teaching them English well. Kids are like sponges for new things and they love to parrot sounds. The more wordplay and fun with language that children experience, the more their language skills develop. There are lots of online resources for them to learn from. It doesn’t demean English, it enhances it. By exploring other ideas, we begin to recognise ourselves.

Most folk are familiar with songs like Frere Jacques when they hear them. Football and rugby crowds regularly hear the French Marseillaise and other national anthems. Or a psalm like Silent Night (Stille Nacht). To hear those different words sung to a familiar tune can reveal something of the soul of the people, and their unique sensitivities.
If we understand even a little bit of our own and our European neighbours languages, then we understand a little bit about them too and suddenly we have things in common – shared experiences or beliefs, and isolation has no place any more.

Teach your children to enjoy their own and other languages and they will learn to value other cultures too. Words are currency in a global world. It worked for me!

M

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Regeneration in Dumfries

 

How we can create confidence in our future”

The lessons we can learn from Glasgow and Edinburgh

How parts of the town centre look today

town-centre
Mid-Steeple and the High Street
vennel
Friars Vennel
high-st-infill
The North end of the High Street with Burns statue

Dumfries town centre has a mix of building styles, ages and types. Some re-developed buildings have a modern appearance, while others are more traditional.   A varied streetscape is created from buildings with a mixed appearance. Some individual buildings and vistas are pleasing, distinctive and make a strong contribution to the identity of the town. Property maintenance standards vary. Efforts have been made to improve the quality of public spaces, to improve the ground surfaces and to provide appropriate street furniture.
The businesses are a fairly typical retail mix. Towards either end of the High Street are two department stores. They are located in re-developed, modern buildings. These bigger shops and the Loreburne Centre act as  anchors and contain the main retail shopping area. The Loreburne Centre has a covered, indoor shopping arcade and shops which face directly onto the High Street.

southergate-centre
Southergate Centre

Re-development is proposed at the Southergate Centre.

Problem or opportunity?
UK shopping has changed. While this is reflected in a changed business mix, empty retail shops are more commonplace in many towns.
Despite several recent expensive efforts to improve things, parts of Dumfries town centre in and around the High Street continue to look neglected. There is a perception that some nearby towns have been able to manage things better. Amid expressions of concern, there is a wish for clarity on the best way to improve things.

If people no longer wish to use the town centre so much for retail shopping, what else could the area be used for? Who should control and regulate the use of this space – government, property owners, the public or a balanced mix? Should the town centre be re-purposed? What other town changes might also be necessary, and how should any new projects be balanced and managed? How would it be a better place for local people to use? What part should tourism and visitor attraction play? Crucially, how do we build agreement and make progress? Lastly and most important, who should pay for all this?
As an artist, and interested in visual things, I also hope for a solution which looks good and works well.

Other considerations
There is little housing in the town centre but a lot to the south and west. The Georgian town houses are now mostly offices. Near the town centre there are many Victorian buildings and a good deal of later, in-fill development. There has also been plenty of new housing in the suburbs. Lots of people clearly want to live in Dumfries.

There are two Scottish Tourist Board 3-star hotels close to the High Street and others a little further out. Dumfries has a profusion of other hotels and Guest Houses.
Close to the town centre are two cinemas, a refurbished theatre and a leisure centre. There are also a primary and secondary school at the northern edge.
While the town Centre is fairly busy during the day, at night, apart from the town centre pubs and night clubs, it is mostly unused.
Now lets compare Dumfries’s situation with that of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

How Glasgow has Changed
Glasgow was once a great manufacturing city. Now the shipyards are few, and the docks, steelworks, railway works and similar manufacturing industries have gone.
Thousands of workers jobs were lost.
When Glasgow lost these jobs, it also lost some of its self confidence and the city faced an uncertain future. Today a different and prosperous Glasgow is being made, perhaps symbolised by buildings such as the Armadillo, the Hydro and the tall new offices and hotels rising over the city centre. People may argue about how to continue to change Glasgow for the better, but I suspect there are not many who would argue that a corner has been turned in Glasgow’s history. Its a city which has acknowledged that some old industries and some of the old ways have gone. The past has, to some extent, been let go. Treasured bits are cherished and remembered, that’s an important thing to do. We shouldn’t deny the past, we acknowledge it.
Glasgow signalled its intention to move forward in a key event, the Garden Festival of 1988, and then won the City of Culture award in 1990. The garden festival was a strange experience. It was more a garden of curiosities, some of which had links to Glasgow’s past.

festival gateway
strange-gateway
gateway, exhibit and housing

 

 

 

 

 

autogyro-for-web
1930’s autogyro

Many exotic structures- a tower, a roller coaster, giant teapots and others, posed alongside Shona Kinloch’s witty sculptures of Glasgow Dogs.

wee-fat-dug
wee fat dug
dog-for-web
sniffing dug

The festival was a great success.

Now Glasgow is facing the future not the past, and is a shopping, event and tourist destination.

 

renfield-street
Buchanan Street shoppers

Its also still a busy place, and a place to do business. Glasgow is still a manufacturing centre. The riverside, so long derelict, is transforming, and some of the business and work focus of Glaswegians has moved to new places in the city or around it.
Now many people from Dumfries use Glasgow in preference to their own town for weekend shopping, such is the attraction. Crucially, Glasgow is now an all year round tourist destination.
Change in Edinburgh
Similarly in Edinburgh we see a year-round tourist industry which has become so successful that it almost swamps the city.

shoppers on Princes Street

Efforts are already in place to spin-off some of this tourism into other parts of Scotland. So how do we move forward in Dumfries?

Bringing change to Dumfries using History, Heritage and Archaeology
Our possible way forward may be to capitalise on the history of the town, on figures such as Bruce, Burns and Barrie. Their lives are interwoven with Dumfries’s past. They already have a presence here and we can build on that.

composit-1-bruce

 

composite-3-burns

barrie
The Moat House where JM Barrie played as a child, the inspiration for Peter Pan

History and walking tours might be added to fixed museum or visitor type presentations. The Whitesands leading to the Burns centre at the Millhouse and Camera Obscura lend themselves to this kind of experience.  We could develop High Street visitor centres to interpret each of their stories, and use these centres to refer to whatever existing structures can be found in the town. Perhaps we could offer re-enactments and re-interpretation in place of hard historical or archaeological structures. Such events as the passing presence of Bonnie Prince Charlie and an interpretation of the Georgian architectural area, or the John Paul Jones Story could add variety and depth to the perception of the town and also offers the chance to link to existing visitor centres locally and elsewhere in Scotland.

We know from visitor surveys that Scotland’s history attracts and motivates almost a third of Scotland’s tourists. Fifty million people across the world now claim Scots ancestry. In an uncertain world Scotland is a safe visitor destination. Let’s not forget our European neighbours either. Scotland’s profile is high at the moment. We are in favour. If we refurbish our town centre and present carefully to all our visitors, we should do well.

Private sector investment is the key ingredient to all this. Private funding would be needed to help create a tourist friendly infrastructure such as good new central hotels and amenities, restaurants and suitable entertainment and a cafe culture and/or night life. A new core could exist alongside existing businesses. Shopping would need to be re-purposed to reflect both tourist and local needs. To what extent can we re-use the existing building stock and involve local businesses?

As Edinburgh and Glasgow have shown, tourism is now an all-year event. If just a few more of those visiting Edinburgh or Glasgow could be coaxed into visiting Dumfries for a few nights then that would make quite a change. Let’s also not forget that Edinburgh is booming. It is a great business centre. If we were successful down here with more tourism, what sort of people and businesses would we attract?
We could also add to other growth initiatives already in place.

We might signal this change to others and to ourselves just as Glasgow did. A one-off iconic festival on a Dumfries theme might precede and pave the way for change. We could manage this fairly soon and it might help with drawing business interest in redevelopment.

Lets face the future with confidence.

D

M emigrant/immigrant

One of the pieces on my gallery page is my Emigrant book.
I had never made anything like this before, but in 2012, something happened as a result of the economic downturn.
Our daughter, her husband and our two grandchildren, “emigrated” to Australia, or in other words, had to leave to find work.
I’ve been fortunate. I’m the recipient of a good free education, I’ve had a professional career, I never had to face leaving Scotland from necessity. But I never thought my own children would need to either, as professionals. A scientist and an engineer, lost to Scotland.
That was shocking and I would ask anyone to think about it for a bit.

I reckon there are many households in Scotland who are living with the same kind of absence.
It got me thinking about Scotland’s history of emigration and separation. It’s an old story, but one that is constantly repeating itself.

mary-teresaOn both sides of my family, people left for America and Australia, starting in the late 1880s. A few came back, but many never did. There were no good prospects to come home to. In the early years of the 20thC, more left home and in the mid fifties, still more. And here we are in the 21stC.
I am lucky, I can text, phone, Skype my family, everything but touch them.

sail-away

How could those left behind in the 1800s and well into the 1900s, bear the separation? Six weeks at least on the boat out to Australia and then as many again for the first letters to come home with news. Nor was there any likelihood of the young sons and daughters being able to make a visit home. All the rites of passage, marriages, children, deaths, happening thousands of miles apart. It must have been a sore, cheerless existence for the old folk left behind.

nobodys-childI started my book with the words ‘nobody’s child’. I think it applies to all newly arrived immigrants. Arriving in an alien environment, cut off from your culture and family support, is a bit like being an orphan. No history, no back story in the new place, just your own small nucleus, trying to find its way. Everything around you is different.
None of my immediate family had language barriers, nor were they refugees fleeing war zones and persecution. They just didn’t have a good future here for their children.
Maybe Scotland understands very well what it is to be an outsider. All the signals of uncertainty, confusion and isolation resonate somehow across cultural boundaries.
Scotland can’t feel like home yet to newly arrived refugees but kinship is wider than race, religion or language and it costs us nothing to offer it.
In the current climate of restrictions, bans and deportations, remember the folk that sailed from the Broomielaw, or who now fly from Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Don’t allow inward looking isolationism any houseroom.
Scotland is bigger than this in heart and mind and it’s a precious thing – in the real sense of that word.

But in the meantime, if we want our children and grandchildren to grow and flourish in Scotland and if we want to see our country able to support them and future generations, then change is necessary.

The first step is to recognise that no change means no change and that in 50 or 100 years time, someone else will still be lamenting the lack of opportunity that has gifted other countries the benefit of our young people.
It’s in all our interests to have confidence in our ability to govern ourselves and to make decisions for ourselves. So what should we do about it?

We need to be able to grow our economy and improve all our people’s life chances here, to give everyone the right to a normal life, so that starting a new life in another country is a choice, not a necessity.
Better opportunities and better employment prospects will only come when we have control of our own resources and manage them for the benefit of Scotland and her people.

For the last 160 years the United Kingdom has served my family ill. The stark choice was to stay disadvantaged and disempowered or to make the decision to leave.

Brexit is the single greatest threat to Scotland’s prosperity since the Great depression years.
The case for an independent Scotland is to allow Scots to make all the decisions that affect our lives and to make them well. We have been diminished by neglect, by rule from afar, and by the absolute contempt of the ‘ruling class’ for ordinary people and their hopes.

Adventures and experiences abroad should be a matter of choice, a rich aspect of our own personalities as confident, worldly Scots. They shouldn’t be the last best hope, where there is none to be had at home.

Emigrant is a book about loss. Let’s make sure it becomes history, and let’s plan instead for a better future, that builds on our aspirations and supports us to realise them.

D the Sonneveld house

      An article about something exquisitely beautiful, but with a sting in the tail.

“If you decide to visit it, remember to bring your suitcases, as you’ll want to move in straight away!”

Sonneveld house

The Sonneveld house

 

The Sonneveld house – by Brinkman and Van der Vlugt, Rotterdam, 1933
The building has stylistic links with Le Corbusier, De Stijl and German modernism. It is also has an industrial link. Sonneveld was a director of the Van Nelle factory which was used to produce metal components for the building.

A compact, private detached town house for the family of a wealthy industrialist which includes living space for servants.

Perhaps not so well known here, but a real gem of European modernism.
The fabric of the building and the contents have recently been restored and appear as they did in 1933. Throughout the building there is evidence of great thought as to the suitability and provision of each convenience. Extraordinary care has also been taken during the sensitive and painstaking restoration

The Sonneveld house is essentially a rectangular box shape with additions. It is over three floors and it also has a small basement and roof terrace. It has a flat off-white exterior surface with silver coloured metal detailing, black exposed steelwork and extensive tiling to ground floor. Those facades facing the streets nearby are mainly blank and offer privacy while those facing the garden have generous windows. sonneveld-front-corner-2There are separate service and owner entries. There is a lovely exterior spiral staircase which leads down into the garden.
staircase-to-garden
Metal detailing is prominent in the rear elevation. rear-view-of-sonneveldWindow and door modules are carefully fitted almost flush with their facades. Each window module has an external blind cassette incorporated for shade. Most noteworthy is how the parapet rail to the first floor terrace becomes the spiral stair handrail.

The simple exterior hides a fairly rich and complex interior subdivision. There are an entry, office, service areas and a garage on the ground floor. Living and bedroom spaces are on the floors above. These spaces are beautifully detailed.

 

corner of office and window to garden
corner of office and window to garden
office desk
office desk

More on-line images of the Sonneveld house can be seen here.

Here are a few more of our own photographs.
Colour is a an important feature of this house. Rooms are colour themed. This is the the yellow dining room. It has red accents.

the dining room viewed from the first floor terrace
the dining room viewed from the first floor terrace

There are individual architect-designed room colour schemes throughout. Most of the furnishings are also original.
So most unusually, one can see the entire original colour scheme, and one can see how extensively the architect used of colour as part of a modernist design scheme.

red dining room trolly
red dining room trolly

The glasswear included in the dining room display cabinet was also locally produced. Examples of similar wares by these manufacturers appear occasionally on the present day Netherlands second hand market for modest prices.

dining room glasswear
dining room glassware

Here is a servant’s bedroom

servant's bedroom
servant’s bedroom

Notice how the same bed, table and chair type is used by all the house inhabitants.

Work areas are red Here is a kitchen detail.

the dining area used by the servants
the dining area used by the servants
master bedroom furniture
master bedroom furniture

Gispen manufactured much of the furniture in the building including these beds in the background .  A similar version of this chair is still in production. Today the Delft factory still produces furniture and it is possible to buy examples of the some models shown in the Sonneveld house.

The garden is as was established in the early 30’s. It is simple with quite a lot of lawn and bushes used for perimeter screening to the rear, and as a lower boundary definition to the front.

rear garden view
rear garden view
office window to rear garden
office window to rear garden

 

Because the construction methods and materials date to the 1930’s, a great deal of renovation has been done. In the book produced by the Netherlands Architecture Institute a telling detail is the nationality of enormous number of firms involved in restoring and refurbishing Sonneveld house, These include Project management, Supervision, Providing public information, Advising on Restoring, Advising on Refurbishing, Restoration work Main Contractors, Restoration work Sub Contractors and Suppliers, Refurbishment work and Suppliers and finally Lenders and Donors. All of these, with one exception, are Netherlands firms or organisations with Netherlands addresses.

To the thoughtful person, this building is an example of many things. Foremost, is an example of true modernism at work, linking ownership, manufacturing, design and utility.

This building also reveals the Netherlands in microcosm.
The entire project from its origin in the 1930s through to its renovation is an example of Dutch confidence and competence. In it’s own way this building shows how the people of the Netherlands think about themselves and their place in the world. It’s clear that they are quite capable doing these things themselves, that they have the resources, skills and training to manage and complete such a project with little, if any assistance from other nationals.

It also shows how successful people in European cities may be able think differently to their British or Scottish counterparts.

This may seem like the country house in the town, but couldn’t be more different from the British Imperial Model of a country house. There are no Classical porticos, no fake grandeur. It’s beautiful, practical, modern and usable. It was the first house in Rotterdam with a fully equipped, built in garage. So this is no-fuss high quality private domestic architecture in the city, right there on the street, with easy public access. The building’s position included the owner in society rather than excluding him from it and hiding him away in a private estate in the countryside. A statement of belief in the city, the individual, aspiration, success; an example of the successful citizen in society- engaged in and part of the modern world. Of course this quality of private architecture in the heart of a great city enhances the standing and the status of both.

It is also an example to we Scots as to how how we could do better. How we could contribute to revival of run down Scottish towns centres and the attractiveness of Scotland’s cities. Where are the projects in the pipeline or recently constructed which do just that?
Then there’s the house’s furniture and manufactures.
Are our education systems, designers and architects and the Scottish business world able to produce to this quality without reaching beyond Scotland’s borders to do so?
When can we expect reasonably priced home-designed and mass-produced examples made in Scotland, which we can accept and be proud of, made by present day Scots and which will astonish and delight the world? Where and how will these people receive the craft and organisational training to enable them? And if you said to me that in various forms, these things exist in Scotland, how do we pull them together to make it all happen?
After all, if you like the look of a Gispen side-chair in the Sonneveld house, you can nip along to the nearby factory and buy one for yourself to take home today.

This building can cause me to think about many things. What can our response be to a proposition like this? Should we just move in because its so agreeable?

Can a different response be made? One which looks towards a better Scottish future?

D