SpACE, a platform for architecture, carbon and the environment opens in Edinburgh

Scotland is launching a platform for architecture, carbon and the environment, with the opening of SpACE in Edinburgh as a long-needed public forum with a clear focus on how the built environment is critical in addressing the climate emergency.

The opening of SpACE – the Space for Architecture + Carbon + Environment – is timed to coincide with Scotland’s hosting of COP26 with a public pop-up exhibition, event space and online venue extending for 5 weeks from 1 November to 4 December 2021. SpACE is housed in the former Fire Station at Edinburgh College of Art – a highly visible and publicly accessible venue in central Edinburgh, and a great example of re-using an existing building.

The initial programme is intended as a pilot for a proposed longer-term facility in the capital and has been made possible thanks to support from the Scottish Government and organisations including the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS). Funding has been secured from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland, the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council, and a wide range of private sector companies representing architecture, engineering, surveying and construction, together with several individuals.

While other major cities including Amsterdam, Bologna, Hamburg and London are home to established architecture centres, Edinburgh’s SpACE has a unique focus on facilitating public engagement with the role of design excellence, place-making, heritage, landscape and construction in the pursuit of net zero carbon.

SpACE has been inaugurated by all sectors involved in the built environment including architects, engineers, heritage bodies, developers, environmental specialists, universities, planners and researchers. As a result, SpACE will take a multi-disciplinary approach, encouraging collaboration between professionals to shape public debate and understanding.

SpACE will enhance Edinburgh’s and Scotland’s high level climate policies by bringing them to life through talks, workshops and displays about the practical measures and behavioural changes needed on the ground.

  • The exhibition will include inspiring design and construction case studies to illustrate the journey to net zero carbon in the existing building stock, new buildings and neighbourhoods. Backed up by carbon data, these case studies will illustrate where the industry is and how far it has to go.
  • A daily events programme will range from workshops by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Edinburgh World Heritage Trust (EWHT) to presentations of new techniques in commercial property, debates about existing building upgrades, exploration of digital city mapping, the work of the UK Green Building Council, films by community groups and consultations on Edinburgh City Council policies.
  • The SpACE website will enhance the exhibition and events with links to wider sources of information and technical help.

SpACE is a registered Scottish charity and its steering committee reflects its pan-sector ambitions, comprising architects, engineers and surveyors, and organisations including the RIAS, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, City of Edinburgh Council, Architecture & Design Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.

Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth MSP said:
“It is vital that our built environment plays its part in tackling the challenges of climate change. The Scottish Government is pleased to support the pop-up SpACE exhibition in Edinburgh which is timed to coincide with COP26. It’s important to engage the public by showcasing how architecture and design can adapt and provide a pathway to our net zero ambitions by 2045.”

Rab Bennetts, architect and founder of Bennetts Associates and Chair of SpACE said:

“There could hardly be a more appropriate moment to engage with the public about the impact of our buildings and places on climate change. As the world’s eyes are on COP26 in Glasgow, our parallel event in Edinburgh can show how the changes that are essential to our homes, workplaces and public buildings are not only possible but can also result in a cleaner, healthier and more enjoyable built environment.”

Tamsie Thomson, chief executive of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said:

“The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland is delighted and proud to support SpACE as a much-needed forum for public understanding of the built environment and its impact upon our climate. As Scotland prepares to host COP26, architects and their built environment colleagues must be part of the response to the climate emergency, and it’s critical to raise public understanding of the difference they can make through a more responsible approach to design and construction.”

Helena Ward, Creative Industries Manager at Creative Scotland said:

There is a vital need for people to be aware of, and understand in what way the climate emergency will affect how we live, work, learn and play within our buildings and spaces. We need attitudes and behaviours to change to reduce our environmental impact.  SpACE’s exhibition and events programme aims to engage audiences in a meaningful, relevant and practical way about what can be achieved as individuals and within communities, as well as at a policy and sector level.”