Galashiels is the second largest town in the Scottish Borders with a population of 12604, after Hawick with a population of 14029. The population increased, due to the textile trade with several mills and it is considered as the capital of The Scottish Borders from 2015 (Scottish borders strategic assessment 2014, 2014). The textile industry has a long history in the town since 1585 and from the arrival of the train on 1849 it became the main economic source. The benefits of the railway were the halving transport costs to Edinburgh and the easy import of wool (History of Galashiels, Scottish borders, Scotland, no date). Today the industry and the town has declined. However, the town has still a textile culture that can be seen from the School of Textiles & Design, which is located there and is part of Heriot-Watt University. Our objective is to revive the textile culture by linking the existent education with the local industry and the town center. The railway comeback will help the revitalization by offering easy access to the town.
As the designer Dame Vivienne Westwood said the School of Textiles & Design has the best facilities in the UK. Students have the opportunity to work with a large range of equipment from craft to cutting edge technologies used for education, and research. However these facilities are exclusive for students and also the research outcomes stays between the academics. As a result the local textile industry and the people from the town do not benefit from the university, which gives an impression of an isolated bubble in Galashiels. Consequently, the textile culture is not developing and is just based on the heritage from the old mills. Also the lack of connection deprives students from getting involved with the community and the heritage’s wisdom. A linkage between town and university will benefit both sides.
The A7 road, which connects the Borders is passing through the middle of the town. Therefore, a new big commercial area was developed by the side of that road just next to the city center. This new area is now supplying all the neighbor towns, but the problem is that people are not getting involved with the main town, as they come as transits to shop from the big stores, such as Tesco, Asda, etc. The appearance of big retail stores started when the supermarket chain Tesco agreed to swap the Carnoustie, Dunbar and Kirriemuir stores with Lothian Borders & Angus Co-operative Society to gain a larger superstore in Galashiels. Consequently, more people are coming, but the town is not taking advantage of that flow of people for their local economy.
During the workshop the local people were concern about the local shops and how to make them more economical viable. Therefore, the flow of people coming can be beneficial for the existent shops using new infrastructure to attract people into that areas.
source: Scottish Government
Workforce and people skills
Nearly one-third of the workforce from the Scottish Borders is employed in production and construction industries. Also the Borders has the highest proportion of elderly people aged 40 and older (Scottish borders strategic assessment 2014, 2014) and the highest rate of out-migration of young people. Some of the reasons is because they move away seeking education or job opportunities and most of them never return. Galashiels unemployment rate from 1998 had a percentage of 3.2%. However, is difficult to get an accurate value because most of the people that lost their jobs had moved to other towns or some found alternative employment in the Borders. (Scottish Government, no date)
Textile Industry is still one of the main job sources in the town and since Chanel took over Barrie Knitwear in Hawick the demand has been growing very fast. The company secure 176 jobs and from then they had hired 60 additional workers. However, there is a lack of skilled staff, so the company had created their own training program that last 18 months. They claimed that if they find people with the necessary skills they will employ 25 immediately (Marles, 2015). Therefore, there is not a lack of jobs but there is a lack of training, so the access to education is an important factor for the town’s economic growth.
source: Scottish borders strategic assessment 2014
The main idea is to create a space that is going to be common for the locals, the people from the neighbour cities that are coming as transit shoppers, the tourists that the new railway is going to bring and the students. Basically to create a common community that is going to be based on textile knowledge, skills and education. The purpose of that infrastructure is firstly to bring all those people together in order to exchange ideas and knowledge. Secondly, it will act as a “textile network” spread in the city in order to physically link the touristic area of the old city centre with the new commercial area, the textile industry and the university.
That revitalized textile culture is going to bring economic growth to the city because of the tourists and the new jobs that are going to be available in that new textile community centre for people with skills related to textiles. That development is going to affect positively the local textile industry too. Also is going to be an educational bond of the past wisdom of the local people with the new contemporary textile technologies. In that way, the heritage is not going to be lost and is going to be explained and reviled to the visitors and the students and on the other hand the research outcomes of the academia are going to be exposed and be accessible to the locals and the visitors. At last but not least, that textile culture is going to be a strong social connection and create strong feeling of belonging in a common Textile Community.
More specifically, the proposed program could include a display demonstration exhibition where is going to be explained the history of textiles in the borders, the process of the textile making step by step and the new researched outcomes of the academia. Also, it will include some workshops for gaining skills relevant to textile manufacturing and design, such as workshops for learning about making traditional textiles, new textile techniques, making clothes or just for arts and crafts out of the waste fabric materials. The equipment of the workshops will be accessible from the locals, the tourists, the industries and the students during their studies but also after leaving the university. Also, those workshops could offer to the students a part time job as teachers of the community. At last, part of the textile network community is the involvement with the local textile industry, after gaining the basic skills.
1. High Line Park – Diller Scofidio + Renfro
source: Diller Scofidio + Renfro architecture, news and interviews, 2014
The High Line Park is a built on an existent rail infrastructure that was no longer in service and in plans of being demolished. It has a length of approximately 1.5 miles. The interest in this project is to understand the effects of public space as a connection in an existing town or city. This kind of proposals can reactivate the area and consequently generate new infrastructure that will attract more people.
source: Jackbroad, 2015
Along the path there are new spaces that complement the connection such as; museums, studios, and new developments. This link shows the revival of an urban area and an economic growth for the city.
2. Sluzewski Culture Centre / WWAA
source: Sluzewski culture centre / WWAA + 307kilo, 2015
The second case study is a Cultural Centre in Poland, and the interest in this project is the relationship with the public spaces, and the fact that the program building can function separately. Also the understanding of the place for the design and scale aspects of the project, showing respect for tradition and culture.
source: Sluzewski culture centre / WWAA + 307kilo, 2015
The place of the program is proposed at the new commercial area, in order to take advantage of the transit flows of people that come to shop and make them stay longer due to the proposed activities. The urban plazas of the new development should be connected with the existed plazas of the old town centre to spread the flows into the town. Also, that site is next to the railway station, so it is easily accessible to the visitors of the town.
Moreover, that area near Tesco is a middle area between the old centre and the university. Therefore, it can act as a physical linkage between the two areas and the local people with the students. A physical path can be created that is going to connect all the plazas with the activities of the “textile network community”.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro architecture, news and interviews (2014) Available at: http://www.dezeen.com/tag/diller-scofidio-renfro/ (Accessed: 21 February 2016).