An impromptu Dashing White Sergeant on the streets of Venice followed the opening of the Scottish Pavilion at the 15th Venice International Architectural Biennale.
Accompanied by the swirl of the pipes, bemused locals joined in with members of the Scottish creative team who had been celebrating the opening of the Prospect North exhibition, in which a major Skye architectural practice is involved.
One of the dancers was Graham Hogg of design consultancy Lateral North, who said there was much to celebrate after a lot of hard work over many months. Lateral North is a Research and design collective based in Glasgow.
“There was a mixture of exhaustion and elation amongst the design team after the launch, so naturally we decided to have a cèilidh beside the canal - along with a couple of drams.”
The exhibition is one of 88 being curated under the title Reporting from the Front which has brought together architects from 33 countries.
The Scottish pavilion highlights how communities in Scotland are battling to create a secure future, sometimes against the odds, and is a collaboration between Lateral North, Dualchas Architects from Sleat; and Soluis, a design-visualisation studio from Glasgow.
At the start of May, Dualchas relocated to the top floor of the Fàs building at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. The new office enjoys panoramic views of the Sound of Sleat and according to director Neil Stephen, makes a big difference for the Dualchas team.
"We had grown out of our existing office after expanding over recent years. The new space is much more generous and also has additional facilities. This includes a shower room, which will allow staff to cycle to work, and a cafeteria. And because we are sharing a campus with other creative businesses, including Young Films and Canàn, it should be both a sociable and stimulating environment."
In Venice the Scottish pavilion combines the craftsmanship of a 3 dimensional timber map of Scotland and the arctic with spectacular 3-D visualisations and films which are triggered when viewing the map through mobile phones and tablets.
There is also a fun element too, where you can enter an immersive virtual reality world of the Highlands past, present and future by wearing a large sculptural head –a unicorn, moose or polar bear.
But as Graham explained, there was a serious message behind this.
“The exhibition looks at how some areas of Scotland are constantly struggling against the gravitational pull of the south, which draws away the young and their energy. It then requires the heroic efforts of individuals to try and keep these communities alive.
“We are asking why should this be and how do we change it? We have therefore turned the map 180 degrees and looked to the north, to the Nordic countries and to the arctic, where there are potentially great opportunities for Scotland. We are then “the south” to our northern neighbours, and are in a great strategic position, particularly if new shipping routes open up through the North West Passage”.
The exhibition highlights that much of Scotland is under-populated but how an industrialisation of the north through bold renewable initiatives, high-speed connectivity and rethinking trade routes could transform outcomes. It suggests that the depopulation of the Highlands was not inevitable, but continued cultural and economic decline is the future unless we decide to affect a change.
This idea is complemented by a book that accompanies the exhibition. Writers from across the country were commissioned to tell stories and poems about Scotland when the map is turned and the compass realigned.
Feedback to Prospect North has so far been extremely positive, with the team noting that the visitors to the exhibition will stay for an average of 40 minutes, due to the multi-layered elements of the displays.
The Prospect North exhibition and event series will run from 26 May until 25 June at Ludoteca Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in Venice,
Later there will be a chance to see it without the expense of a foreign trip. It will return to Scotland for a nationwide tour as part of Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design and the Festival of Architecture in 2016.
The exhibition is supported by Architecture and Design Scotland, Creative Scotland, the Scottish Government and British Council Scotland. The exhibition materials have been sponsored by James Latham.