Dundee, City of Design


Just before Christmas it was announced that Dundee has become the first UK city to be awarded the UNESCO City of Design status, joining just twelve other cities worldwide, including Beijing, Berlin and Montreal. To celebrate, the city’s various creative outlets organised design-related events for both private guests and the public to enjoy.

One of these events was a lecture (‘How Design Can Change A City’) which Mr Man and I attended last night after a delicious meal at The Playwright. The lecture was hosted by Design in Action and Leisure and Culture and was chaired by Bryan Beattie, Director of Creative Service Scotland (he did an excellent job of making both the panel and the audience feel completely at ease). The panel was made up of four design industry professionals; Deyan Sudjic (writer, broadcaster and Director of the Design Museum), Laura Aalto (Communications Director, Design Driven City, Helsinki), Philip Long (Director, V&A Museum of Design, Dundee) and Gillian Easson (Founder, Creative Dundee). It was an interesting and engaging talk which developed into a conversation with the audience, who were eager to take part. One man pointed out that Dundee looked as though Desperate Dan had sat on the city, while others were less cutting but equally as direct with concerns about how the V&A Dundee will work alongside existing smaller galleries and museums. It was evident last night that Dundee’s inhabitants care about the future of Dundee and – as much as they were interested to hear of success stories (such as the Guggenheim museums in Helskini and Bilbao) and the exciting possibilities around design and how it can change a city – they clearly want the best for this city, its community and the surrounding rural areas. They are willing to stand up and speak on behalf of the city, as well as enjoy the exciting possibilities that our design future here has to offer.

The event last night was great in that it covered both the positive and the more controversial issues surrounding the current developments in Dundee, but what I got most out of it was realising something very special about the city I live in: it has an incredible ability to bounce back. For example, we might have lost out to Hull on the UK City of Culture 2017 bid but – just one year later – we have been awarded the prestigious UNESCO City of Design status. In a nutshell: Dundee lives, and Dundee learns. We’ll find our way out of the fog and into what looks to be a very bright future.

Image: Kris Miller

A few inspiring quotes from the panel:

“The City of Design status is not a reward but a stimulus to address some of the broader social and economical issues that the city has.” -Bryan Beattie

“Design is the way we generate industries.” -Deyan Sudjic

“Different groups have opposite ideas but a common understanding of what will be good for the city and community.” -Laura Aalto

“Design has a history of changing a city’s fortune.” -Philip Long

“The city has already changed in many peoples eyes.” -Gillian Easson

Follow me on Twitter for live updates on events such as last night’s lecture.



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