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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 06/06/2005

I used to live in Edinburgh and still have a real attachment to the city. So when I was asked to become a member of a small group to support Edinburgh’s ‘city design champion’, the architect Sir Terry Farrell, I jumped at it. But, nonetheless, I sat through the early part of the first meeting wondering if I had anything to contribute. What did I know about architecture and design? I quickly realised that what this group was concerned about was really well-being in another guise. They didn’t see their remit as being about ‘aesthetics’ but ‘livability’ and were concerned with how to create places which encourage people to feel good and have a sense of belonging. One of the group’s remits is to help advise on the development of Edinburgh’s vast waterfront – a huge area stretching from Portobello to Granton. The development of this area will, in effect, be the biggest change in Edinburgh since the building of the New Town. A few years ago the Council’s agenda would just have been to get the development to stimulate the economy, whereas now they want to make sure that this development adds in a positive way for those living in Edinburgh. In other words, the type of things this group is discussing is a variant of the debate economists and psychologists are having about how economic growth is no longer enough. We must start to look also at how our activity contributes to well-being. A number of members of this sub-group are extremely articulate about how nowadays we seem to have lost the ability to create distinctive ‘places’.

My involvement with this group has now got me thinking about whether I should add in another dimension to the Vanguard Programme so that participants can ponder the link between physical place and well-being. This would fit well with the Scottish Enlightenment theme. Enlightenment thought was encapsulated, and advanced, physically in the creation of Edinburgh’s New Town and in the works of the influential Scottish architects, Robert and James Adam. So it seems right and appropriate that Edinburgh should be one of the first cities to consider how a growing concern with well-being could translate into planning and architecture.

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