What’s Up in Glasgow? The Stockard Report

We asked Jim Stockard (LF ’78 and former Loeb curator) to report in about his experience teaching at the Glasgow School of Art and what it’s like to become a Glaswegian for a semester. The author of countless expansive Loeb Annual Reports has effortlessly made the shift to blog writer for his first dispatch.

The short story is that Sue and I love it here. The Glaswegians are among the friendliest and most conversational folks we have ever met. We’re on a first name basis with more merchants here than we are in Cambridge. Glasgow is a fascinating city, and a great one for us to be living in on this adventure.

The central city is bisected by two pedestrianized streets – Sauchiehall (pronounced sucky-hall) and Buchanan. They are busy with walkers, shoppers, musicians, street performers, political activists and vendors for much of the day and evening. Very lively. We have an apartment one block from where the streets meet at right angles. Every kind of shop we need is only a block or two away. The two central train stations are three and six blocks away. The Royal Concert Hall is two blocks away. And the Glasgow School of Art, where I have a desk, is a ten minute walk in the morning (uphill) and an 8 minute walk in the evening (downhill). Oh, and there is a pub or two in the area as well.

Sue has found a home at the Mitchell Library about a mile away, where she goes often to read and write. And because we have five, no six, grand nieces and nephews and Common Place grandbabies coming in the next several months, she is knitting up a storm. And, of course, she has also found a place to volunteer: Bridging the Gap. It’s a community center that helps to welcome immigrants and homeless families and give them a warm meal, some companionship, and a bit of information about how to make their way in the city. Today she is off baking bread that they sell to raise money for the program.

I am settling in to a role co-teaching a research seminar at the GSA on “The Liveable City.” The participants are fourth year architectural students learning how to do research. They are working hard to define liveability and then to imagine how they would measure it. They are eventually going to compare Glasgow and Boston on these scales. They are pretty new at this kind of assignment, so it will be interesting to see where they go with the project. They will publish their conclusions in May.

The other opportunity I have here is to conduct research into social housing in Scotland. My colleague, Brian Evans, is wonderful. He too is primarily a practitioner who has found his way into the classroom. We have been cooking up a writing project that may end up in another kind of Boston-Glasgow comparison. As we have talked about the social housing regimen in this country and the US, we have discovered some great similarities (more than I thought), as well as some distinctions. The prime minister of the United Kingdom (a small tutorial on the difference in England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom, the British Isles and the British Empire will be forthcoming) has just announced a plan to renovate some of the most troubled social housing developments in England. For those of you in the housing world, it sounds like HOPE VI Lite – and I’m talking Super-Lite ($200 million for 100 developments??). Because of some things I will explain in another missive, this program may not take effect in Scotland. Nonetheless (or perhaps because of this) Brian and I are thinking about writing a piece about what we have learned in the US and the UK over the years about the regeneration (UK phrase) of troubled social housing complexes. We’ve tried lots of strategies between the two nations, and we think there is something to say about signposts toward long-term success.

I’ve met with the director of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (those are the equivalents of our non-profit housing developers), the director of Housing for the City of Glasgow, several housing officials in the Scottish Government, and a great community organizer-writer-HA official-gadfly, all of whom have taught me a lot about the social housing regimen here in Scotland. But my learning curve is still straight uphill. Next time I write, I’ll tell you a bit more about what I am taking in and what we might write about.

Sue and I are trying to see a bit of the countryside as well. So this weekend we are off to the Isle of Arron for some walking across the rugged Scottish countryside. And a lovely pub dinner in the evenings. This is a lovely country.

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