How can we radically change the way places in Scotland are planned? 

How can we re-imagine the future of Scotland?  

These questions have been on our mind as we’ve been inspired by the power of art and artists coming together in North Lanarkshire through Art is Everywhere.

We asked Jim MacDonald, CEO of Architecture & Design Scotland (A&DS) for his reflections…

As someone nearly said once, places have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

Sadly, that’s not really how we do things which means not all of our places do work for everybody. In the face of the climate emergency, rising prices, post-covid uncertainty and yet more austerity, this creates issues which ironically do affect everybody. For this reason, we need radical change to the way places are planned and to reimagine the future of Scotland.

Doing so is about much more than the planning system. It means everyone in a place working together to develop a shared vision for their future. It means responding to the messy complexity of everyone’s lives rather than the needs of a small handful of vested interests.

The good news is – at least to some extent – the future is here already. The even better news is that it brings immediate benefits, both for people’s lives and the demands on the sorely pressed public purse.

The changes required are about collaboration rather than competition, outcomes rather than inputs and above all, putting people and communities at the heart of the decisions that affect their lives.

The magic enabling ingredients in all of this are design and creative thinking. These allow everyone involved to see the advantages and disadvantages of different options, to spot and take advantage of opportunities to make better use of investment and to reduce the risks inherent in siloed thinking and doing.

Through the work Architecture and Design Scotland is involved in, I see first-hand what these benefits look like. They range from creating new healthcare facilities where patients recover quicker and staff thrive, to new neighbourhoods which support people’s mental and physical well-being. By engaging effectively with those who use these places, and using design to test options for their future, we can deliver great outcomes while also making significant savings compared to more traditional approaches.

For this reason, we are delighted to be involved in Art is Everywhere, an initiative that perfectly captures the overriding importance of working with the most unequal communities to ensure their voices are heard. It represents another strand of the growing body of evidence that suggests engagement and co-operation are the real game-changers of our time.

So, in the face of unprecedented challenges from the climate the need to re-imagine our future the collaborative, user-centred approach championed all those years ago by Jane Jacobs has never been more important. The easy bit is knowing what it looks like. Our challenge now is to make it happen.

To find out more about the work of Architecture and Design Scotland, please visit