Glasgow's reputation as a centre of world class architecture and culture has grown over recent years as the city sheds its image of industrial decline. Like other cities in the United Kingdom, Glasgow is reinventing itself, responding to the changing lifestyles, leisure and cultural activities of its inhabitants.
Scanning the City aims to encourage young people in its schools to engage in the debate about its heritage of public art and urban design in all its forms.
The authors of this CD-Rom have not aspired to produce a definitive exploration of Glasgow's public art, but have selected examples that celebrate the diversity of artefacts around in the city. Glasgow-based artist Mark Dawes was the researcher and author of the project along with Glen Coutts and Dr Paul Dougall of the University of Strathclyde. The disc includes traditional urban art forms such as commemorative monuments but also explores practices such as temporary intervention, street performance and young people working with artists to make public artwork.
Scanning the City is a visually rich product of active co-operation between artists and educationists. It features over 700 high-quality photographs, some contributed by the artists themselves, plus approximately one hour of video, several Quick Time virtual reality experiences and short essays on public art which address vital environmental issues. Although designed to be played on a Power Mac or Pentium PC, I found it easier to access through a Power Mac. There are four key interactive sessions - Urban Trails, Public Art Catalogue, Forum, and Activities for the Classroom.
Each screen has a simple navigation system based on a road sign analogy which allows users to go back the way they came, access maps of the urban trails or go to the discussion issues and a useful print button which can download text or artwork for educational purposes. There are 11 Urban Trails with maps and art works marked along the route. There is every incentive for the city teacher to print the trail and follow up with a field visit. Each trail uses the medium to great advantage with video, virtual reality and interview interlaced with lots of information and excellent graphics. The Public Art Catalogue illustrates the variety of medium that constitutes public art - a war memorial, the Cranhill water tower, and the Easterhouse mosaic are just three examples. Comments, opinions and ideas from expert witnesses are available on the Forum. David Harding, Scotland's first town artist in Glenrothes, now head of environmental studies at the Glasgow School of Art, and Eileen Adams, writer and researcher who currently edits Streetwise, debate with Ricardo Marini who works with the city's planning department. The debates are lively, relevant and easy to follow.
The Activities section expands many of the ideas and issues. For the young pupil there is a selection of quizzes which involve basic drag and click skills. The layers of information are cleverly interlaced and can be accessed in a variety of ways. The glossary encourages pupils to learn the language of architecture. The teacher can find many extension activities in the MakingDoing Discussing section which features a number of focused workshops and topics for classroon work. The teacher, the pupil and the undergraduate alike will find this a handy reference tool as well as a teaching and learning resource.
Although set in Glasgow, it will inspire anyone wishing to explore the urban environment in any city.
Jem Fraser is head of education at the National Museums of Scotland