The designer Paul Elliman said ‘a school is a building with a school in it’. Do we agree? Where next for creative education? What would independent creative learning, embedded in place and context, look, act and feel like?


When the mechanisms of mainstream school, college and university education seems to increasingly answer to a transactional neo-liberal logic – of skills (in return for payment and debt), ’employability’, and a job-based economy that might not even exist in 20 years time – people naturally become more interested in possible alternatives. As part of this unit we will interrogate this assertion, form our own group position(s), and devise – minimum of 2, maximum of 4 – prototype ‘platforms for learning’ – these may take a physical form, or could be system-based proposals, or exist in digital spaces, or a combination of all and more of these.


This unit will be underpinned by the idea of thinking through making – we will be focussed on realising proposals, in whatever form seems appropriate to the ideas generated. Through creating an intensive, studio-based learning environment, participants will generate new skills and learning through this active social learning process. Though the unit is devised and led, participants will learn just as much from themselves and each other. We will engage hands and heads, sometimes at the same time. In the time available, we will be open and honest about the context and limitations of our proposals, while remaining very ambitious in terms of what can be achieved with the resources we have and what can be learned from this.


The project will consist of 4 stages – sometimes happening in parallel:

Observe – in smaller sub-groups; researching, observing and documenting the site, the local context, (district, city), and the global context

React – using our findings (combined with our previous experiences and knowledge) to form a range of positions or proposals.

Discuss – as a group we will discuss our findings and make plans

Make, enact, test – a range of prototype proposals will be created on, or in relation to the Phoenix Nursery site, the location of this years Test Unit. We will actively seek to connect these ideas with a public, and learn from this interaction.

Links / references:


Parallel School

Think Twice Before You Think

About the facilitator
Neil McGuire is a designer and design tutor who works on a range of projects and activities including; graphic design commissions, artworks, event production, curation, learning and teaching, talks, and self-initiated projects. He is actively engaged in arts and culture, through positions on the board of initiatives such as Make Works and New Glasgow Society.

Recent projects have included Livescore (a digital project bringing together young-people from three diverse locations to digitally collaborate on and perform a new devised production, with Imaginate) and Then/Now (a public art commission for Scottish Canals, funded by Creative Scotland, undertaken with Minty Donald and Nick Millar). His interests extend to include the interface of design and politics, architecture, and the impact of technology (both new and old) on society. He has a tendency to write things about himself in the third person.