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SHBT – New Towns: An ambiguous Scottish and global heritage

21 February - 17:30 - 19:30


Come along and hear ongoing findings from the ‘Building a Modern Scotland’ research team, in this presentation by Dr Diane Watters, Dr Valerie Wright and Prof Miles Glendinning.

The session sets the Scottish postwar New Towns programme in its wider international context, first by focusing on the original concept and later vicissitudes of Cumbernauld, the most internationally renowned of the series, and then by more briefly glancing at one fragment of its wider global impact.

Following an excerpt from the renowned 1970 promotional film, Cumbernauld, Town for Tomorrow – to give a flavour of the utopian optimism of the postwar era – Diane first revisits early 1960s and ‘70s architectural and planning narratives of Cumbernauld (her home town), and the subsequent condemnations of the town that took hold from the 1980s, at first within anti-modernist architectural discourse and then more generally. Valerie then zooms in on Cumbernauld’s social history, drawing on archival research, and more importantly, on her discoveries from interviewing people about their lives in the town, as part of the research for ‘Building a Modern Scotland’. Finally, Miles provides a glimpse into the wider international impact of Cumbernauld’s unique ‘high-density’ new town vision by showing how that formula was developed and vastly expanded in the post-1970s New Towns programme in Hong Kong.

In heritage terms, the presentation will highlight the contrast between Cumbernauld, whose over 60-year old heritage is now burdened with seemingly insuperable problems of architectural and social stigmatisation, and the ambiguous heritage status of Hong Kong pre-1997 new town modernism, potentially excluded for mainly cultural-political reasons from a new ‘patriotic’ master-narrative.


£7 in person or £2 for students


Scottish Historic Buildings Trust
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Riddles Court
322 Lawnmarket
Edinburgh, EH1 2PG
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