Cumbernauld's architecture goes under the microscope

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 12:24 BST on Thursday 28th June 2012.

Cumbernauld’s unique architecture has been both revered and despised but yesterday (27th June) Cumbernauld Town Centre’s unique megastructure design was studied by the International Association of People and Environment Studies (IAPS).

An IAPS spokesperson said: “IAPS is an International association gathering all those disciplines which share a fundamental interest in environment and behavioural studies: environmental psychology, geography, architecture, urban design, sociology, social psychology, interior design, planning.”

The event held throughout Cumbernauld yesterday afternoon was part of the twenty-second IAPS Congress, where up to 450 of the organisation’s members come together to study the importance of human development and the environment.

This year’s event is being held from Sunday 24th June until this Friday (29th June), with the main events being held at Strathclyde University.

This year’s theme is ‘Human Experience in the Natural and Built Environment: implications for research, policy and practice,’ with a number of field trips being held throughout the five weeks, to Glasgow, New Lanark, Ayrshire and Cumbernauld.

Online, IAPS describes Cumbernauld as one “…of the most celebrated built experiments in megastructural planning, Cumbernauld Town Centre was praised and then loathed for its daring, futuristic, sculptural architecture and its unique attempt to produce a 24hr urban core in a high-density, multi-storey structure. Less famous but equally interesting is the surrounding housing, a diverse zoo of Radburn layouts, low-rise, medium-density villages on Italian hilltop models, and point-blocks in parks, linked or divided by substantial roads. This tour will discuss the history and theory of this complex New Town, and its successes and failures.”

Cumbernauld’s walkabout tour was held by Dr Barnabas Calder, who is a historian specialising in post-war British and North American architecture and planning, with a history degree from Worcester College, Oxford and an MA in medieval architecture at the Courtauld Institute; he also did a PhD in the Department of Architecture at Cambridge.

The walkabout tour was not to everyone’s taste, however, with one member of the tour group later tweeting that Cumbernauld’s “indoor” Town Centre is “unsuccessful” and “too costly.”