The Lighthouse

Luncheon on the Grass

Like everyone else in the Scottish design community we were very sad to hear the news that the Lighthouse in Glasgow is closing.  Sadly however, we have to admit disengaging from the Lighthouse some time ago (the contents-not the architecture which is still a source of great joy). The spirit and excitement of Glasgow 99 in which the Lighthouse was launched engaged the public and designers alike- the energy stemmed from the sheer quantity and accessibility of both local and global design information.  Most of us can recall conversations with taxi drivers etc, who had unexpectedly become design commentators at the time.

We do not pretend to know where it all went wrong, however can say (rather guiltily) that we have rarely visited the Lighthouse over the last three years, yet have regularly visited the Design Museum in London.  The reason for this, the Design Museum communicates more about what it is to be a designer and what good design is.  It is confident, it is not overly concerned about its image, it engages with the young and old, designers and laymen, it communicates its message.

In Glasgow we are, at times, a little too introspective and for the most part this introspection can have a tendency be limited to the established greats, or to indulge in a fondness for obscure abstraction. The average Glasgow punter cannot easily engage/relate to this. Unpacking the Lighthouse onto Buchanan, Argyle, Sauchiehall Streets or even Pollock Estate is not the worst idea. It would push us to re-imagine what could be. It’s not about leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, it’s about letting people know that this is a place for them and about the world they inhabit. If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed…etc.  When the news first broke about the Lighthouse we pondered on ideas of a Salon des Refuses, it seemed radical in a 19th century type of way and at the heart of any positive change is radical thinking.

The lighthouse hosted multiple events, engaged with designers and architects, had a splendid environment, and even engaged with the community at some level.  It simply seemed to fail to communicate to those outside of the immediate design community.  If the Lighthouse is to re-emerge, the ways in which it communicates its message and the identity of design must be at the centre of its new manifesto.  For more ideas on how the Lighthouse can be reinvented go to,, we particularly like the napkin manifesto.

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