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V&A Dundee Scottish Design Relay will come to Caithness

A team from V&A Dundee, the first design museum in the UK outside London, will travel around the Caithness for the Scottish Design Relay.

Over the next eight months, around 100 young adults from six areas across Scotland will study a design object with a connection to their community. 

Taking inspiration from these objects, they will work alongside designers and develop new ideas before creating a prototype design. Their work will then be displayed in the museum when it opens next year.

The Scottish Design Relay is being supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Mathew Trust. V&A Dundee is being developed with support from the Scottish Government, Heritage Lottery Fund, Dundee City Council, the UK Government, Creative Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, University of Dundee, Abertay University and many trusts and private donors.

Mhairi Maxwell, V&A Dundee Project Coordinator, said: “This is a real opportunity to connect young people to their design heritage and create something that could have a hugely positive impact on their community.

“In each area, the participants will work with an inspirational designer and together they will define a problem and will come up with a solution. The project will see them learn new skills and build their aspirations and confidence.

“For the Caithness leg of the relay, we have chosen an exhibit that will be displayed in V&A Dundee when it opens next year to inspire the young people. All the objects in the Scottish Design Relay have a special link to the communities and help tell a part of the county’s largely untold design story.”

In October, the relay will arrive in Thurso where the team of young people will be challenged with designing something inspired by the Dounreay Fast Reactor.

A model of the reactor will be loaned to V&A Dundee by Caithness Horizons Museum. The model will be one of the key objects in the new museum, where it will help to represent the important design heritage of Caithness.

The Dounreay Fast Reactor complex, which is currently being decommissioned, was designed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s chief architect Richard Brocklesby. A ground-breaking design, the housing was devised as a sphere so that it could tolerate the greatest possible build-up of pressure within, with no weak points.

Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) Under Construction

During the Caithness leg of the Scottish Design Relay the young people taking part will be asked to come up with a new design that utilises the skills of those living in the area.

Working alongside design company Icecream Architecture they will decide what to create. The finished prototype could be anything from a new product to a design for a new community space.

Desmond Bernie, Icecream Architecture director, said: “The Dounreay Fast Reactor is an integral part of Scotland’s design heritage. A huge amount of intelligence and innovation went into designing what was the first nuclear reactor to supply energy to the national grid.

“It also became a real community focal point in terms of jobs, skills, energy and opportunities. Dounreay is still providing jobs and training but the trajectory has changed. Hopefully the skills learned there can be retained locally and used in different ways.

“We like when design projects have real impact on the ground and are excited to see how the Scottish Design Relay prototypes can be turned into effective opportunities for people living in Caithness.”

Those taking part will undertake several workshops designed in partnership with Caithness Horizons Museum.

Joanne Howdle, curator at Caithness Horizons, said: “We are loaning V&A Dundee a model of the Dounreay Fast Reactor which will raise the profile of the museum collection at Caithness Horizons and the unique nuclear heritage of the country.

“We work with museums all over the world as well as artists and designers and I am looking forward to being part of the Scottish Design Relay.

“I think it is going to be an important and interesting project and the young people from Caithness will create something quite innovative.”

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “The Scottish Design Relay offers a great opportunity for young people across Scotland to discover their design heritage and has the potential to shape a whole new generation of Scottish designers who will further enrich Scotland’s vibrant cultural scene.

“I am proud to say the Scottish Government has been among the main supporters of V&A Dundee and I look forward to celebrating the opening of the museum in 2018, which will represent a key milestone towards achieving Dundee’s ambitions to become the Scottish capital of design, strengthening Scotland’s culture and tourism economy, attracting visitors from Scotland and from across the globe, redefining Dundee’s offer as a place to visit, live and work.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have awarded an incredible £825,000 to V&A Dundee since 2014 to allow them to work closely with people in Dundee and also across Scotland.

“I am delighted that as a result of this support that the Scottish Design Relay has launched today to find and cultivate new design talent across Scotland.”

Artists impression of the V&A facility in Dundee