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Caithness News Bulletins September 2006

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Thurso High School      
ARCHITECTURE COMES TO LIFE IN CAITHNESS
Thurso High School to host Sir Basil Spence Archive workshop for pupils on the architecture and history of their building.

A local school designed by the world-renowned architect Sir Basil Spence is to be the focus of a workshop for local schoolchildren to help them explore issues surrounding architecture and built heritage.

Thurso High School (built between 1956 and 1962) was one of three Scottish secondary schools designed by Sir Basil Spence and his Scottish practice. The workshop forms part of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, organised by The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and its partners The National Galleries of Scotland and The Lighthouse, Scotland's Centre for Architecture Design and the City. The archive, held by RCAHMS, features almost 38,000 drawings, photographs and other documents detailing Spence's long and distinguished career.

The workshop is designed to raise awareness of issues surrounding the building and architecture in general. Staff will work with secondary pupils at the school between 27 and 29 September to interpret plans of the building and discuss issues surrounding its history and legacy. The event will culminate in the creation of a short film and eventually become part of the exhibition on Spence's life and work which will tour the country in 2007 as part of his centenary celebrations.

Rebecca Bailey, Head of Education and Outreach at RCAHMS, said: "This workshop is a great opportunity for pupils to explore their experience of living and learning in a Spence building with the help of experts. Those taking part will have a big part to play in deciding how to approach the subject and also determine the content and style of the resulting film and contribution to the exhibition. Our hope is the three days will produce a fitting record of creative reactions to the work of Sir Basil Spence."

Sir Basil Spence (1907-1976) is most famously associated with his radical designs for the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral following its destruction by bombing during World War II, a project for which he received a knighthood in 1960. Renowned for his attention to detail, Spence was involved in a varied range of high-profile architectural projects from Glasgow Airport and the extension of the New Zealand Parliament buildings to controversial designs for high-rise flats in the Gorbals area of Glasgow.

About The Sir Basil Spence Project
The workshop forms part of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, organised by The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and its partners The National Galleries of Scotland, and The Lighthouse, Scotland's Centre for Architecture, Design and the City. RCAHMS holds some 40,000 Spence-related drawings, photographs, and manuscripts in its archive. The project seeks to open up the archive for public enjoyment and encourage debate on issues relating to the built environment, and architecture as a whole, through an examination of Spence's work. A programme of events is well underway, based around buildings designed by Spence. These focus on venue-specific themes such as Travel, Urban Regeneration and Worship.

The archive project has attracted over 1million in funding - 975,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and 200,000 from the Scottish Executive. Over the next three years, RCAHMS will make an illustrated catalogue available through its online database and website ( www.rcahms.gov.uk ). In 2007, the National Galleries of Scotland will organize a landmark exhibition based around the archive material, as a celebration of the centenary of Sir Basil Spence's birth. At the same time an exhibition based on the workshops will tour Spence related locations in Scotland and parts of England.

The workshops and their themes were/ are:

* November 2005 - Office Life, Scottish Widows HQ, Edinburgh
* February 2006 - Travel, Glasgow Airport
* April 2006 - New Design In Historic Places, Canongate Housing, Edinburgh
* May/June 2006 - Urban Regeneration, Gorbals Tower Block, Glasgow
* July 2006 - Housing, Knightsbridge Barracks, London
* September 2006 - Education, Duncanrig High School, East Kilbride; Thurso High, Caithness; Kilsyth Academy, North Lanarkshire.
* October 2006 - Worship, Coventry Cathedral

RCAHMS builds and maintains a unique archive that paints a vivid and fascinating picture of Scotland through its built heritage. This ever-growing collection currently contains some 2 million items, including photographs, maps, drawings and other documents pertaining to commercial and private buildings as well as archaeological and industrial sites. Leading edge digital technology brings the archive to life and makes it freely available to personal and professional users alike, via the web or browsed in person at its premises in Edinburgh. The Royal Commission also looks after Scotland's largest collection of historical aerial photographs, numbering some 1.5 million. See www.rcahms.gov.uk