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UNESCO City team and V&A Dundee join forces to design the future

UNESCO and V&A Dundee
Annie Marrs, lead officer UNESCO City of Design Dundee in Craigie Street for Spaces for People. Picture: Steve Brown / DCT Media

In a new partnership to strengthen the city’s local, national and international design offering, UNESCO City of Design has joined forces with V&A Dundee.

The Waterfront museum will now host UNESCO City of Design, the designation awarded to Dundee in 2014, and still the only UK designation in that category.

Annie Marrs, lead officer of UNESCO City of Design Dundee, says, “The designation belongs to Dundee rather than any one organisation. Since the city received it in 2014, Leisure and Culture Dundee has been its caretaker on behalf of the city.

“By moving in and working alongside V&A, we can make best use of the complementary resources and connections we have.”

UNESCO and V&A Dundee
Leonie Bell, director of V&A Dundee. Picture: Steve MacDougall / DCT Media

Leonie Bell, director of the V&A Dundee, is certain of the potential of the partnership working at every level. Since she took over in the role, Leonie has been clear about her desire to reach out into communities, while the V&A also works at a national level as the new centre for design in Scotland.

This announcement follows the news that V&A Dundee will develop into Scotland’s centre for design over the next three years. There will be new partnerships that position design as one of Scotland’s greatest resources.

Working together at every level

“It makes sense perfect sense to bring us together,” she says. “We can combine the strength of local projects with the national role Dundee has in design. Then we also take in the international network.

“And of course, it also takes in the Dundee Design Festival. How ambitious do we want to be, looking to the future of that? That’s a question for the city as well.”

UNESCO City of Design Print City 2017.

Leonie Bell points to the achievements made by the UNESCO team of three, with two members part-time.

“What they have managed to achieve with their incredible energy is impressive. Now we can host that energy. They also programme in a different way from us and I think bringing together our ways of working will be really exciting.

“What happens within our walls is important, but what happens outside is is equally as important and UNESCO really get that way of working.”

From showcases to souvenirs

The UNESCO City of Design team has delivered a wide range of projects in the past six years. As well as showcasing Dundee designers internationally, it has launched CODE souvenir Dundee, a catalogue of locally designed gift items, and staged three editions of the Dundee Design Festival as well as the the Dundee Design Parade with hundreds of local young people celebrating Dundee’s place in the global network of UNESCO Creative Cities.

It also co-designed the pedestrianisation of Union Street with local businesses in response to the Covid pandemic, something which has inspired the Spaces for People project.

Annie Marrs is currently working on the project in Stobswell, where Craigie Street and Eliza Street are being transformed into “pocket parks” with spaces for people in an area with many tenemental properties to get some air and sit outside.

UNESCO and V&A Dundee
Heather Tulloch paints at Spaces for People in Craigie Street, Stobswell. Picture: Steve Brown / DCT Media

“The Spaces for People programme was a response to the pandemic. I think the pandemic showed us that there are a lot of issues in terms of how some people live.

“The thing that drives us at UNESCO City of Design is an absolute belief that good design can transform the quality of people’s lives.

Sharing knowledge of design

“It’s about increasing the knowledge of what that means. For example, if there’s a new housing development being built, that communities can demand the absolute best from the design.”

The two organisations will collaborate to support the city’s designers and Scotland’s design sector, while championing design internationally.

Sunny Dundee facemasks from UNESCO to Lochee. Left to right, Heather Henry (Love Lochee chairperson), Claire Ramsay (CLD Dundee City Council) and Annie Marrs (UNESCO City of Design). Picture: Steve MacDougall / DCT Media

The biennial Dundee Design Festival will take place in late September this year. Design studio Agency of None will produce the festival which this year will be located in venues across the city.

Called ‘design houses’ they will be created in collaboration with local communities and organisations, including V&A Dundee, and look at providing that knowledge of the value that design brings to all our lives, every day.

“Design enriches all our lives, it is about harnessing ambition and creativity to imagine and to create positive change,” adds Leonie Bell.

“This is so important as we begin our recovery from the pandemic and ask ourselves what kind of future we want.”