GSA’s Highlands and Islands campus: An experience to never forget


International students wowed by the GSA’s Highlands and Islands campus

The summer holidays may be in full swing but the GSA’s Highlands and Islands campus keeps busy with many visitors and activities.

We regularly host students and faculty from all over the world. Our location on the Altyre Estate outside Forres gives us an ideal opportunity to showcase life and work in the Highlands and Islands and Moray to a global audience who are interested in the region for research and study. 

Last week was no exception with some very special guests. Ten undergraduates from the US came to the campus as part of the prestigious Fulbright Programme.

Fulbright students outside GSA Highlands and Islands

Fulbright students outside GSA Highlands and Islands

The Fulbright Scotland Summer Institute on Technology, Innovation and Creativity is a three-week cultural and academic programme for US students, hosted by the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Strathclyde. As part of the programme, students explore Scotland’s culture, history and creative and technological industries. As our campus has only recently opened, this was the first time the we have hosted the cohort here.

If you’d like a sneak peak of the day, GSA product design student and intern at the campus, Sean Fegan has produced a video of the day to give you a flavour of what happened…

GSA Highlands and Islands – Fulbright students’ visit from The Glasgow School of Art on Vimeo.

The students took part in seminars in key GSA Design Innovation projects including digital health in rural economies and water and textile interdependency in the circular economy. So what exactly does that mean? 

GSA’s Dr Paul Smith hosted a workshop in the sunshine and explains:

“We spent a really great morning exploring the circular economy in textiles with some exceptionally bright students here on the scholarship. Circular economy is a significant step towards addressing the complexities of a more sustainable future, and the ten undergraduates showed real enthusiasm and intelligence with the task we set them. 

We asked them to work in teams to deconstruct the whole product ecology of a familiar textiles product and then reimagine it in a more circular material future. They looked at the origins of materials, the manufacturing processes, distribution and post use. They scrutinised the whole products life and then came up with some amazing sustainable alternatives. It was an inspiring and very illuminating time.”

20 year old Carly McCarthy, a student of Science, Technology and Society at Butler University in Indianapolis and 19-year old Jacob Easley, a Mechanical Engineering student from Mississippi State University with the outcome of their design workshop at the GSA's Highlands and Islands campus

20 year old Carly McCarthy, a student of Science, Technology and Society at Butler University in Indianapolis and 19-year old Jacob Easley, a Mechanical Engineering student from Mississippi State University with the outcome of their design workshop at the GSA’s Highlands and Islands campus

19 year old Jacob Easley, a Mechanical Engineering student from Mississippi State University said: “Going to the GSA’s Highlands and Islands campus was an experience I’ll never forget. Even during the short time I was there I was pushed to expand my thinking of what design really is.”

You can find out more information about the Fulbright Programme, or check out GSA’s press release about the visit.

And if that’s whetted your appetite to find out more about the campus then please visit our online pages.


The transformation of the Creative Campus: in pictures


GSA Highlands and Islands: before and after

Earlier this week (28/06/17) we heard the great news that Blairs Steading, which is home to the GSA’s Highlands and Islands Creative Campus is up for a top national award.

The campus located at Blairs Steading on the Altyre Estate near Forres provides high-quality research and teaching space and an exciting opportunity for students and staff to research and study in spectacular surroundings.

A 21st century design school in 19th century architecture
The Steading comprises a group of Grade ‘A’ listed Italianate buildings, built in the 1830s.

The buildings have been converted into a GSA campus, providing inspiring studio, workshop and exhibition space as well as state of the art areas for research, teaching, prototyping and flexible lab work.

Scottish awards for quality in planning
The Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning “are one of the Government’s most prestigious awards. They celebrate achievements in planning, from the detail of processing to the bigger picture of creating places which will become the legacy of our professionalism”.

Before and After
Our blog piece from earlier in the year shares some pictures of the restoration in progress:

Spring has finally arrived at the GSA’s Creative Campus in the Highlands and Islands. Beautiful daffodils are sprouting and other plants are pushing their way through the ground.

It’s also a real delight to see new leaves and buds appear on the quince trees in the courtyard – especially after watching their stick-like forms clinging on through winter.

daffodils at GSA Highlands and Islands

Daffodils springing up at GSA Highlands and Islands. Image credit: Jane Candlish

But that’s not the only transformation that’s taken place here.

The campus buildings underwent a major renovation to provide high-quality research and teaching space. Here we take a ‘before and after’ look of the GSA’s stunning new campus.

Tower GSA Highlands and Islands scaffold

The tower at GSA Highlands and Islands, rising above the scaffolding. Image credit: Fergus Fullarton Pegg

Converted Italian-style villa with tree branches

And the view when it was finished. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Since InDI officially moved to Altyre in November 2016, the Creative Campus has also changed on the inside.

Students and researchers have made the studio space their own. It’s great to see all the activity going on there now – research, meetings and teaching. True to GSA’s studio approach, our studio is at the heart of the campus. The studio walls are filling up with examples of work, sketches and plans, as well as the odd Post-it note.

The campus provided a spectacular setting for Winter School in January. Our students and visitors found it an inspirational place for the two–week event.

Studio GSA Highlands and Islands

The studio being stripped back. Image credit: Fergus Fullarton Pegg

Teaching studio at GSA Highlands and Islands

The finished studio is now occupied by researchers and students. Image credit: Paul Campbell

And there’s still a nod to the original use of the buildings in their new names.

The studio is The Dairy; the exhibition space is The Granary, and our operations base is The Cottages.

This is the just the start of the journey here at GSA Highlands and Islands: being specialists in Design Innovation means that we’re always looking to try new ways of working.

There’s lots of ongoing discussions about the future so watch this space!

Find out more about the Creative Campus here.

Granary GSA Highlands and Island renovation

The Granary as it was during renovation. Image credit: Fergus Fullarton Pegg

The Granary, Winter School 2017

The Granary was filled with student activity during Winter School 2017. Image credit: Paul Campbell


Life at the Creative Campus: the teaching studio


An insight into learning and teaching on our MDES programmes

It was always part of the plan for the Creative Campus in the Highlands and Islands to bring postgraduate students to the region for Design Innovation programmes.

There are currently three Master of Design Innovation programmes based in the north: Transformation Design, Collaborative Creativity, and Interaction Design. Information on the courses and how to apply is available via the links.

A small group of students are pioneering the MDES Design Innovation at the Creative Campus during this first year: an exciting time for all involved.

But the location offers unique opportunities for the group.

MDES teaching studio

One of our MDES students Poopak with tutor George Jaramillo in the Forres studio. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Studio lead for this session is Leigh-Anne Hepburn, a Research Fellow who works with the Experience Labs. Here she tells the InDI blog about some of the students’ recent activities.

“Our Forres-based students attended Winter School 2017 in January, working alongside their Glasgow counterparts for the first time. This was a great chance for them to meet others going through the same experience.

“After this busy two-week event, they went straight into their Stage 2 group project and were tasked with writing a brief. This is a critical design skill and offered a unique opportunity for them to shape the direction of their study.

“Under the theme, Innovation from Tradition, the group considered the individual concepts developed during Winter School – of transient communities and the role of third sector volunteering – and worked to develop a shared direction.

Student presenting to group

MDES student Yara presenting her team’s project at Winter School 2017. Image credit: Paul Campbell

“This is essentially a live project and the students are encouraged to go out and actively engage with local stakeholders. Luckily the people of Moray are very receptive to the musings of MDES students!

“As an international group, they were particularly interested in exploring the refugee experience of moving to Forres and the potential role volunteering could play in supporting community integration. After identifying key stakeholders, the students build a strong connection with partner organisations during their field research.

“When you are working with participants who are enthusiastic about design – and who can see the real potential for change it offers – you want to deliver the best possible outcome and create some value in return. Our students had the chance to do this when they ran their first co-design workshop, ‘Designing your volunteer experience’ last month. Created in partnership with tsiMORAY for the organisations’s conference for the third sector, Join the Dots, the workshop was attended by more than 20 people. Delivering a participatory workshop is an exciting and immersive experience and our students were delighted that it went so well.

Scenario tool

One of the scenario tools created by the MDES students for the workshop. Image credit: Leigh-Anne Hepburn

“Every rich story and anecdote gathered during field research offers new insight and it’s tempting to keep listening instead of moving towards designing solutions. This is especially true of the fast-paced 12 week project that the students have embarked on. However, after this intense period of research, our students have begun to identify the key insights and are designing some exciting final concepts.

“In the middle of all this, we travelled to Glasgow to join the wider MDES student and staff cohort for interim reviews. These presentations give students an opportunity to share the journey of their project and emerging design concepts, receiving some essential critical feedback and peer review in return.

“And in addition to the studio project, the students have also begun working on their specialisms, with expert input from teaching staff across GSA. It’s a real team effort.”

Recruitment is ongoing for our MDES programmes starting in September 2017 in Forres and Glasgow – and there are funded places available. Click here to find out more on the GSA’s website.

Also, the GSA and Digital Health & Care Institute are offering a limited number of funded places on the Master of Research programme to students exploring health-related topics. Find out more on the GSA’s website.

MDES students conference workshop

MDES students who led the workshop at the tsiMoray conference. Image credit: Leigh-Anne Hepburn

*Featured image by Paul Campbell


Learning from Locality: an international residency


International residency programme visits the Creative Campus

Students from Belgium, France and Scotland came together in Findhorn and visited the GSA’s Highlands and Islands Creative Campus last week for a vibrant residency programme.

The GSA’s campus outside Forres has opened up new opportunities for staff and students to visit the area to research, work and study.

“We enjoyed the tranquillity of the GSA’s Highlands and Islands Creative Campus. It introduced us to other aspects of Scotland’s landscapes and environments,” explained Mark Luyten from Sint Lucas Antwerpen College of Art and Design.

Group of students and staff on residency on Findhorn Bay

Students and staff from the Locality II Residency visit Findhorn Bay. Image credit: Michael Mersinis

The residency, entitled Locality II, brought together postgraduate students from the areas of Fine Art and Design to discuss and respond to the theme of locality. Considering the Scottish landscape, its history and setting was central to the research. Students focussed on the importance of space and place in relation to their own work and that of the wider group.

The aim of Locality II was to ‘rupture the classical definition of specialism and to allow collaboration between different specialisms, schools and countries’. Students joined the residency programme from three schools across Europe: The GSA, École européenne supérieure d’art de Bretagne (EESAB) in Quimper, France and Sint Lucas Antwerpen College of Art and Design.

“We visited Forres and were shown around the Creative Campus staying for the afternoon where we all enjoyed student presentations,” explains Eimer Birkbeck from EESAB.

Learning in locality

Residency organisers chose the Forres location as an ‘ideal platform’ to explore the north of Scotland and immerse students in diverse aspects of locality. As well as time on campus, the students visited Culloden Battlefield, the Sueno’s Stone, the Falconer Museum in Forres and Findhorn village where the group stayed for the week. 

Small cottage nestled amongst trees and a field

Grounds around the campus: an inspiring location for artists and designers. Image credit: Paul Campbell

 Students considered themes including:

– Inhabited land
– The weather as a mechanism of forming the land
– The use of land within agriculture
– History of the natural landscape

“The opportunity to be displaced and placed again within a land that has its own rhythm and rules was a great privilege. There are certain qualities in the Scottish landscape that are truly unique. This particular sense of place permeated our thoughts and actions during the residency”.
Michael Mersinis, The Glasgow School of Art

The residency was the second part of a three year project, with the first part having taken place in Le Guilvinec in France and the third part taking place in Antwerp in Belgium.

What next?

For more information on Locality II please contact the GSA’s Michael Mersinis, Lecturer in Fine Art Photography, [email protected] or Thomas Greenough, Head of International Academic Development, [email protected].

Find out more about The Glasgow School of Art’s Highlands and Islands Creative Campus.

*Featured image of Findhorn sunset by Oliver Pilcher