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Architecture Competition Winner Announced!

The results of our Midsteeple Quarter Architecture Competition have been announced, with Ayr based ARPL Architects winning the 1st prize of £1000. Gordon Flemming from ARPL Architects stated, “We are very pleased that our ideas for the Midsteeple Quarter in Dumfries were recognised by the competition judges. The challenge of ensuring regional town centres stay viable and lively is a great task and we hope our contribution to the discussion helps add a new dimension to this.”

Image Credit_Gordon Flemming_ARPL Architects_1
Gordon Fleming’s entry wins First Place

The Midsteeple Quarter project is an important part of a national debate about the future of town centres as traditional retail declines everywhere, the architectural ideas submitted are not proposals of what will be built, but a way of continuing the conversation of how the Midsteeple Quarter could develop as a new heart of our town centre.

The judging panel consisted of John Dowson, a Dumfries High Street Resident; Melissa Gunn, Lecturer in Business and Enterprise at the University of the West of Scotland & Chair of the Board of Directors at The Stove Network; Tim Gray, Director at Holmes Miller Architects & GIA President; Iain Monteith, Director at Loader & Monteith Architects and Tutor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture and David Cowan, Head of Regeneration Unit at the Scottish Government.

Second place was awarded to a group of young female architects who focused their entry on the social aspect of regenerating Dumfries High Street, providing solutions which introduced both day and night time activity. Their reimaging of the town centre sought to provide an achievable, affordable and permanent solution to empty shop fronts whilst integrating student accommodation into the heart of a potentially thriving community. Third place was awarded to Pioneer Landscape Architecture, who looked at the unique nature of the site and its spaces to guide their response. Their aim was to revitalise the Midsteeple Quarter by making proposals on both a regional and local scale, reinstating the importance of Dumfries as a regional capital in a post retail society. In addition to the cash prizes the Judges wanted to commend Ryan Canning and Titas Grikevicius from Holmes Miller with a Drawing Commendation.

Second Place was awarded to Andie Cooke, Megan ward, Cara Brunton and Ashley Mitchell.
Second Place was awarded to Andie Cooke, Megan ward, Cara Brunton and Ashley Mitchell.

Sam Patterson, who coordinated the architecture competition on behalf of the Glasgow Institute of Architects, commented, “The GIA are delighted to have worked with The Stove Network on developing such a rich and challenging competition brief and we are thrilled with the range of ideas that were received across the 15 submissions. The quality of the submissions exceeded our expectations and we hope will stimulate the debate in Dumfries about the potential of the Midsteeple Quarter.”

Long-term and careful public consultation has brought a consensus that re-populating the town centre is an urgent necessity. Late last year,we conducted an online survey and had responses from over 800 members of the public. Their responses revealed support for a more diverse approach to the future of the town centre with a very positive response to ideas of enterprise, education, live-work, health services and restaurants/nightlife all being available in the town centre as well as more events, festivals and markets to encourage more people to come into the town.

On Friday 9th June, entries to the Midsteeple Quarter Architecture Competition will be on display in the Stove building, 100 High Street, until 21st June, as well as South Block in Glasgow. The exhibition launch at The Stove will be opened by the new Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Councillor Elaine Murray, and will begin at 6.30pm. Everyone is invited to come along and view the architectural concepts for the Midsteeple Quarter of Dumfries High Street from professional individuals and practices for a reimaged urban core of Dumfries. The public in Dumfries will be able to vote for a ‘Peoples Choice’ winner at the exhibition at The Stove.

For more information, please contact David Smith at [email protected] or visit the Glasgow Institute of Architects website

News Project Updates

Midsteeple Quarter – a community-led development project for Dumfries Town Centre

Over the last 8 months The Stove has been part of a major community-led project within Dumfries to take positive action to create a new, beating heart in centre of the town. This initiative has gone through a series of working titles including: ‘#MakingDumfries’ and ‘Living on the High Street’ (search these terms in our website and social media and the detailed story will emerge) – but for now Midsteeple Quarter is the title that most of the diverse partnership involved in the project will recognise.

Midsteeple Quarter re-imagines a strip of empty shop buildings on Dumfries High Street as a community-run mixed develop­ment of live-work/ education/ enterprise/ social spaces.

Empty properties on Dumfries High Street (above) re-imagined as a vibrant mixed development
Empty properties on Dumfries High Street (above) re-imagined as a vibrant mixed development

The project began with the #SquareGo events in March 2016 which saw The Stove taking over Fountain Square in Dumfries to ask local people how they would like to see the Town Centre re-invent itself for a new era when market towns like Dumfries will not be dominated by retail.

People marked their ideas in chalk directly onto the paving of Fountain Square
People marked their ideas in chalk directly onto the paving of Fountain Square
The main themes identified at #SquareGo were displayed in The Stove Cafe for 2 months for further discussion and additions
The main themes identified at #SquareGo were displayed in The Stove Cafe for 2 months for further discussion and additions

Repopulating the town centre was one of the strongest themes identified by the #SquareGo project

In the same week as #SquareGo John Wallace’s documentary ‘A House on the High Street’ was premiered at The Stove.

Trailer – A House on the High Street from Pile-on Productions on Vimeo.

The film inspired local resident John Dowson to convene a meeting of stakeholders in the town centre to see if a practical action plan could be agreed to take forward the ‘re-populating’ idea. NB ‘slum’ clearances in the 1960’s emptied the centre of Dumfries with people re-locating to the housing estates at the edges of the town – now less than 1000 people of a total town population of 40,000 live in the town centre and John and his wife are effectively the last remaining residents of the High Street itself.

The initial meeting identified the run of empty buildings on the High Street starting from Bank Street and running up past the Midsteeple as the location for a core ‘block’ that could establish a new pattern of inhabitation and uses for the High Street and start the re-population of the centre.

Midsteeple Quarter marked in red
Midsteeple Quarter marked in red
Artists impression of a mixed live-work development (indicative only)
Artists impression of a mixed live-work development (indicative only)

A core aspect of the project is for local people to literally take back ownership of their town centre. Currently most of the buildings are owned by Pension Funds and other corporate ‘absentee landlords’ – these owners have no stake in the town beyond the relative value of the assets on their balance sheet. New legislation is being passed by the Scottish Government that will grant powers to community groups to take ownership of underused assets in their area – the Dumfries initiative was written up on the Common Space web platform as part of the Common Weal’s ‘Our Land’ festival in August 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 21.40.43

Around this time The Stove Network established itself as the Community Development Trust for the town centre of Dumfries and was accepted as a full member of Development Trust Association of Scotland – see here for the definition of a Development Trust. The Stove then became the gathering point and lead organisation for a diverse community partnership that supported the idea of the Midsteeple Quarter and were playing a positive part in making the project a reality:

The Stove Network, Loreburn Community Council, Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway, University of the West of Scotland, Crichton Institute, Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce, MakLab, Dumfries and Galloway Council, D+G College, Loreburn Housing Assc, NHS, South Scotland MSPs, Dumfries and Galloway MP, Prominent local individuals and professionals

The vision for the project was further developed through a Visioning Session attended by 28 people representing the stakeholders listed above.

Stakeholders Gathering 6th October 2016 at The Stove
Stakeholders Gathering 6th October 2016 at The Stove

The Stove Network then circulated and action plan for group which had the priorities of:

  • Interacting with the Local Plan being developed by Dumfries and Galloway Council for Dumfries – to build in special conditions for the Midsteeple Quarter, enabling mixed development to be supported by statutory processes
  • Holding an national Architectural ‘ideas competition’ for Midsteeple Quarter to shape an identity for the project that local people and other stakeholders could get behind
  • Formation of a Community Benefit Company for the project that would be able to offer Community Shares to local people to fund the purchase and development of under-used properties in Midsteeple Quarter
  • Taking ownership of the ‘Bakers Oven’ building (from Dumfries and Galloway Council) in the Midsteeple Quarter and developing this in partnership with University of West of Scotland as an enterprise and education hub with residential accommodation above

The Stove Network has created drawings to define the idea of the Midsteeple Quarter – these have been shortlisted in the Futuretown Scotland competition run by Scotlands Towns Partnership. The drawing were done by Dion Corbett an recent graduate of Strathclyde University who has returned home to Dumfries to build her career here and is working at The Stove.


Please vote in the Futuretown competition – here

Download a larger version of the Competition drawing – here

On 15th and 16th November, the Midsteeple Quarter project will be occupying the Bakers Oven building for local people to see progress and talk about their ideas and ways to be involved in making this vital project for the town come to fruition. Details about this ‘Chapter One’ event are – here

For more info about the project, and/or you’d like to get involved, please contact Matt Baker at matt<at>


Changing the World with Hand and Brush

Today our new friend and sign painting ninja Ciaran Glöbel led a group of Stove members in an inspirational workshop on the art of hand painted lettering.

An example of Ciaran’s work – you can see more at his website 
Ciaran talks alphabets

There is a resurgence of interest in the traditional art of sign painting – this is partly because the sameness and ubiquity of computer generated plastic signage is wearing thin and partly because street artists (graffiti etc) are rediscovering the old arts of hand painted signage as a language for their work. Ciaran Glöbel is good example of this – he is a street artist who for the last two years has been making a living as a sign painter.

Letters by Elli, Ciaran + Jo, Katie, Lyndsay
Single stroke brush lettering practice

The day was rounded off with a public screening of ‘Sign Painters’ a movie which is a moving call to arms for artists to take to the streets and bring back the quality and originality of bespoke designed and hand made signage and street art.

‘I think every human being has the ability to alter their own environment with their bare hands.’ ……absolutely goddamn right!

Just imagine how different Dumfries High Street could look if all the independent traders had hand painted signage by local artists? #MakingDumfries

Thanks to Katie for organising everything and Ciaran for being so generous with his knowledge and having great banter


#MakingDumfries heads for Lochside and Lincluden

We have the use of the Scottish Festival of Architecture’s Travelling Pavillion all week – so we thought we’d take it on a wee tour of Dumfries. On Thursday 31st March you’ll find the pavillion in and around Lincluden and on the 1st April keep your eyes peeled in Lochside. These days are part of the Our Place project for NW Dumfries and mark the beginning of The Stove collaborating with locals in the area about future cultural activity in DG2.

If you are interested to find out more and/or be involved in the project – please get in touch at [email protected] or call 01387 252435


Making Dumfries – Part 1

Week beginning 28th March sees the Stove welcome the Scottish Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design into our world with a series of events and activity, as the first part of an ongoing project, Making Dumfries. Over the course of the next few months, Making Dumfries will create opportunities to contribute to the development of a new vision for the town centre, with workshops facilitated by leading local designers and cultural groups, of which our events are the starting point of.

matts disk CROC

Square Go
Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th of March 10am – 4pm daily
Join the Stove alongside a team of local architects, artists and planners in creating a giant pavement drawing re-imagining the town centre – whatever your interests. How would you like to experience Dumfries in the future? As part of Square Go, the Glasgow Institute of Architects will set up the travelling pavilion, Eolas in the square which will be the HQ for our Square Go project, drop by and get involved.
If you are interesting in participating in the development of this project there are more details available here

Possible Scotland
Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th of March Lateral North’s touring project, Possible Scotland will visit Dumfries as it travels around Scotland in 2016 to support and work with the Square Go project. Join the team for an open workshop on Wednesday, from 2 – 5pm.


Scottish Scenic Route exhibition
28th March – 8th April
From the 28th of March, the Stove will host the Scottish Scenic Route exhibition, a project exploring the impact and possibility of small architectural interventions along Scotland’s key tourist routes.

Film Premiere
Tuesday 29th March 7pm
The premiere of a specially comissioned film by artist and filmmaker, John Wallace exploring the history and culture of Dumfries High Street. The screening will be accompanied by talks and discussions on the past and future of the High Street. All welcome.

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