19 November 2021 — Announcement

What if…?/ Scotland: 10,000 Scottish gallery-goers ‘wishes’ for a better Scotland revealed

A young woman with dark hair rests on a black wishing well with a golden circle around her head. Her eyes are closed and she holds a card with the words I wish on her chest.
Amanie Ahmed from Dundee, who contributed to the What if…?/Scotland exhibition makes a wish at the Wishing Well. Image by Neil Hanna Photography

The award-winning exhibition What if…?/Scotland comes to an end at the V&A Dundee on Sunday 21st November, having collected over 10,000 wishes from the people of Scotland and beyond.

Commissioned by the Scotland + Venice Partnership, and created by Edinburgh-based 7N Architects, What if…?/Scotland was originally designed as Scotland’s contribution to the 17th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, but due to the pandemic it was redesigned to go on to successfully show at V&A Dundee.

The exhibition asked visitors to post a wish, a hope or a dream for their place which was written on a card and added to the Cloud of Dreams – an installation that grew during the six month run of the exhibition. A sample of 754 cards* were analysed to find out what visitors wished for in their places.

The top five themes were:

  • I wish… There were more trees, parks and nature (29%)
  • I wish…There was less traffic, better public transport, especially in rural areas (11%)
  • I wish… There were better/more amenities for communities, children and young people (10%)
  • I wish… There was more community pride and community spirit (8%)
  • I wish… There were more places to cycle and walk (7%)

Some of the wishes reflected the pandemic, for example “I wish better health for all the world”, with another saying “I wish COVID-19 will go away soon so we can get back meeting people and hugging family.”

Green space was the most common theme amongst the wishes including “I wish our urban areas had more trees to enhance the environment and help climate change” and “I wish that post COVID towns and cities could reclaim some green space and replant street trees.”

Ewan Anderson, 7N Architects, commented:

“The exhibition has given citizens a chance to reflect on their places – both before, during and after lockdown, and we can see from their wishes how passionate people are about their places. I hope the exhibition will have inspired people to become more involved in creating a positive future for their communities.”

Jim MacDonald, Chief Executive of Architecture and Design Scotland said:

What if…?/ Scotland gave voice to many citizens from across the country, and the exhibition is particularly powerful because it shows the impact of designers, architects and citizens coming together around a wish, a hope or a dream for a place showing how crucial it is that we put people at the heart of our places. Being able to show the exhibition in Dundee is particularly important as it is so closely connected to Scotland’s places.”

Amanda Catto, on behalf of the Scotland & Venice Partnership said:

“We are delighted to announce today that V&A Dundee will be joining the Scotland + Venice partnership, working strategically with the existing partners to promote Scotland as a centre of international excellence in contemporary art and architecture. V&A Dundee will strengthen and complement the range of expertise and knowledge currently held by the partners – Scottish Government; Creative Scotland; British Council; Architecture and Design Scotland; and National Galleries of Scotland. Together we will continue to place an emphasis on supporting artists and architects to develop and present their work on the world stage, foster international connections and exchange, and position Scotland as a vibrant place for creative and cultural production. It has been a pleasure to present What if…?/ Scotland at the V&A Dundee and this collaboration has enabled us to expand and diversify our audiences, within Scotland and internationally. We’re delighted that the exhibition and online events have been such a success and we’re excited that What if …?/ Scotland has inspired so many people to think differently and creatively about the future of the places that matter most to their lives. Looking ahead, we will be returning to Venice in 2022 with a major solo exhibition of new work by the artist Alberta Whittle and we’ll be announcing further information shortly”

While What if…? / Dundee might be coming to an end, the workshop marked the beginning of these conversations and a hope for citizens’ voices to be heard in the planning for the places they call home.

Speaking on behalf of V&A Dundee, Leonie Bell, Director of V&A Dundee said:

“As Scotland’s design museum, we have been delighted to host What if…? / Scotland. The exhibition has created space for visitors to reflect on what really matters about a place or neighbourhood, and has celebrated the joy and value of places that we all use every day that are so crucial to our communities.

“The exhibition has enabled us to also ask What if…? / Dundee. It’s been a privilege to bring the knowledge of citizens together with designers and architects to consider together how to design better places for everyone”