Glasgow School of Art launches new Highlands and Islands Creative Campus

Located at Blairs Steading on the Altyre Estate just outside Forres, the campus is based in a group of Category A-listed Italianate buildings which have been restored into state of the art studios and learning spaces.

The launch took place during one of the highlights of the GSA’s annual calendar; Winter School, which sees leading international design experts, researchers and students come together to explore a theme rooted in the local context but with global resonances. The students and visiting academics were joined by local politicians, businesses and community leaders.

The GSA’s Highlands and Islands Creative Campus is a research and postgraduate teaching centre for international excellence in creativity and innovation.

It is home the Institute of Design Innovation (InDI), which is one of The Glasgow School of Art’s world-leading research centres alongside the Mackintosh Environmental Research Unit, Urban Lab and the School of Simulation and Visualisation (formerly the Digital Design Studio).

Two significant research programmes led by InDI are the Experience Labs, GSA’s contribution to the Digital Health and Care Institute and the Creative Futures Partnership, a pioneering collaboration between the GSA and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Built in the 1830s and set in 12,000 acres of countryside, the Steading had been unused for many years. The three largest buildings have been transformed into a modern campus. It comprises interconnected spaces and state of the art studios for the research staff and postgraduate students, teaching areas with high tech equipment and a large, flexible exhibition/project space.

With super fast broadband, the Highlands and Islands campus is linked both into the main GSA’s Glasgow and Singapore campuses and with partners across the globe.

Professor Tom Inns, Director of The Glasgow School of Art, said: “The GSA is internationally recognised as one of Europe’s leading university-level institutions for the creative disciplines. Our new Highlands and Islands Creative Campus brings the GSA’s world-leading research and teaching to the region.

“These state of the art premises will enable the GSA to expand and develop its presence in the Highlands and Islands, building on the work done to date from our former home at Horizon Scotland.”

Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam, Deputy Director (Innovation) of the GSA and Director of the Highlands and Islands Campus added: “The GSA’s Institute of Design Innovation has been based in the Highlands and Islands for several years and today marks the beginning of a new era.

“Collaboration with businesses and communities is at the heart of how we work. These wonderful new premises will enable us to build on the work to date in particular our on-going partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and our contribution to the Digital Health & Care Institute.

“Through these partnerships InDI has been helping to address some of the complex issues facing the region, and through innovation and collaboration we have been able to contribute to the development of a long-term and sustainable creative future for the Highlands and Islands.

“We are looking forward to building our presence in the Highlands and Islands, increasing our collaborative working with local partners, and through the GSA’s existing links with leading organisations and institutions across the world ensuring the region becomes more internationally connected.”

The establishment of the campus was made possible following the £2.5m renovation of Blairs Steading by Altyre Estate, with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Historic Environment Scotland.

Charlotte Wright, interim chief executive at HIE, said: “The universities sector is playing a vital and growing role in creating high quality education, research and career opportunities across the Highlands and Islands, particularly for young people.

“Today’s opening is a significant step for The Glasgow School of Art, for Blairs Steading and for the region.

“These remarkable buildings form an ideal permanent location for the GSA’s growing presence in the north, where it is working in partnership with HIE to bring its internationally recognised expertise to the Highlands and Islands.

“As a productive world class research and teaching facility, the new creative campus will attract increasing numbers of students and deliver a range of social and economic benefits to the region”.