MDes Interior Design School of Design

Aoife McCaul (she/her)

I am an interior designer from New York with an interest in residential, cultural, and exhibition design. My ongoing research has concentrated on the manifestation and layering of collective memory in community spaces, particularly in Glasgow and Derry, Northern Ireland. I often explore the representation of memory through the media of collage and creating short films with archival footage. My practice is defined by an empathetic approach to design and commitment to translating shared histories with sensitivity into the built environment.



This project focuses on the position of Glasgow’s former high-rise housing estates in the city’s landscape of memory, and how their interiors influenced behaviors and interpersonal relationships. Though they were viewed as a failed experiment by many, their impact describes changing ideologies towards housing conditions and living environments. Initial research involved engagement with archival oral histories gathered by the University of Glasgow, and the creation of a short film of archival footage to communicate accounts of daily life on the estates. My final output is a re-design of the interior of Bluevale Tower, formerly located in Gallowgate, as a co-living housing experiment that combines communal support with domesticity – principally informed by narratives of the past.

Domesticity Diagram

This diagram depicts some of my observations about domesticity and use of space in the tower blocks, as noted in the archive’s recordings. When the towers were designed, minimal thought was given to the needs of the average Scottish family and how they were used to utilizing their living spaces coming from a tenement flat setting. The Modernist architects prioritized utopian aesthetics popularized by Le Courbusier, including large verandas as an extension of the home to the exterior. The blue highlighted images depict spaces or spatial conditions that were often used differently than the original design intention.

Site Context Diagram

My selected site is one of the iconic former Gallowgate Towers that dominated the landscape of Glasgow for many years as they were for a time the tallest in Scotland. Built in the 1960s, they were alien to many of the city’s residents, but they were being marketed as “mansions in the sky,” with all the modern amenities and utilities that the dilapadated tenement houses were lacking. Though some were put off by their massive, unfamiliar scale, many were excited by the prospect and felt they were moving up in the world to be able to live there.

Pod Planning Diagram

In order to create an internal network for the cohousing scheme I decided to incorporate a pod system, which would connect three floors that share a community core. The community core contains a shared kitchen, dining table, and a hanging fabric installation that functions as an interactive exhibit of projected film that the residents can themselves contribute to.

Ground Floor Plan

The floor 0 plan contains the most support for family living, with large family flats opening up directly to the greenhouse corridor which could function as an informal creche as it once often did. But the greenhouse corridor will be enclosed, and wrap entirely around the community core to allow for children to weave in and out of the communal spaces for supervision.

Pod Section 01

Section 02

Greenhouse Corridor

The “greenhouse corridor,” inspired by the informal use of the long corridors in high rises as creches, would provide a safe and entertaining space for children to play while being overseen by their caretakers or other members of the pod community. It also intersects the communal kitchen, giving children a place to play while still being close enough to be supervised.

Communal Kitchen

In addition to the residents’ own kitchenettes (in order to maintain a degree of privacy should they choose to do so), the communal kitchen offers a space for community members to share meals, divide cooking responsibilities, and bond as neighbors. The space opens up to the greenhouse corridor to supervise children at play or to participate in urban farming.

Communal Dining

The communal dining room is at the heart of the 3-storey pod, where the kitchen and living spaces are connected and meals can be shared en masse. In addition, it is home to a hanging fabric projected film installation that residents can contribute to and engage with.

Laundry Room

The laundry room is a place where a normally menial domestic task can become more socially engaging and supportive. The laundry rooms were formerly located at parts of the building that weren’t easy to access, and drying facilities were limited. It put strain on families to perform this chore, so to make it more accessible it is located just off the community core and contains a small lounge for socialization and places to hang up clothing to dry.


In the year 2095, a heavy, vibrant and peculiarly colored mist settles over much of the world. The byproduct of decades of climate destruction, it is quickly clear that the Mist is far too toxic for humans to safely reside in: the immediate response is to enclose major cities with protective domes and maintain clean air atmospheres within. In Glasgow, the wind turbines at Whitelee Windfarm have been repurposed to help filter out the Mist on the outskirts of the city, taking advantage of their original function and design to do so. They are continuously maintained by the “Ameliorators,” crews of workers that oversee the function of the turbines and are far removed from the safety of life inside the dome. In this speculative future world, humans turn to cleansing ceremonies and methodologies of diverse origins to make sense of their new reality. While purifying themselves of the toxic mist, they progress through a series of spaces within the wind turbine tower – each designed with different ritual practices in mind.

Guest Collage

The Ameliorators who maintain the wind turbines strike a fine balance between modern and archaic methods of purification, and science and folklore. They are regularly exposed to the Mist despite their heavy protective equipment, but without their efforts the rest of the population would be massively at risk. The wind turbine’s depollution zone becomes not only a site of purification, but also for wellness and spirituality as the workers are cleansed.

Speculative Future Environment

Spatial Organization Diagram

When I had decided on sorting the purification rituals by their elemental typologies, I was also trying to think of symbolic spaces that had the same verticality as the wind turbine’s interior. I thought of Japanese Buddhist pagodas, specifically the five-storied pagodas that were built to represent the elemental forces in a specific order. My proposed ritual spaces follow the same organization. The nature of the space meant that entry and exit points had to be considered in relationship with procession - the users scale the exterior on a maintenance ladder similar to those already in use at those sites, and descend through each purifying space in succession. An inner beacon contains the rooms, while a spiral staircase wraps around the core and dictates the circulation throughout.

Spatial Ritual

Inspired by the sweathouse or sweat lodge spaces I researched, this would be the first ritual room that the users encounter on their procession. Smoke rises from the fire ritual room two levels below, filling the intimate space with the scent of incesnse and naturally antimicrobial smoke that is produced by burning certain plants and herbs.

Fire Ritual

This space is centered around a hearth that smolders herbs and greenery to create antimicrobial smoke, much like the Australian Aboriginal smoking ceremonies. It then travels upward to the spatial ritual room.

Earth Ritual

This room juxtaposes science and folklore, grounded with earthen elements. The Men-An-Tol rocks, found with holes in the middle, were believed to have magical properties. If a child was suspected of being a fairy changeling, they were passed through the hole a number of times in hopes to purify them from fairy contact. Algae lines the walls in this room as a purifying agent, removing toxins from the air in order to grow themselves.


This project brief began with our Slice allocations, slivers of the Glasgow city grid where we were given the freedom to design our own temporary interior interventions. Our only other requirement was that we used a faux fur material within our design proposal. My assigned plot, site 3, and its surrounding context provided the inspiration for the final form of my intervention – the Eco/Archive.

In its early stages, this project was heavily informed by nonhuman user perspectives, of the birds that occupy the nearby Garnethill Park. It was important to me that the intervention had minimal environmental impact during its brief life cycle. During the ideation process, I kept in mind the temporality of the space I was designing: the installation is in place for one year, mirroring the migration cycle of birds and their nesting patterns.

The final intervention is an educational nature “archive” that aims to build eco-literacy among Glasgow’s youth population, and is mutually beneficial to the nonhuman users of Garnethill Park.

Site Sound Mapping

My first introduction to the site was during a workshop on sensory mapping, where I conducted a “sound walk,” and recorded the sounds of the nearby busy streets, traffic, and Garnethill Park’s natural hustle and bustle. On my inital visit, a large colony of pigeons had taken up residence on the human infrastructure of the park, adapting lampposts into nests, and picnic tables into landing zones.

Site Context

This diagram unfolds the surrounding corners at the intersection of Hill and Rose Streets, the context of the site. Notable spots include the park and the Church of St. Aloysius. The proximity to both centers of education and green space makes the Haldane Building an ideal site for my proposed intervention.

Exercise in Gathering

When narrowing down the activity that dictated the design of my installation, it was suggested to me to go on a timed walk around the park to gather my own loose natural materials. The process slowed me down significantly, and I found myself paying closer attention to my surroundings than I would normally. I wondered why I was drawn to what I was drawn to, or how a child’s array of selections would differ.

Collection Matrix

This matrix models the unique process of gathering, its own type of curation, and the individuality expressed in every decision. It is the basis for the digital archive element of the installation.