In November 1994, Glasgow, Scotland, was awarded the title of UK City of Art and Design 1999. This formed part of the decade of annual celebrations that were promoted by the Arts Council of Great Britain (later to be the Arts Council of England). Competition for this title was fierce, with the 17 cities that originally competed for the title finally being reduced to a choice between Glasgow and it's east-coast neighbour and capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. At stake was GBP 400,000 from the Arts Council, plus the opportunity to generate much more income for the winning city through future funding bids, sponsorship, grants, tourism, exhibitions, and sales (including the production of catalogues and other merchandise).
The Glasgow 1999 Festival aimed to celebrate excellence in architecture and design from around the world; to promote awareness in the people of Glasgow, its communities, organisations and business of the cultural and economic importance of the design process; and to highlight new thinking to help position Glasgow as a major European city of ideas. In order to do this, the Glasgow 1999 Festival Co Ltd created a programme of individual projects and events that encompassed a variety of issues raised by contemporary concerns about architecture and design and that addressed the economic significance of design and architecture for Glasgow's businesses and institution. Further to this, the Festival was to leave a legacy to the city in the form of the Lighthouse Centre for Architecture and Design situated on Mitchell Lane.
Events and projects included exhibitions, conferences and displays; the development of the Lighthouse centre; the Glasgow Collection project that helped to fund new product ideas to a prototype stage; education and community programmes; Homes for the Future, a project to build a new residential area incorporating innovative design principles near Glasgow Green; Millennium Spaces to develop high quality public spaces designed by artists in consultation with local communities; and the Partnership Fund to fund various small scale projects with goals compatible with the aims of the Glasgow 1999 Festival.
The Lighthouse was the largest and most high profile Glasgow 1999 project. It had a further significance as it was the most important legacy of the festival. The Lighthouse cost nearly GBP 13 million and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, European Structural Funds, the Scottish Arts Council, Arts Council of England, Glasgow Development Agency, Glasgow City Council, Historic Scotland and private sponsors. The Lighthouse is housed in the former Glasgow Herald offices built by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Its aim is to combine excellence with accessibility, introducing architecture and design to a mass audience, alongside specific programmes tailored to appeal to children, school and colleges, architecture and design professionals and the business community.
In 2002, the Glasgow 1999 Co Ltd was still an active company.