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EXHIBITION

REVIEW

10 Out Of 10: Buildings That Made A Difference At the RIAS Gallery, 15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh, until 2 September

This exhibition features 10 buildings constructed in Scotland in the past decade which it claims have made a difference 'culturally, environmentally and economically'. Each is designed by an architect, mostly a familiar name - Murphy, Cullinan, Miralles, Fraser and Murray. What is new is relating the buildings to the Scottish Executive's A Policy on Architecture for Scotland (2001), implying they are evidence that the policy is making a difference. The quality of our architecture, the policy states, is 'vital to the perception of Scotland as a place of imagination, creativity and innovation'.

The exhibition consists of large display panels and models plus accompanying text. Each building is described and its contribution to the social or cultural life of Scotland charted in fairly brief fashion. As with all architecture exhibitions it is the images which count and they have a sharpness to match the angled northern light. What is missing, however, is evidence that design does make a difference: that architecture has led to the type of socially inclusive regeneration which uplifts the spirit and provides value for money. Conspicuously absent are any public schools, hospitals or libraries - buildings where orthodox procurement methods are employed.

Two things emerge from the exhibition. First that Scottish contemporary architecture is different to that of the rest of the UK. There is greater regard for the city - of the particularity of place as against the abstraction of space.

Whether in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Rothesay, physical context tempers the flights of fancy seen elsewhere in the UK. It is not that the rigour of modern design is abandoned but there is a subtle melding of place, climate and programme seen so clearly in the Radisson SAS hotel in Glasgow by Murray and Dunlop. Here the copper facade slips free of the structural frame to respond to a shift in the city's orthogonal grid.

Also worth noting is the importance north of the border of the marriage of art and architecture. Of the 10 projects, at least three involved the active participation of artists or sculptors, not as embellishers of buildings but as instigators of some of the intellectual moves.

The artist thinks conceptually while Modernism was (or is) predicated on the notion of technical synthesis. At An Turas, Tiree, a modest ferry shelter costing £100,000, the collaboration between architect, artists and engineer led to what is best described as a gazebo which is impeccably detailed yet poetic and sophisticated in its architectural moves.

One may question the choice of projects - the exclusion of Benson and Forsyth's Museum of Scotland, or Richard Murphy's Dundee Contemporary Arts building, in an exhibition that showcases the profession in Scotland. The impression is that non-PFI architecture is serving the nation well, and that a balance of local and international talent is pushing the boundaries forward.

Brian Edwards is professor of architecture at Edinburgh College of Art

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