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Scotland the Brave

The new illustrated yearbook of Scottish architecture displays the wide range of talents thriving north of the border

Once again, architectural events were noticeably thin on the ground at the Edinburgh Festival. Even if you examine the most detailed collection of reviews (published at www. culture wars. org. uk/current. htm) you would be hard pushed to discover an architectural theme - whether a comedy about masterplanning or a single debate about urban design.However, as a venue director helpfully informed me, several plays were in fact performed in buildings.

It was useful then that the RIAS had planned a 'Fringe event' to fill the gap. It coincided with the publication of its Illustrated Yearbook 2003, the third annual pictorial 'catalogue' of Scotland's architectural profession. Initially earmarked as an exhibition entitled 'café culture' it was intended to be a display of architects in cafes, their designs of cafes and architects, er, drinking coffees in cafes. However, funding did not materialise and a hasty sponsorship deal done with Service Point and Kitchens International gave rise to the current display.

Apart from serving the tastiest strawberries I have ever encountered, the exhibition opening was a straightforward, no-nonsense display of a broad mix of Scottish architects'work.

The uncertainty of funding and hastiness of the alteration to the theme, have kept the production simple.

Mounted on A1 capa board showing photographic images, (few technical drawings), basic descriptive passages and one or two articulate scale models, the show reminded me of the benefits of uncomplicated curation. This was a show in one room that was easy to read, digest and appreciate.

There is an unnecessary nod to populism in the attempt to encourage the public to 'have a say on new Scottish architecture' by voting on their favourite building on display, and pretending that this replicates 'architectural criticism'. This is unfortunate and slightly silly but, I suppose, keeps the sponsors happy and ticks the right boxes about 'public participation'.

As RIAS president Gordon Murray notes in the forward, only a few projects are 'out-with Scotland'. But there is a more-than-nascent European-identity that has developed among many of the projects. There are also the obligatory commercial copper-clads, the Richard Meiers and the faux-vernaculars, but all display a healthy architectural scene north of the border.

For copies of the RIAS Illustrated Yearbook 2003, contact the RIAS on 0131 229 7545

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