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Flak for Scottish under-£100k housing competition

A competition backed by Architecture and Design Scotland (A+DS) has been branded a ‘scandal’ with ‘particularly mean’ prize money

The two-stage Our Island Home competition run by Rural Housing Scotland (RHS) is seeking architects to design a £100,000 detached house to be built on three remote island locations.

Five shortlisted entrants will get a £500 stipend to go towards stage two of the completion which asks for the architects to draw up ‘detailed technical, deliverable designs, fully costed and technically robust’. The winner will receive £1,500.

Glasgow-based Alan Dunlop of Alan Dunlop Architects said: ‘It’s a scandal that A+DS should be promoting such a competition that asks for so much and promises so very, very little to the competition winners.

‘As usual, lots of ideas asked for, complex detailing and costing for a paltry reward and without the promise of a commission for the winning architect’.

David Jamieson, a partner in Edinburgh-based Zone Architects said prize money was always a ‘secondary consideration’ when entering competition but he said the A+DS competition was ‘particularly mean’ and contrasted it to a recent RIBA competition sponsored by contractor Wates for low cost housing in which the prize money was £6,000.

Jamieson, who said the practice was in two minds about entering the RHS competition, said: ‘We are keen to enter but it amounts to six weeks work just to get to the shortlist.  The second stage would be another six weeks for £1500 and that is only if you win.

‘You do competitions for the exposure and to test yourselves against other architects, but to ask architects to work for way less than the minimum wage is particularly mean,’ said Jamieson.

Oliver Chapman of Edinburgh-based Oliver Chapman Architects asked why RHS was bothering in the first place: ‘I was surprised that they didn’t seem to be aware of two or three Scottish architects/ manufacturers who are already offering £100k houses such as Rural Design Architects in Skye and Maker in Inverness.

‘It’s also a bit unfortunate that the BBC is broadcasting a whole series about how to build a house for under one hundred thousand pounds,’ added Chapman.

However, Chapman said that on the whole he thought the competition was a worthy one: ‘I don’t share Alan’s criticism. One has to bend over backwards for all sorts of clients and maybe this competition is more worthwhile and earnest than many private ones.’

And Simon Winstanley of Dumfries and Galloway-based Simon Winstanley Architects said that his practice would be entering despite the ‘pathetic prize money.’

‘In this respect it is fairly poor, but it is still a worthwhile competition,’ added Winstanley.

In a statement A+DS told AJ: ‘Creating Places – Scotland’s policy on architecture and place commits A+DS to promote and support innovative and emerging practice across Scotland.  As part of this, A+DS were asked by Rural Housing Scotland to provide support to ‘Our Island Home’…

‘Our involvement extends to providing one of the nine judges and to providing exhibition space to display the best entries. A+DS has made no financial contribution to the competition. 

‘The competition is run by Rural Housing Scotland who have clearly stated that copyright resides with the winning architect and that Rural Housing Scotland intend to build the winning design in at least three locations’.

RHS declined to comment.

To see the competition brief click here.


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