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Robert Adam reveals John O'Groats revamp

Classicist Robert Adam Architects has unveiled this masterplan for the re-development of John O’Groats, one of Scotland’s best known tourist destinations

The practice has developed a scheme, following a 12-week consultation, which aims to ‘maximise the tourist and visitor experience and also to provide for positive local impacts’.

Nigel Gilkison, Associate for Robert Adam Architects commented: ‘[Our vision] for John O’Groats seeks to create an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable community with a distinct local identity and a compact urban form. This approach will provide a safe, sheltered, secure and accessible community, which is looking to the future but well connected with its past

The layout has, according to the firm, been based on the ‘urban precedent of the Scottish coastal village’ and features a group of low scale buildings designed to sit within the landscape.

Gilkison added: ‘Traditionally, the landscape and the materials that can be won from the local landscape have shaped the patterns of building, helping to make places locally or regionally distinctive. In order to create an authentic identity to the regeneration of John O’Groats, new buildings within the masterplan will reference local vernacular building forms and use locally available, traditional building materials.’

Developed by GVA Grimley Ltd together on behalf of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the project will be split into four phases – the first ‘critical’ stage being the overhaul of the John O’Groats Hotel, the creation of a new harbour square, the refurbishment of the Last House Museum and the restoration of coastal paths to Duncansby Head and to the John O’Groats Mill.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Brigadoon. This travesty has nothing whatsoever to do with contemporary Scottish architecture and is a compelling example why no-one should give the time of day to a so-called "traditionalist/classicist."

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  • The problem - and perhaps with Emerson as much as Adam - is mixing up the emblem and the instrument. Adam's tweeness - and the absurd Serlian window for 21st Century O'Groats - is simply the inappropriate emblem. But can we trust "contemporary Scottish architecture" to produce a sympathetic instrument - of appropriate scale, pedestrian-friendly, weather-friendly, etc - better than Adam? There is a lot of history of mistrust to make up before we can persuade people they wouldn't prefer this mini "Outlet Village" (as the pseudo-Venetian winding-street shopping mall surrounded by a tarmac sea near me here, is called).

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  • John O'Groats...or the new olde english section at Alton Towers?

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  • Why are you giving this space in the AJ? Twee possibly - Scottish? I don't think so, it is a tourist centre attached to a ferry terminal with a large car park. Environmentally, socially and economically sustainable?

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  • Perhaps McKean needs to get out a bit and look at the work of Dulchas or Rural Design. Adam just needs to get out a bit.

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  • But this IS Brigadoon. It's why people go there.

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  • Well, my syntactically-challenged and anonymous friend, if this IS indeed Brigadoon where is the "there" to which people are going?

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  • Mr Emmerson is an example of someone with too much time on his hands who likes to argue. Discuss.




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  • problems is, there are good modern architects and there are bloody bad modern architects - we live with both kinds. Similarly, there are good classicists and theres Robert Adams

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  • We have a severe lack of understanding of urban design in Scotland and this tripe is case in point. Must we also always portray to tourists an image of Scotland as a backward looking, Disney-fied stage set rather than the vibrant, well educated and modern country that we actually are? Wind-swept fish and chips anyone?

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  • Emmerson has a right to his view but his comments are purely subjective. He might as well claim that milk chocolate is a 'travesty' and dark chocolate 'authentic'. I like the Adam's proposal - how's that for my own subjective view, which is no more or no less valid as Emmerson's.

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