The National Museum of Scotland by Benson & Forsyth, which opens this week, is one of a recent crop of modern buildings which are recognisably Scottish - due, in part, to the choice of materials. Stirling Stone Group plc was responsible for the £4 million stonework contract on the museum, and was also involved in the High Court of Justiciary in Glasgow (left), and the Parr Partnership's Abertay Library, which was shortlisted in the best building category of the Scottish Architectural Awards.
Harry Turnbull, chairman of Stirling Stone, started his professional life as a qs, but moved into contracting and eventually set up Stirling Stone. Now in its tenth year of trading, the group employs 150 people and is, according to Turnbull, 'the most diverse stone company by miles'. There are eight companies within the group, offering services which range from pertography, x-ray diffraction and fluorescence spectrometry to restoration and new-build projects using sandstone, limestone, granite, marble and slate. Stirling Stone also has its own laboratory facilities, and has just opened two quarries in the north of England, with another two due to open soon.
Turnbull says his company is ready to take on 'anything from a £30 pastry board to the £6 million job for the Sheriff's Court in Edinburgh', and to expand its operations outside Scotland. It has a London office in the Building Centre on Store Street, and estimates that 70 per cent of turnover will soon be London-related work.
Turnbull attributes the revived interest in stone simply to the fact that 'everything comes in cycles', and that people want a change from man-made materials. That said, he is aware of an increasing demand for more precise stonework such as the rainscreen wall specified by Benson & Forsyth, and is considering introducing fixing techniques from Europe which will allow for the increasingly lightweight products which architects are demanding. Personally, he loves stone in all its forms. When asked whether he lives in a stone house, he seems bemused. 'I don't have time to go home. I eat, sleep and breathe stone'.