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Malcolm Fraser Architects goes into liquidation


Award-winning, Edinburgh-based practice Malcolm Fraser Architects has ceased trading

Studio founder Malcolm Fraser said the firm, which was set up in 1993, had been unable to make its ‘beautiful and important’ output profitable.

A statement on the firm’s website confirmed it had shut its doors after 22 years. It is understood all 15 staff based at the company’s office in North Bridge have lost their jobs.

According to the company’s latest accounts, the practice had assets of £350,942 but liabilities of £379,248 and net a worth of just £12,607.

The practice won eight RIBA Awards and was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2002 for its DanceBase in Edinburgh - a scheme which went on to win the inaugural RIAS Doolan Award.

Fraser, a supporter of Scottish independence who recently led the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Review, said: ‘The work we did is beautiful and important. However we have been unable to make it profitable. 

‘We have been unable to make it profitable’

‘I am immensely proud of what we have done over 22 years and the influence it has had. I hope my colleagues here, and the clients and ongoing work we had, will continue with other architectural practices.

‘I will continue as an independent consultant, but will also work with other architects, including on existing, long-gestating projects.’

Charlie Hussey of Edinburgh-based Sutherland Hussey said: ‘It goes without saying it’s a great loss to the architectural community in Scotland. 

‘He is one of a number of high-profile practices which have found the conditions of practice in Scotland impossible to operate in.

‘Fraser is not the first or the last to be bowing out. Sadly the state of both private and public procurement in this country have left the profession pretty much on its knees.’

He added: ‘I have no doubt he will be back in some form or another’

The practice built most of its schemes in Edinburgh - including the Arcadia Nursery - where it won six Edinburgh Architectural Association Building of the Year Awards.

In recent months the firm completed a civic hub in Stromness, in Orkney, and a hotel and museum for the Western Isles at Lews Castle, in Stornoway.




Readers' comments (6)

  • Cashflow...its obvious from the cursory glance at the numbers. Cashflow kills more companies than any other factor. I fear we will see many more of such liquidations as a toxic combination of debt leverage, late fees and increased salaries due to workload putting huge pressure on cashflow.
    Profitability is the only way to build surplus and thus provide the 'flywheel' needed. This means higher fees and productivity.
    It is a sad fact that upturns are one of the most dangerous times for businesses based selling working hours. A great architect - but no doubt he will still be a force in the industry.

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  • Kevan Shaw

    I am very sad to see Malcolm's practice close in this way. We have worked with Malcolm and his team on many projects over the years and the creative force of the practice will be sadly missed in Edinburgh. We do hope to be working with Malcolm and members of his team in the future.

    Kevan Shaw C.Eng MILP. IALD, MSLL

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  • Chris Roche

    A sad day not just for Malcolm and his team but also for the wider architectural community of Scotland. The issues of poor cashflow and poor profit margins are symptomatic of a dysfunctional profession which is getting worse rather than better. The next generation of creative architects will also be burdened with student debt and un-affordable housing and office rents. I have addressed these problems by following Roger Zogolovitch's example of combining practice with development - moreover I have written a book to assist other architects - "Property Developer's Handbook". Development now subsidies my design studio and provides the pension which would be otherwise un-affordable as an architect.
    Chris Roche Founder 11.04 Architects

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  • Kieran Gaffney

    Really sad and shocking day; we have lost one of Edinburgh's most interesting practices and as a young practice in this city, one of our role models. I'm sure Malcolm will continue to work as advocate for architecture and common sense but the practice will certainly be missed.

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  • Very disappointing to see such a well-known and respected practice go to the wall, although I don't doubt for one moment that Malcolm will remain a fixture in the sector. It is to be hoped that this is but a temporary setback and we see him delivering high quality contemporary architecture again soon.

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  • I always find that if your on-site projects are more than 2hrs away, you cannot make a penny on them. You have to (obviously) consider all your traveling is really leisure time, but then you still really have to write off all that as non-productive. You can always kid on you are thinking about projects while touring along, but you aren't.
    Anyway, when the fees-cales were lost 35 years ago, architecture became a hobby. The only way any architects make money these days is by providing a poor service, or never building anything. Most Architects I know who are surviving, are doing so on their own investments and property developments.
    -or working 70hrs a week.

    -or using London rates and London aggressive fee claims on variations.

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