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Scotland consults on architecture policy


The Scottish government is launching an ‘open dialogue’ consultation on its new architecture policy

Starting next week at an International Design Summit event hosted in Glasgow’s Lighthouse Centre for Design and Architecture, the broad-ranging consultation will seek comments to help shape a refreshed policy for architecture in the country.

It will focus on four key themes: sustainable growth; shaping Scotland’s future; embedding built environment design into wider policy; and recognising the cultural value of architecture, urbanism and heritage.

Reacting to the news, Gordon Murray of GMA Ryder urged the new policy to span government departments and take account of architecture’s ‘unique cross-cultural sweep’.

Prince’s Foundation chief executive Hank Dittmar said teaching local officials about urbanism, heritage and architecture was the biggest issue, adding that economic growth should not be an ‘excuse for chasing the next icon’.

But Richard Murphy of Edinburgh-based Richard Murphy Architects said a new policy was ‘a complete waste of time’ unless the government reformed procurement.

American architect and New Urbanist Andrés Duany, who has designed a traditionally styled village near Aberdeen, added that the ‘problem’ lay with Scottish architecture schools. He said: ‘Planners don’t know how to design or draw [and the] architects have Continental-envy and can’t stand designing anything Scottish.’

Fiona Hyslop, Scottish cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs said: ‘Our architecture and design industry generates around £1.3 billion a year for the Scottish economy. The consultation on a new architecture and placemaking policy is aimed at generating a wide-ranging debate on its future direction and priorities for action.’

Expected to be published later this year, the new policy will feature a long-term strategic vision for architecture in Scotland and an action plan for its delivery. The planned document supersedes Scotland’s 2007 architecture policy, which was published under the Scottish Labour Party government before the SNP took control of the country in 2010. Scotland and Northern Ireland are the only UK countries with such a policy.

The Lighthouse exhibition will run until 26 August.


Further comment


Malcolm Fraser of Malcolm Fraser Architects


There seems general agreement that ‘Procurement’ is the outstanding issue.  But the new Architecture Policy must look behind the technical term to focus on its core truth:  that good architecture is produced when good clients work directly with good architects.  Almost everything that flows from Government is antithetical to this, up to and featuring the obscenity that public buildings are to be procured by a vast system that reduces architecture to a ‘supply-chain’ component, the architect-client relationship severed then micromanaged by endless legal, financial and consultative bureaucracies.  We need help to fight the dread consensus, that the renewal of Scotland’s built environment is best directed by Bankers and Lawyers.



Mark Cousins of Oliver Chapman Architects


It’s important that the five Scottish schools retain their independence in order to pursue individual (and possibly contrary) agendas. Competition for the best students between the schools is intense but design tutors need the freedom and encouragement to challenge well-meaning (but potentially myopic) centralized diktats.



Gordon Murray of GMA Ryder


It’s a big ask but there is a real opportunity for the Architecture Policy to link across Departments and Briefs as architecture and the built environment  is almost unique in its  cross cultural sweep.

It can impinge as much on the Curriculum for Excellence as it does on Procurement; as much on Cultural issues, such as recognition that it is an art form, as  on Construction Legislation; as much on  the funding for Tertiary Education (studio subjects) as on Place-making;  as much on Heritage as  it does on Sustainability.

This involves an essential common purpose across treasury, planning, construction and education.

It can be a vehicle for embedding wider cultural issues at a fundamental level from which the finer points can grow over time.

Appropriate Built Environment awareness and learning in the Curriculum for Excellence could have a more far reaching positive impact on our communities than any Architecture Policy.



Hank Dittmar, chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation


The biggest issue is educating local officials about urbanism, heritage and architecture, so that Scotland’s unique qualities of place become the foundation for economic growth, rather than economic growth being the excuse for chasing the next icon, or the next developer promise. The second priority is teaching both planning and architecture students to draw, to make places and to recognise that Scotland’s rich heritage of architecture and town planning has a continuing relevance.



Olli Blair, director at ABIR architects


Procurement reform certainly should form a key component to allow access for small practices and encourage creative responses. The problems I see are that there is too much low quality design - especially out with the major cities - which seems to be allowed though on the basis that it provides ‘economic benefits’. Too often this means inappropriate ill-considered building (rather than architecture). Having said that Scotland has a vibrant emerging Architectural scene and a developing contemporary vernacular delivering well considered high quality contextual schemes. The challenge is how we get more of the latter and less of the former.

- procurement review to [allow] access for smaller firms

- design review must be inherent in the process

- good quality contextual design must be seen as adding value, and ‘economic benefit’ must not be allowed to railroad through low quality schemes 



Eugene Mullan, secretary of the Cross Party Group on Architecture and the Built Environment


The Cross Party Group held a meeting on the New Architecture Policy on 28 March 2012 in the parliament.

Generally there was a lot of support for this initiative. We had contribution from the following people:-

-      Ian Gilzean (Head of Architecture and Place Division) spoke on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary, Fiona Hyslop,

-      Daphne Thissen the Cultural Attaché, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

-      Alan Jones  President elect Royal Society Ulster Architects, Senior Teaching Fellow & Director of Education (Architecture) Queen’s University Belfast.


The following are some of the key points which were identified at the Cross Party Group meeting which should inform the development of a new Architecture Policy.

·         Current procurement procedures need to be amended if the Architecture Policy is to have any actual influence.

·         Principles of the policy must be embedded in other government policy, health, education etc

·         Clear definition of the scale building/place which the policy applies to.

·         Coherent fit with other key policy documents, such as Designing Places and Designing Streets

·         Ensuring that politicians appreciate importance of the policy and are champions for good architecture.

·         Ensuring officials within the public organisations having a clear understanding of the policy.

·         Scottish Government and Local Authorities leading by example.

·         Inclusion of a mechanism for undertaking and disseminating research and evidence which highlights the benefits of good design.

·         Inclusion of a long term basis for the assessment of design quality.

·         Support and training for good patrons.

·         Opportunity to develop and support young architectural talent.

·         Actively promote the policy within the client and construction industry.

·         Actions to increase the level of interest in architecture within Scotland to encourage debate on the topic.

·         Includes a clear action plan for the initial 3 – 5 years with an appropriate review programme.


Personally I think all areas of the UK should develop this type of policy

Hopefully this information is of interest, give me a call if you would like to discuss further.



Edo Architecture


The city needs :-

  • A strategy to tighten the Urban density and prevent sprawl - Take the density of Berlin and adopt now.
  • Score every piece of development on how it contributes to that. Premise being scattered is bad
  • tightened is good,
  • A tiered and fair architectural Competition system for every Scottish Public Building.
  • A cap on percentage investment and profit by developers relative to government investment.
  • Max 60 / 40 split which keeps an eye on them.
  • A new Skilled staff training and equipment base for the re landscaping of the City that reintroduces craft and apprenticeship.
  • A block on road engineers taking, all of the transport budget resulting in an Integrated quiet clean Public transport network.
  • Respect for our river and putting public emphasis on every square meter of its edge.
  • Preventing Private interests being exercised over what should be Public space as per the original constitution of our City.
  • Allowing for development that offers something to the street and to the community. Preventing street side ground floor domestic occupation and promoting ground floor commerce.
  • Prevention strategies against Demolition of Listed Buildings in favor of developer and housing association led short term strategies.
  • A detailed development Plan such as that which exists for say Berlin.
  • An integrated development Plan that covers transport health leisure work + housing and encourages development that scores points on all of those fronts.
  • An understanding about how to intensify the Urban experience and thereby reduce costs and maintenance.
  • Understanding about layering neighbourhoods with different and overlaid uses that prevent car based culture.
  • Strategies for vigilance and buildings that give the ground floor of the city to the people
  • A civic belief in the streetscape being the start of community.
  • Prevention measures to prevent another wave of arm’s length developers arriving in boom time + erecting cheap buildings and running off with the capital leaving a legacy of debt, community decay and ensuing building maintenance.
  • Promotion of the city as a garden and more community growing space.
  • Prevention of hard landscaping where possible and an appreciation that the Planet needs its green mantle more than ever ..so give something back.
  • Traffic calming and immediate 50 per cent pedestrianisation of all streets to kick start the pressure for alternatives.
  • Protection and pride in our Industrial heritage.

Readers' comments (2)

  • I would like to add that Northern Ireland has a formal architectural policy since 2006, entitled:
    Architecture and the Built Environment for Northern Ireland

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  • Industry Professional

    Old Andres does not need to worry about procurement…He just trousers £200k every time fellow arrivistes the Scottish Government asks him to sort everything out.

    Cynical? Me?

    Damn right.

    Malcolm F has it about right.

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