The latest in a series of practice profiles looking at those who have recently decided to go it alone
Practice name Calum Duncan Architects, Edinburgh
Founded September 2015
Main people Calum Duncan
Where have you come from?
It was an absolute privilege, for the last 17 years, to have worked on some fascinating projects with the wonderful people that were Malcolm Fraser Architects, Edinburgh.
What work do you have and what kind of projects are you looking for?
So, three months on since Malcolm Fraser Architects (MFA) entered a process of voluntary liquidation, despite some appealing offers and opportunities, I listened to both my heart and my head and decided to set up practice myself.
Source: Keith Hunter
Currently my focus is on completing the refurbishment of 1 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh as offices and conference facilities for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (REMT), a project I was overseeing at MFA. This is where my attention is, while establishing the day to day stuff of practice. Beyond REMT, my challenge is to find ways and opportunities to continue working in the commercial, arts and education sectors with which I am familiar and enjoy. I’ve been fortunate to have already had good conversations with relevant organisations, as well as relevant practices interested in working in partnership, but it is early days indeed.
What are your ambitions?
I’m careful not to describe a ‘niche’, but instead encourage flexibility and diversity. If there is common thread, it may be about exploring architectural solutions closely and pragmatically with the client, to draw out a form of delight, which is appropriate to their aspirations through an honest and clear design process. I bring a strong agenda relating to the environmental, social inclusion and valuing existing buildings, but they are issues that will be intertwined rather than self-conscious. Location: Edinburgh. Size: Compact, but interested in appropriate future collaborators. Ambition: Realistic, enjoyable, question my own working methods and architectural interest and to search out a pragmatic delight.
What are the biggest challenges facing yourself as a start-up and the profession generally?
The procurement system. There’s a trend for smaller projects to be procured as if they were above EU threshold. Our professional bodies should be supporting small practices by encouraging clients to seek the most appropriate architects, not the cheapest.
How did you win your first significant job?
It was an existing client relationship, and a pragmatic solution.
What is your approach to winning new clients and convincing them to employ you?
I will place a great deal of importance on listening as well as clarity. I know from experience how much a client appreciates the actual service being provided rather than only considering product (which is possibly dismissed amongst architects?), but ultimately I will need to inspire in the same breath as remaining competitive…..
Which scheme, completed in the last five years, has inspired you most?
The one that stands out is the Hauser and Wirth Gallery, Somerset by Prewett Bizley Architects which showed great consideration, craft and engagement of the new and existing. It’s maybe not about being aesthetically staggering, but it’s thoughtfulness was sublime.
How are you marketing yourselves?
Slowly but surely.