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New practice Fraser/Livingstone: ‘We want to avoid creating big, dumb structures’

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The latest in a series of practice profiles looking at architects who have recently decided to go it alone

Practice name Fraser/Livingstone Architects
Based Southside, Edinburgh
Founded January 2019
Main people Malcolm Fraser and Robin Livingstone

Where have you come from?
Malcolm was principal of Malcolm Fraser Architects from 1993 to 2015, then with Halliday Fraser Munro; and Robin spent a decade with Malcolm Fraser Architects, followed by five years with 7N Architects.

What work do you have and what kind of projects are you looking for?
We’ve already secured a wide-ranging workload of interesting, challenging projects, either through competition wins or existing contacts. These include: feasibility studies for a social change hub at Kinning Park Complex in Glasgow and for Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds; a new distillery on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides; The Toll House restaurant on the Water of Leith in Edinburgh’s New Town; a new tenement block on the Southside of Edinburgh; a feasibility for Threave Estate at Castle Douglas for the National Trust for Scotland; and a number of residential developments in urban and rural settings.

With our track record as generalists, we hope this diversity of work will continue. But we’re particularly interested in working on social housing, a sector we both have previous experience in, and in advancing the massive timber carbon-lock and breathing technologies we’ve used before.

Malcolm has also worked on establishing Scottish Government Community Empowerment legislation and we are heavily involved in various Asset Transfers of land and buildings.

130simoncourt crop

130simoncourt crop

Simon Court - a proposed new tenement block on the Southside of Edinburgh

What are your ambitions?
We have secured a former shop unit in Marchmont, Edinburgh, where we plan to create a studio to share with around eight to ten future colleagues. Our current workload already spans an array of diverse locations across Scotland and the UK.

We hope future commissions will continue in this way, providing us with a workload where we can apply our skills to make buildings and environments that are rooted in place, and which pursue the progressive principle that climate, openness and gathering remain central to our wellbeing. We will also continue to advocate for professionalism in architecture to put social and environmental responsibility at its heart.

Professionalism in architecture should put social and environmental responsibility at its heart

Malcolm is heavily involved with the ongoing reform at the RIAS, and political lobbying of the Scottish Government on infrastructure and investment with the Common Weal group.

What are the biggest challenges facing yourself as a start-up and the profession generally?
The biggest challenge facing the whole profession is the marginalisation of the architect’s role in the delivery of architecture. The simple architect/client relationship needs to be renewed to place architect’s at the centre of the process, rather than as a supply-chain component.

We need to re-establish a culture that recovers joy in the craft of making buildings, recognises the role the architect provides in this process and rewards the skills required; that avoids creating big, dumb structures when, instead, it should be devolving power and decision-making, trusting its people and communities.

We also share the urgent call to action that the recent Architects Declare movement represents, something that aligns with the values we have always sought to drive in our work to date.

Which scheme, completed in the last five years, has inspired you most?
The Bath Street Collective Custom Build in Portobello Edinburgh, by John Kinsley Architects, is an inspirational model for the delivery of new homes based on progressive principles of ownership and low-energy construction; and The Malings in Newcastle by Ash Sakula Architects, which has created a rich, dense, sociable new neighbourhood of sustainable homes in the former industrial Ouseburn Valley.

Bath street collective custom build john kinsley architects (c) john reiach

The Bath Street Collective Custom Build in Portobello Edinburgh, by John Kinsley Architects

Source: John Reiach

The Bath Street Collective Custom Build in Portobello Edinburgh, by John Kinsley Architects

We value architecture that is rooted in place and informed by a sensitivity to context, that engages with the craft of materials and their form, and which places the simple, utilitarian principles of light, view and sociability at their heart.

How are you marketing yourselves?
A mix of word-of-mouth, traditional print news platforms, architectural press and the range of social media platforms.

Website: www.fraserlivingstone.com
Instagram: fraser_livingstone_architects
Twitter: @F_L_Architects

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