Innovative concepts used in modern buildings will take fast-track route to awards and leave legacy we can all enjoy, says Jim Tough
Much of Scotland’s heritage can be charted by the development of its architecture through the ages – from the oldest prehistoric ruins through its multitude of medieval castles, the history-drenched Glasgow tenements and Edinburgh’s Old Town to contemporary structures such as the Scottish Parliament and Aberdeen’s University Library.
Scotland’s cities each have their own instantly recognisable landmarks, both historical and contemporary that help to create that city’s identity, identities that are rich in heritage and innovation and help to make Scotland the great place it is to live in and to visit.
Understandably, today’s contemporary architecture is predominantly focused on key modern-era challenges such as reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency. This focus is underpinned by the Scottish Government’s ambition that all new buildings in Scotland should be zero carbon by 2016-17.
As the mass clean-up continues following the fire that devastated the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building and its iconic library, I am compelled to reflect on the rich legacy Scottish architects from throughout history have left us.
Known predominantly for his achievements as a designer and watercolour artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural career is often overlooked despite having designed some of Glasgow’s most famous buildings. These include the Glasgow Herald newspaper premises, the University of Glasgow’s Queen Margaret Medical College and, of course, the late 19th century refurbishment of the Glasgow School of Art.
Famed for masterminding Edinburgh’s New Town, James Craig was tasked with developing a concept that would overcome the general overcrowding and squalid conditions that had become synonymous with Edinburgh’s medieval “Old Town”. Craig’s original plans were for a lay-out providing an aerial view of the Union Jack. He later amended his plans to create a grid system design focused on providing generous open spaces and restoring Edinburgh’s reputation as “the place to be” amongst Scottish aristocracy.
Robert Adam was another involved in the creation of the New Town and had a leading role in developing Charlotte Square. Prior to this, he was responsible for the enduring masterpiece of Culzean Castle in South Ayrshire, built for the 10th Earl of Cassillis and now owned and run by the National Trust.
James Miller, known best for his work on the Glasgow Central and Wemyss Bay railway stations also designed the Turnberry Hotel, which began life as the property of the Glasgow South and Western Railway Company.
Meanwhile, the Dundee Contemporary Arts building designed by Richard Murphy provides a more modern example of fine Scottish architecture, offering a range of striking internal and external features that make it uniquely inspiring and influential to those who visit and use it.
With this outstanding legacy in mind, the Saltire Society is delighted to announce its shortlist for the 2014 Housing Design Awards, now in their 77th year. These Awards exist to celebrate all that is great about Scottish architecture’s innovation and creativity, and represent a long-standing commitment from the Saltire Society to celebrate innovation and excellence in Scottish house-building and place-making. It has had a particular interest in encouraging high standards of design and build in the social housing market.
Open to owners, clients, architects, house-builders and housing developers of all shapes and sizes throughout Scotland, the Housing Design Awards recognise design excellence in everything from single dwellings in the remotest reaches of the Highlands to large-scale commercial developments in Scotland’s major urban centres.
This year’s shortlist is one of the best yet, featuring contenders ranging from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village and Edinburgh’s Quartermile development to outstanding single dwellings on the Isle of Skye and Orkney as well a small-scale sheltered housing development in Maybole, Ayrshire.
There are five award categories in total with winners automatically going forward as candidates for the distinguished Saltire Medal, this year to be decided by our 2014 judging panel guest Chair, Eleanor McAllister OBE. Previous winners include the likes of the Artist Residence in Perth designed by Fergus Purdie Architects and “House” in Boreraig and Kirkhouse in Garve, the handiwork of Dualchas Architects.
Scottish Government figures indicate that Scotland’s tourism industry contributes £2.9 billion annually to the Scottish economy and accounts for approximately 8 per cent of Scottish employment.
Undoubtedly, the powerful sense of place created by iconic Scottish buildings is an intrinsic part of its appeal to visiting tourists.
Scotland is justifiably renowned on a global scale for its outstanding contemporary and historical architectural heritage. Once again this year, the Saltire Housing Design Awards provide an ideal platform to showcase the magnificent talent of contemporary Scottish architects.
• Jim Tough is executive director of the Saltire Society www.saltiresociety.org.uk