In pictures: New Scotland-only architect awards

Cape Cove in Helensburgh. Picture: RIAS
Cape Cove in Helensburgh. Picture: RIAS
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THE shortlist ranges from a £30 million council headquarters to a small wooden bird hide that cost just £34,000.

Both are competing to be named as one of the country’s best buildings in the first national awards to be held by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

Amongst the nominees on the shortlist to be unveiled this week are the revamped Scottish National Portrait Gallery, by Page/Park Architects, the “unrivalled opulence” of the Corinthian bar and club in Glasgow by G1 Group, and the new Maggie’s Centre for cancer patients at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital.

Other nominees include the Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh, the revamped National Museum of Scotland, and a “garden room” for a private house in Edinburgh. Perhaps the most unusual building on the list is the Flanders Moss viewing tower at Carse of Stirling by Robin Baker architects, described as “deceptively simple” by the judges. Standing seven metres tall, the tower allows uninterrupted views of one of the biggest peat bogs in the UK, home to a wide range of animals, birds and insects.

Some of the nominees are private buildings, such as Cape Cove, a house on Shore Road in Helensburgh, with wraparound floor-to-ceiling glass, designed by Cameron Webster Architects for £450,000. The judges said the house “rises from its natural rock foundations as an extraordinarily uncompromising and alluring work of modernity”.

The Loch Leven Bird Hide in Fife, designed by Icosis Architects and built for just £34,000, is also shortlisted. According to the judges, the structure “cleverly addresses the needs of human visitors yet is raw and elemental”. The council building is the Reiach & Hall design for the new headquarters for Dundee City Council. The judges said the £29.85 million building “ingeniously combined” an Edwardian publishing warehouse with bold new extensions.

Sholto Humphries, president of the RIAS said: “We had 71 submissions from throughout Scotland, ranging in scale from a few thousand pounds to over £60m. The number of entries is a tremendous vote of confidence and confirms that this new award is now the single most important recognition of architectural achievement in Scotland.”

Neil Baxter, secretary of the RIAS, said: “I think we’ve got a renaissance in architecture in Scotland right now. It’s particularly amazing given that we are in such difficult times and the commissioning environment has never been tougher. My view is that cost cutting can be short-sighted. You build in durability and you gain better long-term benefits if you build quality. The work we’re seeing in Scotland is some of the very best in Europe.”

The RIAS has also established a new award sponsored by Wood for Good and the Forestry Commission Scotland for the project which best demonstrates the use of timber.

“Timber design is now a crucially important aspect of Scottish architecture. We’re seeing innovative, interesting, attractive, contemporary and clever ways of using it a lot now,” said Baxter.

The new awards scheme is separate from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awards, which have long acted as a benchmark of architectural quality in Scotland, and signify a move away from RIBA’s awards ceremonies. The buildings shortlisted for the RIAS award may be shortlisted for the Andrew Doolan Award, which is also run by RIAS and awards a cash prize in November for what is judged to be Scotland’s best building.

“What we’ve previously done is managed the RIBA awards in Scotland,’’ said Baxter. “It wasn’t appropriate any more to manage those awards in Scotland so we said we would fund the show as the Scottish awards for Scottish architecture.”

The new awards follow concern among architects in Scotland in recent years that Scottish buildings were being repeatedly overlooked for the RIBA’s Stirling Prize, Britain’s biggest architectural award, which has not been won by a Scottish building since the Scottish parliament took the prize in 2005.

“We long ago accepted that the RIBA’s Stirling Prize is mainly for London-based architects,” said Baxter. “We know the quality in Scotland is of international quality. They [the judges] need to get out more in terms of the Stirling Prize. It is not a completely fair and transparent process and it is very much a London love-in. They are looking for big name architect projects and we’re not looking for that at all. We’re looking for something a bit more subtle and architectural.”

The winner of the inaugural RIAS Awards will be announced on 20 June.