Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sustainable housing, sustainable communities, Scotland

                               Pic: Malcolm Fraser Architects

"Good Homes, Good Jobs and Good Neighbourhoods.”

Nicely alliterative headings there. Can't say I don't try for a bit of wider culcha in me blog.

Anyhow,  post to say warmest congratulations to Malcolm Fraser Architects for the win in the  Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative (SSCI) Design Ideas Competition, which was run by the Scottish Government in partnership with Assets Ltd.  It is  Whitecross, Linlithgow, on the site of a former brickworks.


Here is the background:


and the whole ethos and planned community sounds remarkable. Let's hope it all happens and does become an exemplar.

At the competition launch in June, the press publicity said that it was to seek 'a new Scottish vernacular' which seemed a contradiction in terms:

Scottish Government Sustainable Housing Ideas Competition

As part of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative (SSCI) the RIAS is managing a design competition based around the SSCI exemplar site at Whitecross, near Linlithgow. The competition, launched today, seeks housing and urban design proposals that combine high levels of sustainability and reductions in carbon emissions with a sensitive response to place and context.

It is expected that design proposals will reflect a ‘new vernacular’ for Scottish architecture that demonstrates how environmentally-sensitive designs might influence both the architecture and urban layout of contemporary development. “I look forward to seeing high-quality and creative responses developed for Scotland. What is different about this competition is that designs, while inspiring and innovative, must be realistic and commercially viable. Designing original and inventive buildings that can be realised and replicated is a vital element in supporting the construction sector to deliver the low-carbon communities that Scotland needs.”

I am delighted that the winner in fact does appear to be informed by the past while certainly being of the 21st century.  Lovely. Look forward to learning more in due course, in the sure and certain hope that there is an afterlife re the current housing hiatus, and that all goes forward and gets built. Timber and zinc are featured, both very sustainable materials and ones which look good in urban, suburban and rural settings.

I felt on the whole the MFA houses, a detached and a pair of semis, were the most easily livable in designs at the Scottish Housing Expo; it seems the wider public also thought so and in the public vote for 'favourite house' a Malcolm Fraser Architects' design, the catchily named House NS came top:



Click on pics to enlarge

followed by HLM Architects' Passive House:

and Rural Design, based on the Isle of Skye ('rural design for the Scottish countryside' ) Secret Garden :

whose 'contemporary buildings for rural places' I hugely admire, and was delighted to see 15 Fiscavaig win in the 2010 Saltire Awards:

We were delighted to be awarded the inaugural Saltire Medal, at a ceremony in Edinburgh on the 13th September. The medal was presented  by Chairman of the Jury, and World Architect of the Year John McAslan.

The award was for our project at 15 Fiscavaig on the West Coast of Skye.

McAslan said: ‘The Medal winner, Fiscavaig, stood out for its innovative use of materials and design which took account of its surroundings and setting.

The standard of architecture being produced in Scotland is truly world class and Fiscavaig is a perfect example.

I can only concur; Scotland at its best is producing wonderful architects and architecture (and yes plenty of rubbish also, see previous blog, but let's celebrate success) and it does need shouting from the rooftops. If only the Londoncentric architecture writers for the UK press would leave their cosy enclaves and write a little more about the rest of the UK, and if only Scotland would stop feeling it has to run 'international design competitions' and give the best spots to  Big Names like Hadid and Holl and encourage its own... but I digress and will stop ranting.

Here are pics of all the shortlisted designs for the 2010 Saltire Housing Awards:


and results


and an Urban Realm report on the Whitecross competition here with decent sized images of the five shortlisted entries:

and here:

Very strong shortlist of five whittled down from an initial forty-one entries.

I have blogged before and no doubt will again re the problems I perceive of a retro regressive approach to design, which Scotland is embracing in part with Prince Charles developments and Duany masterplans.

I appreciate Mr Duany's masterplans could be carried out with contemporary designs, but, alas, the 'codes' which accompany them seem to be  a wishful-thinking return to a past 'vernacular' based  on watching too much Disney.

Therefore the competition in association with the Scottish Government, and shortlisted five practices' designs, demonstrate that quality and sustainability allied to attractive places to live can be achieved without resorting to the  ill-digested 'paraphenalia of the past pastiche n pediments' school of design.

Here's the official press blurb:

Result of Whitecross Design Competition

As part of the Scottish Government's Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative (SSCI) RIAS Consultancy, from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, has been managing a Design Ideas Competition for a proposed sustainable housing development at Whitecross in West Lothian.

The competition sought design idea proposals from registered architects, working in partnership with developers/housebuilders, for a proposed low carbon community at Whitecross, near Linlithgow. The Whitecross project has been selected as an exemplar project by the Scottish Government as part of the SSCI.

Forty-one pre qualification submissions were received and a shortlist of five was selected by the judging panel. The shortlisted practices were (listed alphabetically):

- Elder & Cannon Architects Ltd

- Gareth Hoskins Architects Ltd

- HTA Architects Ltd

- Malcolm Fraser Architects Ltd

- RMJM Scotland Ltd.

These practices prepared proposals for the judges to assess in association with interviews held on 14th October 2010. Images of the submissions can be viewed on the RIAS website http://www.rias.org.uk/

It is proposed that the shortlisted competition entries will be on public display for viewing at the Urban Room at the ground floor of Edinburgh City Council offices at Waverley Court. Further details of dates and times for viewing will be released soon.

RIAS Consultancy is pleased to announce that the winner is Malcolm Fraser Architects.

Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said,

“The delivery of high-quality sustainable housing is at the heart of what this Government wants for communities across Scotland. The SSCI design competition has illustrated the depth of design talent in Scotland, with the five short-listed practices presenting bold and challenging architecture.

“I am delighted that all of the submissions demonstrate high-quality and creative solutions, taking account of commercial viability and responding to the particular requirements of the Whitecross site. These solutions showcase how innovative responses can help deliver places of real and enduring value in a time when the economic backdrop forces us all to be more resourceful.

“The winning team of Malcolm Fraser Architects has submitted an original and innovative proposal that I hope will be an important exemplar for the design and construction sector and help deliver low-carbon communities and sustainable economic growth for Scotland.”

The Chair of the judging panel, David Page of Page \ Park Architects, said,

“A strong shortlist of architecture and development teams competed for the first phase of development of the community extension for the village of Whitecross. Working to the masterplan conceived by Cadell2 the five consortia explored variations on the themes of creating a new sense of place on the site of a former brickworks near Linlithgow working to the brief of providing homes to meet the 2013 building regulations with their requirement for a 40% reduction in CO2 production. This Scottish Government initiative with Morston Developments is one of a number to lift the standard of place making and energy efficiency of new communities.

Elder and Cannon Architects enthused the jury with their sense of crafted place through the synthesis of courtyard typology and earthy brick materiality overlaid the CCG prefabricated timber frame technology.

HTA‟s partnership with Dualchas promoted a modular plan and sectional typology explored through their innovative work in the west coast of Scotland uniquely fused here with HTA‟s community based initiatives to promote community ownership of streets and public spaces.

RMJM boldly reconceptualised the masterplan with the identification of a wide variety of house typologies and settings to deliver a closer linkage between the existing village and proposed new settlement extension.

Gareth Hoskins Architects‟ careful reworking of the masterplan with Crudens was commended by the jury for its manipulation of a modular frame system to create a variety of street settings that would quickly establish a sense of contemporary place".

First place was awarded to Malcolm Fraser Architects with Stewart Milne Homes for development of themes explored at nearby Bo‟ness and more recently at the Scotland‟s Housing Expo. This consisted here of groupings of housing arranged around a sequence of courts and rows linked by a pedestrian spine stretching from the masterplan proposed civic garden in the north down to the river woodland walk to the south. Clever manipulation of the building typologies adapted to the Cadell2 masterplan through adaptation of Stewart Milne Homes‟ prefabricated timber frame systems with innovative suggestions to the commercial development of the anchoring High Street.”

David Dodge, Chief Executive, Morston Assets Ltd said,

“We are delighted that our vision for Yours Whitecross has generated such exciting high quality proposed design solutions throughout this competition. The key focus of the „Yours‟ brand is that the homes are sustainable in both design and use, are built within home zone layouts and facilitate home working and entrepreneurialism. We believe that this has been achieved by all of those shortlisted and was especially apparent in the winning entry. We look forward to delivering a truly sustainable community at Whitecross which delivers Good Homes, Good Jobs and Good Neighbourhoods.”


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