Sunday, 28 November 2010

Chilling out... a winter warmer

That one is from a book of vintage patterns on Amazon; for free pet warmer jacket patterns:

Temperatures are plummeting and there's a foot of snow outside. We could be in for another long, hard winter.

How did we manage in the past, without, for most people, central heating?  I recall it well. We were bloody cold at times and we had frost patterns inside the windows, since you ask. We wore warm clothes (oh the joys of a Liberty bodice...) and huddled round the fire. We ate warming soups and stews with seasonal veg and bulked them out with barley, followed by jam roly poly or spotted dick  with custard.


I'm not suggesting a total return to days of austerity, unless we must,  but if we want to be 'eco-aware', save on energy costs and keep warm then we could look at the past to help inform the present.

We could eat more local and seasonal produce. Yesterday I made the veg crumble from here:

eaten with home grown baked spud and buttery cabbage. It was delicious.

For those of us with older properties*, we can cut out draughts and take simple steps to conserve heat without spending a great deal of cash and ripping out historic windows (not really very 'green' in a wider view) and their beautiful wobbly old glass, which gives so much life to properties which modern flat glass cannot.

I have written in past blogs about this, here's one with further useful links to research and advice

Edinburgh World Heritage (which is doing outstanding work in research and dissemination of information re upgrading period buildings to make them eco-friendly and energy efficient without spoiling their historic interest and fabric) recently took thermal images of windows with curtains and shutters closed and found that highly effective:

Here's the BBC report, with video:

At least one company which purveys replacement windows has been trying to suggest that fitting its products is far more eco-friendly and saving of energy than the straightforward advice of EWH; please remember that double glazing salespeople are there to make money not save your bank balance and the planet, don't really see much beyond the next few years, certainly aren't interested in the long-term future of their products, and that in listed buildings, ripping out historic windows without consent is unlawful (and hopefully also such consent would not be granted).

Here's English Heritage on why you should save your historic windows (although warning: Simon Thurley talking alert in the video, it is worth watching!):

Windows are a precious part of our built heritage that makes the places we work and live special. Most people find them attractive.

But keeping them is not just a matter of taste. It also makes economic and ecological sense. Original timber windows were made of very high quality wood seldom found nowadays. It is a waste to replace them unnecessarily. Plastic windows consume a lot of energy in their production and most are only expected to last for around 20 years. When broken, most go to land-fills.

Besides, sash windows are a unique feature of your property. It gives it character and special appeal. 82% of estate agents we surveyed this year felt that original features such as sash windows tend to add financial value to properties and 78% believed they helped a property to sell more quickly.

The common objection to original sash windows is that they are not energy efficient and there are very limited ways of upgrading them. Now, for the first time an important piece of research has been commissioned by English Heritage at Glasgow Caledonian University that is going to show people just how easy and effective it is to bring a sash window up to modern standards. Download the research report to find out more.

DIY draughtproofing is available from numerous  places (do a google!)

Small selection

(Guide also available to buy via that site, as well as components)

and here's an online  DIY guide

Even the Guardian has a simple repair guide

One specialist firm which can do the draughtproofing job for you and repair even the most knackered windows (those who moan about draughty, rattly sash windows really should do something about that, it's not how they are meant to be) is currently featuring on TV:

It made environmental, aesthetic and financial sense to use Ventrolla to restore all 147 sash windows we had at Rise Hall that were on the brink of collapse.

They then fitted them with their two patented systems - first Ventrolla Perimeter Sealing System which draught proofs the windows, preventing heat from escaping and therefore making them energy efficient.

Secondly with their Sash Removal System (SRS), which allows the window to be easily removed from inside so future repainting and repairs will now be quick, easy and most importantly cheaper, as no scaffolding will be needed.

Ventrolla were not only a pleasure to deal with and by transforming the windows they have also transformed the façade of Rise Hall.

Graham Swift and Sarah Beeny

My own home's historic sash windows are currently 'draughtproofed' by pushing loo roll in the gaps. Works fine. 

For those interested, there's also the possibility of secondary glazing, which can be very simple or more sophisticated:

although for historic windows consent will be required for anything which alters the existing windows. Also of course costs can add up, and payback time should be factored in.

Edinburgh World Heritage has also produced two online guides to basic energy saving measures which are worth reading

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings

Relatively simple measures can make historic buildings as energy efficient as most modern constructions,  for example draft proofing windows or reinstating wooden shutters. This project aims to reduce carbon emissions over the 16 month period and continue to generate savings on an ongoing basis, with a significant reduction in the overall carbon footprint of the city.

Those links also give links to advice on how to make simple draught excluders.

(comments worth reading)

Well, when it's freezing outside a few homecrafts will help make the long dark nights indoors pass by rapidly. What else would you be doing?

For those with a wider interest in both homecrafts and vintage fashion, as well as keeping warm and how it used to be, the V & A has a smashing free online selection of 1940s knitting patterns.

From fetchingly attractive warm hats to wool undies via stockings and bedsocks with pompoms ('make a very acceptable present')  all your Christmas gifts dilemmas solved?

'The balaclava helmet', from Essentials for the Forces, 1940s. Jaeger Handknit. With ear flaps to enable good hearing during telephone operations (or for use with a mobile phone).


*Of course this blog is the most basic of guides. For further reading on how to deal appropriately with period buildings here's an excellent start:

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ode to ... Hebden Bridge? Academy of Urbanism Awards 2011  Copyright Paul Anderson and licensed for reuse under  Creative Commons Licence.

Rochdale Canal Hebden Bridge: Seen here in the centre of Hebden Bridge the Rochdale Canal winds through the town on its 32 mile journey from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge.

Built by immigrant navvies between 1799 and 1804, the canal needed ninety-two locks to lift it 600ft above sea level
Decades of dereliction and neglect ended in 2003 when the Rochdale re-opened - fully restored and reconnected to the national network at Sowerby Bridge where the deepest canal basin in the country marks its merging with with Calder and Hebble Navigation.Link

Many abandoned canal buildings around Hebden Bridge have been converted into luxury waterside apartments, small businesses and workshops, and the whole atmosphere of the canal bank has been enhanced by refurbished parks, marinas and gardens.

Hebden Bridge has featured here before in this very blog, proposals for a controversial development not wanted by local folk

and turned down following a public inquiry, link in this post

Anyhow, brief blog today to say that the Academy of Urbanism (see previous blogpost on trams, featuring AoU luminary and Twitterer @williemiller of Willie Miller Urban Design )

has announced the winners of its annual awards scheme, and along with that is a new poem by  resident poet Ian McMillan. So, never one to let a chance for a poetry link to pass this blog by, here is more about Hebden Bridge from the Academy of Urbanism (and again text by Willie Miller). Best read from the link as many good photographs illustrate the text

Hebden Bridge has a population of around 4,500 and is the smallest of the candidates in this category. Situated within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale in West Yorkshire, it forms part of the Upper Calder Valley and lies eight miles west of Halifax and 14 miles north east of Rochdale,at the confluence of the River Calder and the River Hebden (Hebden Water). A 2004 profile of the Calder Valley ward, covering Hebden Bridge, Old Town, and part of Todmorden, estimated the wider population at 11,549.

The original settlement was the hilltop village of Heptonstall. Hebden Bridge started as a settlement where the Halifax to Burnley hilltop packhorse route dropped down into the valley. The route crossed the River Hebden at the spot where the old bridge (from where Hebden Bridge gets its name) stands

The steep wet hills and access to major wool markets meant that Hebden Bridge was ideal for water powered weaving mills and the town developed during the 19th and 20th centuries; at one time Hebden was so well-known for its clothing manufacture that it was known as 'Trouser Town'. Drainage of the marshland which covered much of the Upper Calder Valley prior to the Industrial Revolution enabled construction of the road which runs through the valley. Prior to this, travel was only possible via the ancient packhorse route which ran along the hilltop, dropping into the valleys wherever necessary, as was the case with Hebden Bridge. The wool trade also brought the Rochdale and the Manchester and Leeds Railway running from Leeds to Manchester and Burnley.

Hebden Bridge was the second town that the assessment team visited and it too set a high standard. As in Stroud, the relationship between the landscape and the town is remarkably integrated and first impressions on arriving at the railway station demonstrate the often dramatic nature of the bond between town structure and landscape. Walking from the station to the town centre along main roads was a less pleasant experience - the A646 is a busy route through the town and footpaths are quite narrow. However, once in the centre of the town, the pedestrian scale, high quality finishes of the public realm, and the standard of care were excellent. Even in the centre, the impact of the surrounding landscape is strong - and there is no unsympathetic development to undermine the natural setting of the town.

The standards of maintenance of streets, footpaths and buildings was very high as was the quality and extent of landscaping, especially the floral displays and hanging baskets.

Heritage plays a major role in Hebden Bridge and there is a marked interest and pride in the historical development of the town that informs how the town reacts to 21st century aspirations and pressures. This also plays out in the range of heritage trails as well as attitudes to newbuilding. Forexample,the town is intent on building an extension to the town hall that will provide community rooms and business together with new public space along the riverside. This has been developed over a considerable period of time with community involvement (through the Friends of the Town Hall) and has resulted in a proposal for a new building which is contemporary yet contextual, that everyone seems happy with.

Alternative energy is also a major interest in Hebden Bridge focused on an Alternative T echnology Centre beside the canal. The Centre organises various initiatives including Big Green Week and a Power From The Landscape project, which seeks to support communities in the development of micro hydro-electric schemes using the same sources of water power that originally powered the town industries in the 19th century.

Linear greenspace plays an important part in the town through footpaths and cycleways along the canal, through the town centre along the Hebden Water and along the River Calder. These paths are well signposted and trail leaflets are available to guide the visitor through the town.

Like Stroud, Hebden Bridge seems to be the very embodiment of the current government's aspirations to the Big Society and like Stroud, Hebden Bridge was doing the Big Society many years before the term's current usage. The town's community organisations have recognised the assets of place - physical, social and economic - and have worked hard to make the most of these with the local authorities and Yorkshire Forward. Again like Stroud, it seemed to the assessment team that this was a town in which it was possible for individuals in the community to originate ideas and proposals for projects that would benefit the town and find a way to implement them. There seemed to be a genuine pride of place and a shared interest in getting things done.

There are many notable achievements in Hebden Bridge but one of the most obvious in terms of the built environment is howrelatively intact it seems. Certainly buildings have come and gone over the years but there is a sense that what is there has an integrity, completeness and appropriateness - and it is also well looked after.

At the same time, there are some issues which present the town with some difficulties. The lack of developable land due to the local topography, which in some ways can be seen as a blessing,could inhibit the future growth of the town. Even land for allotments is almost impossible to find short of terracing the slopes of the surrounding hillsides. The impact of traffic along the A646 makes for an uncomfortable pedestrian experience and it would be constructive to look at ways of ameliorating that.

The transferable lessons of excellence that can be learned by others from Hebden Bridge are:

A. the sense of ownership of the town, civic pride and community management and the willingness of local authorities to adapt to and support a wide range of small scale community projects, in this case focusing around heritage and alternative technology but also covering a wide range of local interests

B.the principle of working with smallscale ideas and the fine grain of local areas - not only in the sense of physical fabric but also the grain of the community

C. potentially, how the knowledge and experience gained in this work is passed on to others over a wider area - and how new generations can acquire this knowledge and ability so that it does not disappear when particular individuals move on.

and here is that poem. If anyone is concerned about copyright then I have no doubt the poet or the Academy will be in touch, but it seems to me a celebration in poetry such as this of a place requires the widest of audiences.


Town with a tissue that's quite unique;
Town where history's strata show
Alternative visions cheek to cheek
Different plants allowed to grow.
In a world where towns are pallid clones
Hebden Bridge stands out a mile,
As the sun lights up West Yorkshire stones
And the sky is as bright as a smile;
You walk through the street and the voices rise
Like steam from a coffee emporium
And very quickly you realise
The whole town's an auditorium!
Hebden Bridge is theatre, so let's all clap
The wizard's cloak behind the new flat cap!

                                             Ian McMillan

I have a number of photographs of Hebden Bridge (several great caffs with cakes...) but they are, alas, still in need of loading from my camera, so instead here is a link to Geograph, where numerous pictures of this extremely attractive town can be found:

The Academy of Urbanism

The Awards Scheme shortlist


The European City of the Year


Glasgow  - winner


The Great Town Award

Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire - winner

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Westport, Ireland

The Great Neighbourhood Award

Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Northern Quarter, Manchester - winner
Pollokshields, Glasgow

The Great Street Award

Exmouth Market, London - winner

St. Patrick Street, Cork

Union Street, Aberdeen

The Great Place Award

Princesshay, Exeter

St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh

Tobermory Harbour, Mull - winner

Good to know it's not all the  gloom I frequently  write about, congratulations to all shortlisted and winners, and let's hope that the positive lessons to be learned from  places highlighted by these awards can be disseminated widely.


Thursday, 18 November 2010

On and off the rails

Edinburgh trams: Princes Street (click to enlarge)

I did think, in the time honoured tradition of groanmaking headings for this blog, of calling this one Transports of Delight, but on more mature reflection I resisted.

Long time readers of this blog will appreciate I have written a few posts mentioning the Edinburgh trams fiasco.

Here's a sample:

Others can be found by judicious use of the search facility.

I have not updated that as the situation becomes ever more complex, labyrinthine, Byzantine, or just plain fucked up, whatever your culchurul linguistic preference.  Keeping updated means reading the Scotsman online and the Edinburgh Evening News,  and  in particular in the comments of one SarahB, who has a grip on it all. Alas, those with a grip appear to not be employed in any capacity involved with  delivery of the trams, which I think it fair to say will not be On Time and On Budget.

Wiki on  Edinburgh trams:

and Edinburgh Corporation Tramways, closed down in 1956:

For those with an anorak interest, and especially of holes in the ground, pictures here of the tramworks in Edinburgh:

and for those transport historians amongst us;

Edinburgh trams: Calton Hill (click to enlarge)

My own view of trams is that they can be no doubt excellent and as a rail enthusiast they should be supported as an alternative to traffic congested city streets.

My one gripe is the overground wire prob in Edinburgh, especially in Princes Street (where surely the pickup could be underground,  avoiding the bristling poles spoiling views) and the wires which will be attached to historic buildings, which I fear will be damaging.

So let's not go there. Let's instead celebrate places where trams are a success.

Let's read the two terrific pieces by @williemiller of  Willie Miller Urban Design, Scotland's foremost urban design practice,  in the Guardian about trams in Bordeaux and Helsinki, and let's appreciate this country has so much to learn about urban planning.

Here I  give myself a wee pat on the back as the initial instigator of the articles (is there a new career to be had in matchmaking?)  but that's all the fame I can claim and it is with huge thanks to Willie that I am given the OK to repeat them both here . If Those In Charge of Edinburgh had any sense they would be beating that cliched path to WMUD's door and seeking more of his information but they haven't so they probably won't.

No 1: Bordeaux

Spotlight on trams: Bordeaux

In the first of an occasional series looking at the experience of trams in other world cities, guest blogger Willie Miller finds that Bordeaux's trams haven't just moved people around, the 'mobile social structures' have changed the very development of the place

The dramatic sight of the tram at night in Bordeaux. Photograph: Willie Miller/

Bordeaux is a vibrant city of 250,000 people serving a metropolitan catchment area with a population of 1.1 million and is one of the largest urban areas in France.

The city and its region are of course well known for wine making but this is also a city that makes things: optical and laser research and production, aeronautical and defence industries as well as pharmaceuticals, food and electronics.

It is also a significant administrative centre and a city attractive to tourists on the basis of the wine industry, the adjacent seaside resort of Arcachon and the city centre which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The built-up area has grown swiftly in the past decade and urban sprawl was considered to be a significant problem. In common with many other European cities, as Bordeaux expanded its periphery, industries around the core of the city declined most significantly along the banks of the Garonne.

The first Bordeaux tramway dated back to 1880. In 1946 the public transportation system had 38 tram lines with a total length of 124 miles carrying 160,000 passengers per day.

This system was abandoned in 1958 as a result of anti-tram arguments including the notion that trams hindered the flow of cars through the city.

Political change

In 1995 the city elected Alain Juppé as its new mayor. He recognised the need for action to counter the strangulation of the city by transport problems and, together with a number of other initiatives, the city adopted the tramway plan in 1997 with the support of Central Government in 2000 as a Public Interest Project. This is a very European example of a politician supporting a major project rather than disowning it. The tramway network currently consists of three lines built at a cost of EURO 800M

The first new line was opened in December 2003 and further extensions have increased the route length to just over 27 miles with more routes planned. The system is notable for using a ground-level power supply system in the city centre to placate the views of conservationists who considered that overhead wires would threaten the integrity of the World Heritage Site. The system is operated at the moment under a five year contract by Keolis, the largest private sector transport group in France.

The overall transport system (bus-tram-rail) sees some 300,000 passenger journeys daily of which 165,000 are on trams. On average, 45% of journeys on the combined bus and tram network of the TBC are by tram. In 2008 the trams carried 54.7 million passengers. The Bordeaux tramway is one of 16 towns or cities in France running a tram system integrated with bus and rail.

Wide impact on structure

Bordeaux tram stop Photograph: Willie Miller/

The impact of the tram on the city should not be seen just in terms of moving people around. It has had a much wider impact on the structure of the city and the way in which new development is allowed to take place. On the periphery of the city, the three tram routes define growth corridors along which development can take place. The new routes have defined new parts of the city where people live and work.

Tram stops become the focal points of new squares, the centres of new mixed use areas where employment and living space are co-located or the best way of getting to some of the city's remarkable new spaces such as Michel Corajoud's breathtaking Mirior d'eau opposite the Place de la Bourse on the banks of the Garonne. The tram has also allowed many traditional city squares to become areas of calm like the spaces around the Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux or around Richard Roger's Palais de Justice. Many of these spaces sit atop underground car parks so while the car can still penetrate the inner historic core, there is precious little evidence of its presence.

In Bordeaux the tram infrastructure enables easier orientation within the city. The tracks, overhead cables and stops are now permanent features of the city's streets - predictable and stable unlike bus routes. So the tram informs and helps people to formulate a clearer image of the structure of their city. It is a feature of their communal public space.

Tram stops in the city are typically focal points in the urban fabric where local shops, bars and cafes cluster or where students meet on the way to university. This perhaps sounds like UK Regeneration speak – and it probably is – but the defining of city spaces by public transport is a part of European urbanism that predates Lord Rogers and his Urban Renaissance by a century or more'

Mobile social spaces

Bordeaux's trams are also mobile social spaces in a way that buses can never be – the arrangement of seats and standing space seems to encourage conversation. The tram is smooth running so that café au lait need not be spilled and the discussion started at the tram stop can continue without interruption.

Bordeaux Photograph: Willie Miller/

Trams in Bordeaux have also created more walkable streets. There is little if any evidence of a city centre traffic problem whereas before their reintroduction, there was traffic chaos. Generally, trams attract heavier usage than buses so their introduction and development has created a virtuous circle of improved diesel-free environments for pedestrians, more walking and increased use of public transport.

The brave steps that Bordeaux took at the end of the 20th century to reconfigure its transport system have effectively restructured the city and provided a new network of communal public spaces and a pedestrian priority city centre of which it can be justifiably proud. It is an excellent example which many UK cities should follow.

Willie Miller as an urbanist and owner of WMUD, one of Scotland's leading urban design practices - the research was carried out during the 2009 Assessment visit for the Academy of Urbanism.

No 2: Helsinki

Spotlight on trams: Helsinki

In the latest of an occasional series looking at trams across the world's cities, guest blogger Willie Miller discovers Finland's capital mirrors Edinburgh in many ways, yet trams are just a fraction of its transport aspirations.

Helsinki's modern tram operating in snow. Pic: Creative Commons

Imagine a country with around the same population as Scotland that builds Metro lines and high speed rail links, that has the ambition to build a 50 mile undersea tunnel link to another country and is built around an extensive welfare state.

Imagine the same country regularly topping international comparisons of national performance in health, education and quality of life, as well as being the seventh most competitive country in the world.

Imagine its capital city, with a similar population to Edinburgh, with an extensive district heating system, the foresight to introduce a vacuum powered district waste disposal scheme that eliminates bin collections and which is extending its tram based public transport system with six major new lines over the next few years.

Helsinki is a city of 480,000 people with a surrounding metropolitan area of around 1.3 million people. It is very similar in size to Edinburgh (478,000) and it also the capital of its country with a population slightly less than that of Scotland at 5.3 million.

It is a remarkable and beautiful city with big plans for the future which include a fast rail link to St Petersburg, promoting and developing its airport as a European hub to China and investigating a 50 mile tunnel link to Tallinn in Estonia. This is a city in which seventy percent of the land area and almost all development land is owned by the City Council. This is a city with big plans and the ability to implement them.

The city also has ambitious plans for its own expansion, particularly on to waterfront areas previously occupied by docklands and inner harbours which have moved out to a new complex at Vuosaaric on the eastern edge of the conurbation. It is expected that an additional 100,000 people will be accommodated in these new developments. A key factor in planning these new development areas is integrated public transport by Metro in part but mainly by tram.

Helsinki's tram network is one of the oldest electrified tram networks in the world. It forms part of the city public transport system organised by Helsinki Regional Transport Authority and operated by Helsinki City Transport. The trams are the main means of transport within the city centre and 56.6 million trips were made back in 2004, which is more than those made with the Helsinki Metro.

The Finnish capital has 12 tram lines and six more on the way. Pic: Creative Commons

The first tram network was established in 1890 and electrification took place in 1900. In common with many other European cities, the tram system was under threat from buses in the mid 20th century and the city decided to close the system in the early 1960s. However this decision was reversed during the early 1970s and by 1976 the network was being expanded again. Today the tram is a key part of the city's infrastructure.

The city has a current total of twelve lines with a further six lines planned over the next few years. As well as owning almost 70% of the land area of the city, the Helsinki authorities also own the public transport system and critically, the energy company that supplies power for the tram network. This degree of ownership of the core elements of the system means that it is relatively easy to extend the network and guarantee connections to new housing areas without having to haggle with different land owners, developers, public utility owners and contractors.

Another aspect of infrastructure provision in Helsinki is the way in which it seems to happen efficiently and painlessly. Not for them the contractual disputes, delays in implementation or flaws in construction which are leapt upon by a triumphant public and trumpeted in the media elsewhere.

Perhaps it is in the dour uncomplaining Finnish character to just let other people get on with things in the knowledge that they will eventually be successful. Or perhaps they are just used to doing infrastructure provision really well.

Willie Miller as an urbanist and owner of WMUD, one of Scotland's leading urban design practices - the research was carried out during the 2010 Assessment visit for the Academy of Urbanism.


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Samara in Danger still, St Petersburg & Gazprom update...

... and news of a UK conference on Architectural Preservation in Russia, see below.  

UPDATE: Rowan Moore in the Observer on RMJM, Fred Goodwin, and Gazprom (Okhta) Tower

21st November 2010

Last November I posted a  blog post, From Russia With Love Part 2  outlining the dangers to Samara, and drawing to the attention of readers the launch of a new joint MAPS and  SAVE Europe's Heritage publication about what was happening in that city to destroy its heritage. It made uncomfortable reading, especially the murders of architects and planners.

An extract:


World-launch of the new MAPS/SAVE Europe's Heritage, Samara: Endangered City on the Volga, will take place on 18th November at Pushkin House, London.

This report is the work of a panel of Russian and international experts, and is the first of its kind to tackle the problem of the loss of architectural heritage in the Russian provinces.

The city stands on the banks of the Volga, some 400 miles south east of Moscow. It is home to a wealth of styles from wooden houses with finely carved window frames to, neo-classical, art nouveau, constructivist, industrial and post-war buildings. It is a major Russian city, closed to the West under Communism when it was called Kuibyshev. It was also the city to which Moscow evacuated during the Second World War.

Since the fall of Communism, corruption in Samara has led to the uncontrolled demolition of huge areas of the city, including its delicate system of courtyards. There is massive new construction and planners and architects have been murdered, such is the greed for land and property. Approximately one third of the old city has been destroyed. The report was initiated due to the immediate threat hanging over a Factory Canteen of the Constructivist era, which has a ground plan in the form of a hammer and sickle...

I am pleased  Rowan Moore, architecture writer for the Observer newspaper, has today published an article about his visit to the city, and the continuing problems. Here it is and with it a good gallery of new photographs:

 Please read. 

Please order the book via SAVE

Another view on the Observer article

Here is the excellent chtodelat news (linked to with latest updates on the blog list right) on the Factory Kitchen in Samara, see Rowan Moore's article, built in the shape of  a hammer and sickle:

Where to begin with an update on St Petersburg, RMJM, and the ghastly threat of the Gazprom / Okhta Tower on the World Heritage Site?

Last week, the Irish Times:

and Building Design (via Architectural Record):

Regular readers of this blog will know my opposition to this and I have tried to post relevant news when I can.

A selection of past posts:
Sept 2009

Sept 2009

Oct 2009

A site search will reveal more, and here's a snippet from this post:

Those who really don't give a fuck... and those who do:

Anonymous said...

I was quite close to (a few desks away from) this project as it was being designed - the main (nay, the only) idea that went into it was a slight twist to the tower. Why? Not in reference to the dialectical torsion of Tatlin's tower, oh no, but merely because they'd seen some twisted towers in the latest Blueprint or whatever and thought that they looked pretty snazzy, so might as well rip em off...

So RMJM, what answer have you?

Another snippet from that post (December 2009):

Recently an e-mail pinged into my inbox from St Petersburg, bearing the latest news on the RMJM Gazprom (Okhta) Tower, which is already causing destruction of important archaeology and encountering a great deal of heroic opposition. I have posted a number of times about this, and so won't repeat it all here, simply to point to past posts, describing the violence inflicted on protestors by hired thugs, the manipulation of law and public policy and the apparent unwillingness of RMJM's Tony Kettle to engage with any issues other than the ones which will bring about the desired result for his architecture firm.

The status of St Petersburg as a World Heritage Site is at risk, and there is no doubting UNESCO's deep concern. However, as with Liverpool, Bath and Edinburgh in the UK, and of course Dresden, whose Elbe Valley was struck off the World Heritage list this summer over the building of a particularly brutal bridge and the unwillingness of those responsible to consider any compromise, those who put such status at risk, or bring worries that such status isn't high on the priorities of those who should care more, appear unable to consider that there are always alternatives. Short termism and large egos, blinkered city officials aided by elected representatives with motives which at times seem far removed from the real needs of World Heritage cities and their residents, the desire for fat profits... and Philistinism... all are part, and more besides, of the root of the difficulties. Yes, it's complex, each city will tell you they have to move on, silly phrases about 'setting in aspic' and 'economic development' will be spouted, and those who try to urge caution and work for a better solution are always derided as wishing to hold back 'progress'.

Here from 2009 is Tony Kettle's 'justification' for the Gazprom Tower, as reported in the Architects' Journal:

UNESCO should realise that special sites require a special architectural response, says Kettle

I have been pretty clear in the past about my views on UNESCO’s intervention in RMJM’s Okhta Centre project for Gazprom in St Petersburg, Russia. The plans we have drawn up are for one of the world’s tallest buildings in one of the world’s most horizontal cities, where only special buildings are allowed to break the grain.

These special buildings include 30 churches, the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Admiralty and the TV tower (which is the height of the Eiffel Tower). Each is special in its own right. A city needs a hierarchy of buildings so that the ordinary and the special work with each other. If every building attempts to be special, then they will all become ordinary; so there needs to be a good reason for a building to be out of the ordinary.

The issue of energy is the central concern of our time and Gazprom, as the largest supplier of energy in eastern Europe, is one of the reasons for Russia’s wealth and rebirth, putting it into the ‘special’ category.

The Okhta Tower must symbolise rebirth for Russia and the city of St Petersburg, while demonstrating that an innovative, low-energy building is possible in the extremes of the Russian climate. UNESCO has never disputed the quality of the design, nor the fact that the tower sits some 6km from the historical centre. But it feels it cannot allow one project to break the city’s height limits, potentially opening the gates to a ‘free-for-all’ of new development in the city. In this case, there is no latitude in its thinking, no allowance made for creation of the ‘special’.

There is more arguing for development, this time in his home city of Edinburgh,  see link, but that gives a flavour.

Well, it just shows if you are making enough cash you can justify anything. RMJM of course gave Sir Fred Goodwin a well-paid job following the banking crash, of which many feel he was in part the architect.

Here's Malcom Fraser on that subject:

Goodwin’s appointment reveals little has been learnt from the crash

January 24th, 2010

The news that the disgraced former chief executive of RBS, Fred Goodwin, has been given a berth at architecture firm RMJM is strangely delicious, like hearing the school bully, who is still treated with respect by too many, has turned-up wearing a BNP badge.

RMJM are, to me, already the epitome of what the ruling business establishment wants from “architecture”. They represent architecture as pure business model, with its crafts base and ethical sense subservient to the business interests of its corporate clients and its production line outputs glammed-up by high-art marketing -– RMJM have already provided a home for architectural “terrible enfant” Will Alsop’s celebrity shape-making bling.

There was a wonderful symmetry to this RMJM/Alsop dream-teaming, and I thought it lacked nothing until I heard this. Of course! What was missing was the application of some neo-liberal financial speculation, leading to proposals for an excitingly-whacky Dubai Formula One business center in every town …

What a fine exemplar of our failure to learn from the 2008 crash, and our monumentally daft hubris over our relationship to our built environment and the world as a whole -– oh, how I tire of those who tell me that “we just need the confidence back”!

So while my heart goes out to my friends who work down the mine at RMJM, and I fear for the application of the RBS business model and the final trashing of a once-great company, I do so enjoy the brazen effrontery of it -– it’s helpful to get these things out in the open.

I’ll try not to think what might happen in the second great crash -– will I have to pay vast RIBA subscriptions to bail out Alsop’s pension.

Instead, I’ll enjoy the sight of turbo-capitalism (on stilts!) eating itself.

Malcolm Fraser is founder of the Edinburgh-based Malcolm Fraser Architects

Well, a great deal has happened in the intervening months, although the World Heritage Committee did not put St Petersburg on the In Danger list at its meeting this summer despite its strongly worded objection to the tower which is on record*.  However,  the tower had not been granted final permission at that point which could be an explanation.

There were reports in the press last week that permission has now been granted, although naturally this is not the end of the matter and the pressure on the Russian authorities to not allow the desecration of the St Petersburg World Heritage skyline is being stepped up by activists in Russia and beyond. It is rumoured that the Russian authorities are trying to have the WHS boundaries redrawn to exclude the area in which the Gazprom Tower is to be built; in or outside the boundary will not, however, prevent the skyline being spoiled, and the archaeological destruction which has already begun on the site.

 Edinburgh activists saw off the threat to the World Heritage Site skyline by the Haymarket Tower, situated outside the WH boundary, and it gives some small hope for St Petersburg.

However, although political shenanigans and planning is nothing new to Edinburgh, naturally it all pales beside the goings on in Russia.

Last week I heard from a friend in St Petersburg, and I feel this latest news deserves a wider audience. I therefore post here an edited extract from an e-mail, there is nothing quite as good as hearing from those closely involved in the struggle first-hand:

It's not all as simple and straightforward as the BD article (most of which has just been copy-pasted from Sergey Chernov's article about the rally in the St Petersburg Times) makes it seem.

Although they got one thing right: Glavgosekspertiza is "understood" to have issued the positive ruling only because  Vladimir Gronsky (the prototype for the main character in the Chto Delat film) and his PR team at the Okhta Center company immediately began braying about the decision (and well before Saturday), but as far as I know, no one at Glavgosekpertiza itself has confirmed this news.

Meanwhile, the culture minister, Avdeev, stated that if such a decision was taken, it was "technical" -- that is, it doesn't address the "political" and/our conservation aspects of the project. Avdeev again expressed his opposition to the tower in the wake of this alleged decision.

People in the anti-tower coalition are tentatively planning legal challenges against the decision because they suspect that it didn't address the historical preservation question (as, apparently, it should have).

By the way, the rally wasn't a response to the decision: it had been planned in advance, although some of the organizers suspected the decision might be issued round the same time.

The Irish Times piece... is much closer to the truth, although I suspect that their reporter doesn't understand just how close. First of all, just last week, Medvedev finally made a direct statement (i.e., not via press secretaries) that in its own roundabout way did suggest he was opposed to the tower.

But this is just a reiteration of Medvedev's previous, much more carefully mooted stance. The really interesting thing is a revelation made by Anton Glikin, a Russian-born, US-based architect (I recall he had an essay in that pamphlet on historic preservation in Petersburg that MAPS published), during a series of lectures on the topic that he gave last week in Petersburg. During the Q&A after one of the lectures, Glikin recounted a conversation he'd recently had with an unnamed architect at RMJM in London, who allegedly told Glikin that all along they've been receiving secret memoranda from Putin telling them not to worry, that the tower would be built, etc.

A reporter from the local business daily Delovoi Peterburg was there and filed this article:

Here is my translation of the relevant passages (the first three paragraphs) from this article:

"Vladimir Putin every month sends secret memoranda to the architectural firm RMJM London containing his commentary on the Okhta Center project," American architect Anton Glikin publicly announced during the architectural conference "New Architecture in the Center of Petersburg," which took place the other day in the House of the Architect in Petersburg.

According to [Glikin], he was informed about the premier's close attention to the skyscraper project by an architect at RMJM London (the designers of Okhta Center) during a recent face-to-face meeting in London. Such claims about the premier's passion for the project are especially curious in the light of Russian Federation president Dmitry Medvedev's recent statements about Okhta Center.

During the conference [...] the issues of the Okhta Center project and the architectural look of Petersburg as a whole provoked a lively discussion amongst architects and government representatives. "The Okhta Center project is being lobbied by the high authorities, and KGIOP [Municipal Committee for State Monitoring, Use and Preservation of Monuments] supports it," said Anton Glikin in yet another blunt claim. "Under the committee's leadership, a massive destruction of the urban environment is taking place."

Now  "on the record" (as opposed to in his secret memos to RMJM) Putin has stated time and again that it's up to the local authorities to decide ("in accordance with the law") whether to build the  tower or not. Not that anyone in their right mind actually believed this, however. So if you have any journalists you'd like to "leak" this to, or if you'd like to post it on your own blog or the WHC discussion board, go right ahead....

So I have. And if anyone reading this would like to know more. my e-mail is on my profile.

My friend continues:

Even without WHS, Petersburg should be protected by any number of local and federal laws, as well as federal and municipal protection agencies like ... KGIOP. Instead, the city is being destroyed, often in violation of these laws and most always with the blessing of city authorities, including KGIOP officials. So WHS is actually not a "last ditch" defense against anything at all.

This is the problem with "international law" in general. If it is to mean anything, it has to be enforceable in some sense. Or, at least, there has to be some way of punishing state parties who violate it, if only by excluding them from the bodies organized to monitor observance of these laws. Russia is hardly alone among the violators, of course, but the "constructive engagement" approach often just leads to violators' being able to maintain a veneer of respectability while continuing to engage with perfect immunity in the offensive practices back on the home front.

... By not acting more vigorously, Unesco is complicit in the destruction of Petersburg. It actually has nothing to lose by stating unequivocally that the city will be stripped of WHS if the tower is built. This would not "free the hands" of developers and corrupt bureaucrats to engage in even more destruction, because as it is they do more or less as they please.

Here are three tiny, current examples to back my case.

Yesterday, Living City and other coalition members held a rally against the planned demolition of the so-called Jurgens House, a residential building constructed in the 19th century by Emmanuel Jurgens, a very prominent and prolific architect of the period. A "developer" got hold of the building a few years ago, and as in so many other cases of this sort, they got the necessary "expertise" from the ... Tatyana Slavina Architectural Bureau (who specialize in this aiding and abetting of destruction) -- the building (of course!) was "dilapidated" and could thus be demolished to make way for a six-storey office building with underground parking. (it's no different in this country... Nem)

Journalist Sergey Chernov has a photo reportage from the rally here:

What you might find of interest among the photos there are the images of the info stands Living City set up for the event (although you won't be able to read them). One is entitled "Охранные зоны: кольцо сжимается" ("Preservation zones: the ring is closing"), which shows the effects of the new preservation laws lobbied by KGIOP and passed by the city in 2009/2010. Basically, these new laws already constitute violations of the city's WHS, and as the explanatory text notes, the WHC has allegedly rejected this attempt at "renomination" of the city (has it?) via this shrinking of the protected districts.

After the rally (held in Mayakovsky Square), the demonstrators headed to the Jurgens House itself, which you see in the final shots in Sergey's post. Yes, it looks awfully modest, but it's the hundreds and thousands of buildings like this that make Petersburg Petersburg, not just the spectacular palaces. In local parlance, they're called "rank-and-file" or "background" architecture, but you get rid of them and you get rid of Petersburg.

And as Living City makes perfectly on the text of the stand, by all rights they should be protected. But in real life they aren't.

Here is another case that typifies how the city is being destroyed while the bureaucrats stuff their wallets. This is from the blog of Dmitry Ratnikov, a journalist from the newspaper Sankt-Peterburgski vedomosti and runs the invaluable Internet-newspaper Karpovka.Ru, which is a fairly dense chronicle of news on the topic (Ratnikov often breaks stories that everyone else would have missed this way):

Here he's bringing attention to the fact that (probably illegal) mansard storeys are being built onto the Ziegel clock factory, a truly lovely (and unique) turn-of-the-century brick complex not far from our house. This sort of "mansardization," as it's called, is going on at a feverish pace in the central districts. It is a way for developers to get round the slightly thornier task of demolishing buildings to make way for new construction. However, it has become such a plague that local legislative deputy Alexei Kovalyov (one of the activists of the famous "Salvation Group" from the early perestroika period) has recently sent an official inquiry to the city administration, asking them to explain how so many permits have been issued for such construction, which in most cases also violates preservation and zoning laws.

Finally, after destruction of or "improvements" to old buildings, we have the plague of infill construction, especially in allegedly protected parks and squares. Here is a short report on TV100 about the Lopukhinsky Garden where the battle is apparently lost. One of the city's most notorious development companies, RBI, led by ...Eduard Tiktinsky (quoted on camera in the report; he once famously suggested that the problem with green spaces in the city could be solved by building "gardens" on the tops of new buildings). They somehow got hold of a big chunk of the Garden to build a high-rise hotel. Unfortunately, the resistance in the neighborhood boiled down only to several flashy public actions. It was left to the Norway-based environmental organization Bellona (which has a branch in Petersburg that became famous in the nineties when its then-director, Alexander Nikitin, was arrested for "espionage" for reporting how Russia was disposing of its scrapped nuclear subs in the Murmansk region) to file a last-minute court challenge against the project because no one else could be bothered to do it for some reason. Last week, the court ruled against Bellona. So now TV100 has presented the horror that will ensure in the garden as fait accompli.

Also at issue here is the old rowing and boating club that has its facilities on the river that runs along one edge of the park.

My point is that one could multiply these examples in four categories -- destruction of old, allegedly protected buildings; "reconstruction" (including "mansardization") of old buildings, which also violates preservation laws; infill construction in parks and squares (also mostly illegal); and construction of high-rises that violate either zoning laws per se and/or the WHS, which also protects the historic skyline -- and thus make an ironclad case against city officials without even once referencing the Okhta Center project. "Vigorous" opposition has in part crystallized round the tower only because everyone realizes that if it is allowed to be built, that will mean certain doom for the city. Which is being destroyed as it is.

Not cheering news, and for those with an interest here is news of a forthcoming conference in the UK on the subject of architectural preservation and destruction in Russia. Speakers include Dr Glikin, see above.

Global Aspiration and Pastiche Identity: Architectural Preservation in Russia

Inter-disciplinary conference, to be held at Queen Mary, University of London on 6-7 November 2010, Mile End Road, Arts G34.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, major Russian cities have been undergoing rapid development, which has led to unprecedented destruction of the architectural heritage. Owing to the practice of replacing historical buildings with modern structures built in concrete and disguised by a mock facade in historical style, the cityscape of the Russian capital increasingly looks like a theme park. This conference convenes an international group of academics and preservationists to investigate the historical context of this crisis, examine current practices, and identify opportunities for future action. It is hoped that through an inter-disciplinary dialogue, the historical roots of attitudes regarding architectural preservation in Russia can be revealed.

The conference is organized by Prof. Andreas Schnle at Queen Mary, University of London and Prof. Catriona Kelly at New College, University of Oxford.

For further information, including the conference programme, and registration, please see here:

Sponsored by New College, University of Oxford; Queen Mary, University of London; GB-Russia Society; and BASEES.

Registration by 29 October 2010.

To read more about the issues facing heritage in Russia you may be interested in two  reports published by SAVE Europe's Heritage in association with the Moscow Architectural Preservation Society (MAPS) on Moscow and Samara.

 *Strong words from UNESCO (really, this is as bad as it gets):

33COM 7B.118 - Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments (Russian Federation) (C 540)

Decision Text

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/33.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 32COM 7B.105, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),
3. Regrets that the State Party did not provide a state of conservation report, or a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value;
4. Notes with concern, that the maps provided by the State Party define boundaries that include a significantly smaller area than that inscribed, and encourages the State Party to submit formally a significant boundary modification (according to Paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines) to allow the Committee to consider this issue;
5. Also notes with concern that the buffer zone proposed does not extend to encompass the landscape setting of the property and in particular the panorama along the Neva River, and requests the State Party to reconsider this buffer zone and submit it formally to the World Heritage Centre;
6. Reiterates its request to the State Party to develop, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, for examination by the World Heritage Committee;
7. Expresses again its grave concern that the proposed "Ohkta Centre Tower" could affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and requests the State Party to suspend work on this project and submit modified designs, in accordance with federal legislation and accompanied by an independent environmental impact assessment;
8. Also expresses its grave concern about the continuous lack of a leading management system and defined mechanisms of coordination for the management of the property;
9. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments to assess the state of conservation of the property;
10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a state of conservation report for the property that addresses the above points for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010, with a view to consider, in the absence of substantial progress, to inscribe the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and related Groups of Monuments (Russian Federation) on the List of the World Heritage in Danger at its 34th session 2010.This, and all associated documents, can be read here:

Russian Federation

Date of Inscription: 1990Criteria: (i)(ii)(iv)(vi)St. Petersburg regionN59 57 00 E30 19 06Ref: 540

Brief Description

The 'Venice of the North', with its numerous canals and more than 400 bridges, is the result of a vast urban project begun in 1703 under Peter the Great. Later known as Leningrad (in the former USSR), the city is closely associated with the October Revolution. Its architectural heritage reconciles the very different Baroque and pure neoclassical styles, as can be seen in the Admiralty, the Winter Palace, the Marble Palace and the Hermitage.


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

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.”