Official opening by The Prince of Wales of the Chinese Pagoda at Kew Gardens in London

Official opening by The Prince of Wales of the Chinese Pagoda at Kew Gardens in London

July saw the official opening by The Prince of Wales of the Chinese Pagoda at Kew Gardens in London. The restoration work at the site over the past year was overseen by David Millar, Director and Head of Conservation at Austin-Smith:Lord. Watch this first video in the series that explains more about this conservation project where 18th century craftsmanship has been blended with innovative 21st century SLS 3D printing to once again adorn this unique listed structure with 80 dragon sculptures.

Expecting to Get Lucky – The Art of Happenstance


Expecting to Get Lucky - The Art of Happenstance

By Graham Ross, Austin-Smith:Lord

Something quite remarkable is happening in Venice. An energetic and passionate troupe of artists and architects affiliated with Scotland are testing and translating ideas into action. Through playful participatory place-planning the prospect of enabling lasting change in communities in Scotland, and perhaps even in Venice, is tantalisingly real.

Away from picture postcard Venice, in one of the few districts still harbouring a local community not yet displaced by the forces of global tourism, an uplifting community garden where folk are invited to take a chance, and make a stance has emerged. A truly feel Freespace. It’s an inspiration.

Much of the rest of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 passively presents many thoughtful and exquisitely crafted (and several mediocre) meditations on the curator’s theme of Freespace. Meanwhile Scotland’s contribution, entitled The Happenstance, under the stewardship of Peter McCaughey and WAVEparticle, gets stuck in. It is unashamedly proactive; joyfully agitating for authentic Freespace in Scotland, as well as Venice. Its ambitions are high whilst its means are humble.


The call for ideas this year’s Biennale was issued in autumn 2017 by the Scottish Government and Architecture + Design Scotland. The Scotland + Venice brief overlayed the 2018 Year of Young People with the Biennale curators’, Grafton Architects, theme of Freespace.

In the wake of over 20 design charrettes across Scotland, all foregrounding the participation of young people, WAVEparticle were selected and have pulled together a wider team of artists and architects, practicing in Scotland and allied by the local insights and guidance of Venice based designer, Alberto Lago and Glasgow based Venetian artist, Daniele Sambo.

At this stage I must declare an interest, or two. Firstly, as a regular collaborator with Peter McCaughey and WAVEparticle on numerous charrette and regeneration projects with Austin-Smith:Lord, I accepted an invitation to contribute to The Happenstance project last year. So I’ve been privileged to be engaged from the outset. Secondly, I’m a Board member at A+DS.

As a small part of The Happenstance team, and having just returned from Venice, I’ve an insight and acute awareness of the project’s ambition, and the inevitable challenges in delivering on its promise and potential.


The Happenstance project, which opened at the Venice Biennale in late May 2018, is sharing a vast array of creative tools and techniques for community-led place making and mending, trialled in ongoing projects in Scotland. Since opening it has been inspiring local Venetians, and Biennale visitors to think about how to adapt and translate to their context.

Amid the faded splendour of the Palazzo Zenobio in the Dorsoduro district on the western end of the Venetian archipelago a half forgotten but fondly remembered garden has been transformed by Scotland + Venice into a community gathering space, outdoor cinema, architectural playground, living library, conference venue, and makerspace /workshop. It may be a little rough and ready, but that’s part of its allure and charm. It’s not precious, but alive and accessible. You’ll not wear out your welcome at Zenobio!

Seven projects, bringing together creative collaborations between Scots architects, artists, dancers and filmmakers are showcased and provide an inspiring and optimistic backdrop to The Happenstance project. Whilst Venice Biennale may provide a prism through which to focus and supercharge action on these Scottish projects, it is evident The Happenstance has inspired the locals in Venice to pursue long-standing community activism with renewed vigour.

In response to the Year of Young People there is an emphasis on actively engaging and empowering young folk to help shape their place through each of the featured Scottish projects. Furthermore The Happenstance features the inaugural programme of Scotland + Venice Fellowships, with one student from each Scottish school of architecture participating and undertaking research whilst in Venice for more than a month.

The Happenstance garden in Venice reinforces the focus on young people, with the Armature, designed by Baxendale, creating a playful framework for exploration of Freespace. In the garden and associated interior workshop / library spaces the forces of goodwill and generosity, human spirit and happenstance are combining in a joyful living laboratory of ideas and interaction exploring how to make things better; in every sense. It is simultaneously sharing reflective and active practice; a summation of Scottish charrette and participatory planning experience transposed to purposeful, focused action and live projects and emerging opportunities in Venice.


Despite its status as an official but ‘collateral project’, with a comparatively modest budget, Scotland + Venice has received critical acclaim, with Architectural Review listing it in their Biennale top 5. Whilst a very welcome endorsement the real measure of success has been the overwhelming and positive reaction from locals and visitors alike.

In The Happenstance garden over a three day visit last week I’ve witnessed two stunning free community film screenings, restoring the lost Venetian tradition of outdoor cinema with films from Scotland and Venice. I’ve seen intense community meetings convene under the last of daylight, to agree action. I’ve heard plans hatched for the local community to gather for a shared meal under the stars next week. Venetians, reflecting on the lack of publicly accessible green space in the district, have warmly welcomed and adopted this small piece of nature as theirs, and ours.

I’ve joined in debates and discussions about the politics of place planning with international visitors. And shared the A Town Hall for All in Penicuik (one of the featured projects) with Sister Lorenezza and her class of 11 year olds from the nearby Cinnasio Luceo Marco Polo School, who reciprocated with their ideas for Un Municipio per Tutti. I’ve met old friends and made new ones. Fresh creative networks of Scottish based practitioners are being forged abroad.

I’ve watched young Scottish architecture students adapt the timber framework of the Armature to attend to requests from local kids who’ve creatively invented it as an endlessly evolving play space. The shrieks of joy as young Venetians came back day after day after school speaks of the intense excitement, fun and freedom this small intervention has made for many, young and old, within a week of opening.

The garden has become a place of song (I sang some Burns, others songs from their place), laughter and debate. It’s becoming an ever more magical place, day by day.


This hidden gem of a space became possible thanks to an unlikely and spectacular sequence of serendipity.  Peter McCaughey always claims to expect to get lucky, that the next person he meets will be the most important person to realising a project. The aptly named The Happenstance project encapsulates this. But that’s a long story for another time.

Suffice to say the generosity and trust shown by those responsible for Palazzo Zenobio is being repaid with interest through the tireless efforts of WAVEparticle and The Happenstance team.

In the few months of preparation for the Biennale Peter McCaughey has developed an affinity with groups of community and civic leaders active in this part of Venice who recognise the shared ethos and synergies evident in the Scotland + Venice project.


Palazzo Zenobio is a fascinating place. Its history at the heart of the Armenian community in Venice is complex and multi-layered.  Its existence has been under threat in recent decades and huge efforts were successful in restoring and keeping it active. Nevertheless, with a lack of funding and wherewithal, the western portion of the grounds given over temporarily for The Happenstance, have no clear future as a community asset after Scotland + Venice concludes in late June.

However the evident success of The Happenstance intervention points to a possible solution; an egalitarian prototype of a community green space able to meet local needs, establish a playful environment and restore community outdoor cinema. Its early days but perhaps a way can be found to extend The Happenstance beyond the end of June? Time will tell, but there’s undoubtedly desire and willingness to try to make it happen. Perhaps The Happenstance can be transferred to locals to make of it what they will.


Word has spread of the life affirming energy of The Happenstance. Locals have become repeat visitors, bringing more friends and family each time, animating their garden. Mumsnet Venice have flagged it up as a great place for kids and families. Through word of mouth, and online endorsement, the space is constantly enlivened by play, each day. Peter McCaughey is ‘deadly serious about play’ as an agent of creativity and community. The Happenstance garden is manifestly playful, creative and communal.

Beyond the playful it’s evident The Happenstance garden is also nurturing community activism. On a gift shopping interlude I popped in to a jewellery studio half a mile away to find the artist / proprietor speaking passionately about the positive impact and energy The Happenstance project is having amid local artisans and the creative community who are intrinsic to the district. She hopes the action at Zenobio can enthuse and enable this community to gain shared purpose and a voice as they seek to maintain an active presence in Dorsoduro.

The Happenstance Scotland and Venice
‘deadly serious about play’ – The Happenstance garden has become a local community play space


At the southern end of the lagoon there’s the small island of Poveglia. Abandoned fifty years ago it has been the focus of contested and controversial land sales. Meantime the island, previously in public ownership, has become a cherished natural escape away from the overwhelming pressures of Venice.

Attempts to establish community ownership have proven unsuccessful, though the campaign continues. Local architect, Lorenzo Pesola and Poveglia Per Tutti (the Poveglia for All Action Group) have used The Happenstance garden for meetings and enabled The Happenstance team members to visit.

The resonance with Scotland’s community empowerment legislation is obvious and the debate about land ownership and access rights in a city with very little ‘freespace’ is clearly pertinent.


In parallel with these emerging opportunities for Scotland + Venice to inspire community-led regeneration in Venice, many of the showcased projects back in Scotland have been supercharged by the endeavour of The Happenstance. The A Town Hall for All project in Penicuik I’ve been involved in has developed momentum towards being showcased in Penicuik and Venice simultaneously.

The Penicuik community responded very positively to the A Town Hall for All project when it was presented at the town’s Hunter and Lass gala day which coincided with the launch of The Happenstance in Venice on 26 May. All 1,329 primary school pupils in Penicuik have been invited to share their ideas for the future of Penicuik Town Hall, where their ideas (and those of their Venetian counterparts) will be displayed on 13 June. Hopefully this can help kick start a whole-town debate about how to refresh and reenergise Penicuik Town Hall.

The Happenstance Scotland and Venice
Venetian school children contributed to the A Town Hall for All project


It will be interesting to see what emerges, what action can be taken to harness the energy and goodwill surrounding The Happenstance. The projects featured in The Happenstance offer the prospect of making positive change in communities across Scotland, whilst its very presence in Dorsuduro is acting as the catalyst for action in Venice.

Hopefully there can be a positive living legacy from The Happenstance. The outcomes will allow us to see just how much we actually value Freespace? In Scotland and Venice.

Watch this (free?) space!

To find out more about The Happenstance visit

To find out more about the ‘A Town Hall for All’ project visit

Blurring the lines between reality and fiction: Virtual Reality teaching at National College for Nuclear South

National College for Nuclear

Blurring the lines between reality and fiction: Virtual Reality teaching at National College for Nuclear South (blog By Murtaza Rizvi, Austin-Smith:Lord)

Murtaza discusses our recently completed NCFN Southern Hub – a project in which innovative technology is key to the delivery of specialist skills teaching.

You find yourself in a locker room. Squinting as your eyes adjust you ask yourself ‘what am I doing here?’ Looking around you see various pieces of protective clothing on the benches. You see a clipboard on the bench and pick it up. There are instructions about what you need to wear to enter a confined space. You put on the rest of the equipment and look down at yourself wearing the equipment.

You walk over to the door and exit into a corridor where the lighting is dim and the sound of alarms is deafening. There is smoke emerging from around the corner and as you walk forward the smoke becomes thicker and there is water flooding across the floor. Your heart starts to pound and you take a breath in order to settle your nerves. You discover the smoke is coming from a room where a motor unit is on fire. Opposite you, there is a fire extinguisher. Instinctively you pick it up, checking it’s the right kind of extinguisher, and turn to the fire to put it out. You experience a brief sense of relief before your attention turns to finding the source of the flooding water.

It appears to be seeping from under a door to an adjacent room. You try to open the door but it won’t open, you see through its window that there is something blocking it on the other side. You spot that there is a ventilation hatch you might be able to climb through at floor level, but it is held shut with screws. You rush back to the locker room, retrieve the screwdriver you noticed earlier and return to the hatch. You crouch down on the ground and remove the screws and ventilator screen and crawl through the hatch, being careful not to snag the threads of your protective wear.

At this point, anyone observing you in the real world would probably be very entertained at the sight of seeing you scrambling across a training room floor, holding two triggers. You are in fact inside the Virtual world where everything feels eerily and impressively convincing.

Once through the hatch, you find the controls for a pump and run it until the water is fully drained from the floor. You climb back through the hatch, return along the corridor to the locker room, where you are relieved to be told that you have successfully completed the ‘confined spaces’ exercise. You finally take off the headset and realise you had completely lost all sense of direction, and for a moment forget where you were.

What I’ve described above is one of the learning scenarios students will be experiencing through VR headsets at the National College for Nuclear Southern Hub for Bridgwater and Taunton College, a building we had the pleasure of master planning, designing, detailing and delivering. It’s one we’re proud to be involved with and the technology used as part of the teaching methods will be of particular interest to many, not least within the construction industry and higher education sector.

The new BREEAM excellent rated facility is one of 4 specialist teaching colleges across the UK set up by the government to develop technical skill sets required for the nuclear sector as part of its industrial strategy. In addition to the Nuclear training facilities other colleges include Creative and Cultural Industries; Digital Skills and High-Speed Rail. The spur for the construction of the facility stems from the nuclear sector and plans for 12 new nuclear reactors across 5 UK sites that will require 6000 people each year to maintain and run facilities. The facility in Somerset has been developed in collaboration with Industry experts from Sellafield, EDF Energy, University of Cumbria and the University of Bristol in order to help train up to 3,500 learners by the end of the decade.

NCFN features an impressive array of cutting-edge technology its educators will be using as part of developing the skills required to deliver the government’s vision. The new building will provide physical, virtual and augmented reality technology to create a learning environment that replicates a nuclear workplace and deliver revolutionary new engineering courses. Training experiences using VR headsets, such as those described above, are designed to help learners let go and enter a state in which deep, effective learning can take place. The thought is that whilst VR experiences are simulated they have the power to trick our embodied cognition circuits into thinking they are real. Technology has a key role in teaching at NCFN with its ability to simulate the working environments learners will face in practice – replicating behaviours, trialing these and perfecting through rehearsal in a safe and risk-free setting is essential and will help create a highly-trained, professional, technical workforce for the nuclear sector.

As designers, we’ve been through a fascinating process in helping Bridgwater & Taunton College realise its plans for this facility. During the early design stages, we had a number of discussions with our clients about how they wanted to use VR technology within the building. What made this challenging was that there was no real precedent for a facility of this nature. This prompted a number of visits made to buildings that contained similar facilities, albeit smaller aspects that were relevant to the design of NCFN as there wasn’t an ‘off the shelf’ example available.

This was enhanced by visits to virtual reality technology providers themselves to look at the available technology first hand. Like any good designers, we went through a process of carefully listening, scribbling notes, drawing sketches, reviewing, discarding the obsolete and repeating everything to refine our design response. What we learnt on visits to other facilities with our client manifested themselves through a number of design choices in the building as part of our response to the brief. For example, as the use of technology in this sector is continually developing the design of the building had to accommodate future flexibility – there are a number of folding partitions which allow a number of different teaching configurations to suit the nature of teaching delivery. You may think, folding partitions are commonplace in many modern education buildings. You’d be right, folding partitions might typically be seen, say, between two rooms. However, within NCFN whole wings of teaching spaces can be opened up, providing a number of teaching possibilities essential to the teaching methods required within NCFN. For example, this might form part of a VR training scenario in which student and teacher might physically walk through a training scenario exercise.

In conjunction with full height glazed screens along corridors, what’s clear in NCFN is that the typical teaching classroom format is completely opened up favouring a more innovative, multi-faceted teaching programme. All of a sudden, the classroom takes on a different meaning and might end up being, say, a high-level gantry walkway 3 storeys up inside a 6 storey high cooling tower. It’s for this reason that at NCFN teaching rooms aren’t called classrooms, they are referred to as flexible training spaces.

Another simple but effective example is the internal arrangement of the teaching wing and simulator suite. The corridor is offset to one side of the plan to allow a larger simulator suite room to be accommodated. This was driven by the need to allow future flexibility depending on whether VR reality experiences would be through VR headsets or within a 360-degree immersive dome, the latter requiring a larger room as part of its feasibility.

National College for Nuclear
Corridor design visualisation

Turning attention to the external form and appearance of NCFN, another consideration and challenge was how to reflect the ‘national’ qualities of a National College for Nuclear, given a need to be pragmatic whilst working with a defined budget. The arrangement of the building form reflects these qualities through the siting of the building at the northern crest of Bridgwater & Taunton College’s Cannington campus. The building’s forms sit in an elevated position above the rest of the campus. Driven by a need to work with a steeply sloping site, the distinct forms wrap around a central landscape and sculptural courtyard.

National College for Nuclear
External form visualisation

The form of the building is further expressed and articulated through sloped glazed façade to the south east wing and first floor cantilever on the south west wing, incorporating full height corner glazing to better link the social/bar space within to impressive views of the Quantock hills beyond.

The distinct forms created by these wings are linked by an umbilical glazed link which provides continuation of the circulation spaces between the buildings. NCFN is in fact a conglomeration of two buildings, one part teaching facility and one part welfare & recreational building which accommodates facilities for use by students across the campus as well as hosting out of hours events.

National College for Nuclear
The glazed link connecting the teaching building and welfare & recreational building at first floor with bridge truss expressing the working structure.

These design ‘moves’ are intended to provide the building with an almost civic quality, perhaps more readily associated with university buildings. The architectural expression is intended to provide young learners attending the college with a tangible sense of the importance of the career they are about to embark on from their first day.

National College for Nuclear


Continuing this theme internally, upon entering the building the visitor is struck by the faceted array of stainless steel rods lit by Blue LEDs behind the main reception desk. The idea is to reinforce the impression of entering a cutting-edge nuclear facility through use of precisely engineered detailing with the striking blue lighting evoking images of nuclear reactors to provide an industrial feel.

National College for Nuclear
Reception desk design visualisation.


National College for Nuclear
Blue nuclear reactor rod reception feature.

Whilst there were many aspects both inside and out we enjoyed developing through the design process, it will be seeing how the building accommodates continually changing technology that will have the most impact on those using the building. Following handover in February 2018, the college have already installed WiFi throughout along with Google Home digital assistants (the AI of which is learning specific nuclear terminology) and Chromecast. To top it off all of this is being streamed to 4K Digital TVs. With the VR suite expected to be fully functional by summer 2018, it is anticipated that use of VR headsets, coupled with the impressive digital connectivity, will allow students to ‘dial into’ nuclear training scenarios with their teachers remotely. This will allow teachers to walk through training scenarios with students, providing support and advice where needed as part of the teaching process and embedding key skills.

We are pleased the design of the building is enabling its educators to trial new and innovative methods of teaching, some of which may not even have been known at the design stage, given how quickly technology is developing. In our studios, we are finding the use of virtual and augmented reality fascinating, and its use as a design tool, as well as a method of communicating our ideas, is one we are pushing on projects of all scales within different sectors.

It will be important to pay attention to the trend of VR technology in your organisation. Like many technologies before it, awareness is the first barrier to uptake, followed by cost and content. Costs for adopting VR will continue to decrease through 2018 and with better content and more awareness spreading, VR will play a key role across education and industrial sectors. In education, VR is already revolutionizing not only how people learn, but interact with real-world applications of what they have been taught. Imagine ecology students getting to actually see where the Amazonian rainforest is, or biological science students exploring distant worlds in outer space. The possibilities are endless.

Tenovus Cancer Care Mobile Chemotherapy Unit: Thinking Outside the Box, Inside the Box (Part II)

Tenovus Cancer Care Mobile Treatment Unit

Tenovus Cancer Care Mobile Chemotherapy Unit: Thinking Outside the Box, Inside the Box (Part II). Blog by Olivia Laxton, Austin-Smith:Lord

After the consultation period, our findings helped steer our design development by identifying the key principles of the brief we needed to satisfy. The biggest challenge throughout this stage was creating design options that would satisfy all of the operational and functional requirements for the unit, whilst being able to be securely stored once the unit was collapsed for transit. We called this stage…EXTREME TETRIS! It forced us to think of unique and creative interior solutions that would not force us to sacrifice the design quality or inhibit the function of the space.

One key principle that was developed during the brief development, consultation and design process was for the new unit to have Human-Centric lighting. It is more important than just providing enough illumination for the space; the lighting needs to suit the variety of spaces within the unit. In the main treatment space, it must be able to adapt its temperature in order to mimic natural daylight levels and promote the natural circadian rhythm within the patients. A study (Walch et al 2005) showed that patients who were exposed to daylight within a hospital room required 22% less medication, felt less stressed, and experienced a decrease in pain levels. At the same time, the lighting within the treatment space must not compromise the levels required for the nurses to carry out their tasks.

The colour scheme for the unit we developed is focused around landscape images that are an integral part of the existing units and extremely popular with patients and staff. By using images of welsh landscapes, we are able to bring Biophillic elements into the space to allow visitors to benefit from it. The 2014 Terrapin Bright Green report highlighted the 14 patterns of biophillic design and how these can be used to “reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our wellbeing and expedite healing”. The layout and finishes aim to take visitors on a journey from the earthy tones in the reception, through to the openness of beachy landscapes in the main treatment area.

With the new unit needing to accommodate a greater variety of specialist rooms, the challenge was then to maintain as much flexibility as possible for the potential future uses. Through detailed design development, we created spaces and furniture that could be folded and stored away into walls whilst freeing up as much floor space as possible. We increased the amount of natural light into the space by allowing for high level windows to supplement the interior lighting without compromising privacy and patient dignity.

At the final presentation to the Tenovus Cancer Care Senior Management Team, we produced 360ᵒ VR visuals of the space, allowing the client to be completely immersed within the space. For a lot of clients, it is hard to read plans and drawings, so this is a great tool to allow them to understand the feel of the space without having to visualise it for themselves.

Treatment Space – View 360ᵒ VR Visual

Treatment Room – View 360ᵒ VR Visual

Reception and Waiting – View 360ᵒ VR Visual

Kitchenette – View 360ᵒ VR Visual

So far, this project has been incredibly challenging and rewarding, as well as offering an opportunity to work on a job that focuses on utilising good design for the sole focus of benefiting the wellbeing of its users.

This project evidences Austin-Smith:Lord’s ability to create outstanding spaces from challenging briefs. All of the design detail intent drawings have now been issued to the coach builders and the new mobile chemotherapy unit will be commissioned in July 2018.

This is part II of a blog by Olivia Laxton. You can find Part I at this link: Thinking Outside the Box, Inside the Box. Part I

Tenovus Cancer Care Mobile Chemotherapy Unit: Thinking Outside the Box, Inside the Box (Part I)


Tenovus Cancer Care Mobile Chemotherapy Unit: Thinking Outside the Box, Inside the Box (Part I). Blog by Olivia Laxton, Austin-Smith:Lord

When the opportunity arose to design the interior of Tenovus Cancer Care’s new mobile support unit (THE LARGEST MOBILE CHEMOTHERAPY UNIT IN THE WORLD!), we were both intrigued and excited. Although we had no prior experience of designing spaces that move about on wheels, our experience in Healthcare interiors and our passion for promoting wellbeing through design made us feel that we were capable of taking on this challenge. We were able to think about the project with no preconceptions and to challenge the industry norms to produce a design that was completely new, pioneering and completely fit for purpose.

Existing Mobile Treatment Unit 2

The first stage of the project was to carry out stakeholder engagement meetings with the Tenovus Cancer Care senior management team, nurses, logistics and other staff members, and most importantly, the patients and visitors to the unit. We devised a generic set of questions we asked everyone with the aim of obtaining a focused set of outcomes, as well as job and operational specific questions to consolidate the brief. The most profound experience was speaking with the patients and relatives. They are so grateful for the service Tenovus Cancer Care provides and are amazed by the existing mobile support units as they currently are. During the consultation process we gathered statements including these from the patients and relatives:

 “Everyone and everything has been wonderful for my journey through treatments”

“Much nicer than going to hospital”

“From a relative’s point of view my impression is that everyone is so kind and cheerful. If I were unfortunate enough to again have to use such a unit I would have no fear. There always seems to be hope.”

“Brilliant, very welcoming; Friendly social atmosphere”

“Coming on the bus is a boost to my recovery as it means I am out of risk”


Through the consultation period, we spoke directly with over 20 stakeholders, as well as receiving numerous responses to questionnaires completed by visiting patients and relatives on board the existing units. The face to face consultations were carried out in offices, conference rooms, and on board both of the existing units, mirroring the movement and the operation of the units themselves. We also spent time observing the operation on board both of the current units to understand the way they are used and how staff and patients interact during their time on board.

At the conclusion of the consultation process it was clear that the majority of visitors felt the existing units were amazing as they are and the task of designing something better seemed quite daunting. The consultation process also delivered some responses that went completely against our expectations. For instance, it is a well-known fact that an excessive amount of white can create an overly clinical and uncomfortable atmosphere, but when asked about colour choices, a lot of patients liked white as to them it translated to cleanliness which made them feel more comfortable.

This project drew upon Austin-Smith:Lord’s ability to facilitate and lead effective stakeholder consultations and develop comprehensive design briefs. All of the design detail intent drawings have now been issued to the coach builders and the new mobile chemotherapy unit will be commissioned in July 2018.

Making Falkland’s and Newton’s Future

Falkland and Newton Charrette logo

Making Falkland’s and Newton’s Future

A team led by Austin-Smith:Lord has been appointed to facilitate the Falkland and Newton of Falkland Charrette.

In collaboration with the Falkland and Newton of Falkland Community Council (FNFCC), the team will be working with local communities to develop a shared vision for the area. The event, running through March and concluding in April, is being delivered with funding from the Scottish Government for community-led design charrettes.

The project team also includes WAVEparticle(artists/facilitators), Transport Planning Ltd (transport consultants, and David Keddie (economic consultant).  Together we bring our recent experience of delivering such events in Elgin, Brechin, Arbroath, Montrose, Monifieth, Kirriemuir, Dunoon, Port Glasgow, Clydebank and Greenock.

A charrette is an intensive consultation that includes planning workshops, walk-and-talk events and presentations around the area to engage local people in the design process for their community. The planning and design workshops will be held in the Community Hall and Old Town Hall in the centre of Falkland over a three-day period running from Tuesday 20th March to Thursday 22nd  March with a final exhibition and report back session on 18th April.

Everyone is very welcome and all the events are free.

Rod Crawford, Vice Chair of Falkland and Newton of Falkland Community Council said “In terms of involvement, we don’t want this just to be the ‘usual suspects’. We want to hear Falkland’s and Newton’s unheard voices.  We want to hear the voices of the whole community.”

Making Falkland’s and Newton’s Future will be an exciting and interactive multi-day planning event to discuss, debate and decide the future of the area. If you live, work or have an interest in the future of Falkland and Newton of Falkland make sure you come along, have your say and share your ideas!

You can find out more about the charrette programme at:





Thinking globally, acting locally – the case for regenerating Scotland

The Case for Regenerating Scotland_blog

Thinking globally, acting locally – the case for regenerating Scotland: Blog by Graham Ross, Austin-Smith:Lord

Have no doubt about it, Scotland is ambitious.

Brave too –bold plans are emerging to create a true 21st-Century, carbonless, super-connected, intellect-driven economy and the infrastructure to run it on.

Scotland has many of the tools she needs to achieve this but she also faces enormous challenges generated by her characteristically extreme contrasts. But visionary planning and coordinated investment is required to realise our ambitions.

In order the achieve even a fraction of what we view as future Scotland we must, as a great Scottish polymath and father of urban planning, Sir Patrick Geddes, famously said in the early 20th century, ‘think globally and act locally’. And invest in our future.


This is a place of extreme contrasts; with its historic and industrial towns and cities set amid vast and disparate rural agriculture and wilderness landscapes with stunning natural heritage. Scotland is highly urbanised, with 80 per cent of the population living on 2 per cent of the land.

We enjoy rich natural resources, with much of Europe’s new wind and wave energy as well as the remaining North Sea and north Atlantic oil and gas fields.

It has immense knowledge capital with five of the world’s top 200 Universities and an impressive record of research and innovation in digital technology and life-sciences. Yet parts of Scotland are still blighted by endemic worklessness, long term unemployment and poor population health.

Scotland benefited from a legacy of visionary infrastructure planning and planners. Powerful innovators like Sir Patrick Geddes and regional planners of international distinction like Ian McHarg (1920-2001) and Sir Robert Grieve (1910-1995) attended to the big issues of their time. Our aim should be to emulate these visionaries and plan our place holistically to transform contemporary Scotland in our time.


To enable this smart transition to a low-carbon economy will require holistic planning and significant investment, utilising local energy solutions to create a more nimble networks and a place-based approach.

Scotland continues to grapple with the enormous challenges in reshaping its post-Industrial landscape and adapting to dramatic shifts in macro-economics and the consequent impact of growing inequalities in population health, housing and economic prosperity and productivity.

To face these challenges and capitalise on its asset base, Scotland has to transform its way of planning and implementing change, indeed we are in the midst of land reform and revising our Planning system.

Scotland has set world-leading ambitions to decarbonise its economy. Yet, despite progress there needs to be a more holistic, place-based approach to identifying what goes where, why and when.

Can we continue that tradition and adapt our thinking to ensure a 21st Century plan for Scotland, and its regional economies, which is bold, ambitious as well as agile and adaptive?

Scotland’s size should be about right for a coordinated plan. Its population, economy and geography should enable a whole-place plan to be devised; one which lays out the ‘business plan’ for the country.

Let’s literally see the vision. We need to energise those that are in Scotland to drive innovation and ambition, and in turn attract talent and investment to make sure we do it right.

We need to plan holistically bringing together the demands of demographic change, low carbon energy strategies, anticipating economic trends, fostering knowledge capital, enhancing digital and physical connectivity to shape place-based investment.


In commencing preparation of the next national planning framework (NPF4) we have the capability to design our collective future and direct investment. We need to be strategic as well as tactical, fusing top-down long term plans with bottom-up planning and community-led initiatives.

The advent of Cities Deals in the last five years (both confirmed and emerging) covering all of Scotland’s principal city regions and beyond has thrown open a debate about what our collective objectives are for Scotland and how best to co-ordinate between idiosyncratic regions.

We need to ensure the City Deals deliver progressive investment to enhance our places, and ensure our economy and communities are sustainable. There is a mixed picture emerging but undoubtedly the political and economic focus to deliver change is evidently there.

The National Planning Framework, the array of City Region / Growth Deals and funding mechanisms being developed by the like of the Scottish Futures Trust will require innovative delivery models. Scotland’s ambitions should ensure it is an exciting place to invest and be part of progressive change. Notwithstanding Scotland’s newly minted taxation powers, it is apparent that there will have to be a cocktail of local, national and international funding from public and private sectors to deliver the scale of change envisaged in Scotland.

So where are the challenges and opportunities?


Scotland has many stunning examples of great infrastructure – from the world-famous bridges over the Firth of Forth to new energy generation from the hydro-electric dams in the Highlands and Southern Uplands to Europe’s largest onshore windfarm at Whitelee, transforming bleak moorland above Glasgow into a sublime panorama.

But we are burdened with more than 12,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land, redundant docks and industrial space and insensitively engineered roads, power transmission lines and wind turbines diminishing our quality of place. We need to do better, every time. And there is a lot to do.

As with the rest of the UK, Scotland is facing a significant shortfall in housing. Notwithstanding the persistent issue of vacant homes the Scottish Government has pledged 50,000 new affordable homes in this Parliament. But that is only the start.

Demographic challenges presented by ageing population, increased birth rates and inward migration have driven recent population growth. While projections of 7% growth to 2041 lag behind the rest of the UK’s 11% projected increase, accommodating and capitalising on this growth places further pressure on the need for new infrastructure, housing, health and social care infrastructure and an agile and diverse economy.

Underpinning all of these challenges is the need to anticipate and be ready for climate change. Adapting our places and systems to address projected changes in our environment demands holistic forward-thinking.


Scotland continues to deliver impressive regeneration projects, notably in the Gorbals in Glasgow, Clyde Gateway in Glasgow’s East End and Dundee Waterfront.

Yet there are persistent and massive challenges to progress the remediation and redefinition of extensive brownfield land to create mixed use districts within major towns and cities.

There remain high profile locations, including along the Clyde Waterfront, the former Ravenscraig steelworks and Edinburgh’s Waterfront and Leith Docks, where nationally significant regeneration has stalled and is hopefully on the cusp of recommencing.

Enhancing connectivity has been at the forefront of recent investment, with the Edinburgh to Glasgow rail electrification and new train routes to the Scottish Borders, Clackmannanshire and Lanarkshire. An extension of Edinburgh’s controversial tram network and the perennial debates about fixed rail links to Glasgow airport continue.


Investment in dock and port infrastructure continues with work underway to massively expand Aberdeen harbour at Nigg Bay, as well as upgrading island docks and ongoing deliberations about optimising our deepest port at Hunterston.

There’s been a significant emphasis on road building (M74, M73, M8 and the impressive Queensferry Crossing) and whilst this is slated to continue with the dualling of the A9, A96 and other planned investment  we must be seeking more progressive ways to connect our regions and reduce our reliance on road traffic.

Digital connectivity is another focus of the Scottish Government, with its national strategy, published last March, seeking to roll out 5G networks and achieve 30 Megabits per second by 2021 to every location across the country.

Scotland, notably Glasgow, has already been at the forefront of integrating smart city technology and infrastructure into our place-making, and this has to continue.

The Scottish economy is seeking to adapt its historic strengths to anticipate future trends. Digital technologies are transforming financial services, life sciences and advanced manufacturing. The North Sea industries are seeking to adapt their ingenuity to low carbon technologies. Capitalising on the research and development clout of our Universities is impacting not only on our economy but our places.


Massive campus redevelopments, particularly at the University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow, are having an impact beyond the ‘ivory towers’ of academia. Innovation Districts clustering around the University of Glasgow and University of Strathclyde promise to fuse the knowledge capital of these institutions with entrepreneurial innovation and investment to regenerate key parts of the city.

Scotland’s first energy strategy was published in December 2017. Taking a ‘whole-system’ approach the strategy seeks to decarbonise Scotland by seeking to generate clean renewable power, retrofit our building stock, induce behavioural change and apply new technologies to diminish our energy consumption and enhance environmental performance.

To enable this smart transition to a low-carbon economy will require holistic planning and significant investment, utilising local energy solutions to create a more nimble network and place-based approach.


In commencing preparation of the next national planning framework (NPF4) we should aspire to emulate the clarity of thinking and ambition in spatial planning for contemporary Scotland typified by our greatest achievements and predecessors.

We have the capability to design our collective future and direct investment. We need to be strategic as well as tactical, fusing top-down long term plans with bottom-up participatory planning and community-led initiatives.

Scottish Futures Trust is tasked with providing innovative thinking and commissioning to the Scottish public sector, developing Tax Incremental Financing and, its cousin, Growth Accelerator models as well as its Non-Profit Distributing model. SFT, and others, will have to continue to take a fresh approach to balance public interest and accessing private finance in a mutually beneficial and accountable way.

We need to be brave enough to innovate and to have the political will, and a visionary plan, to bring investment into Scotland to sustain inclusive growth. Let’s ensure we can become a smarter, well connected, low-carbon country with integrated infrastructure that always adds values and enhances the enduring quality of our places. Then we’ll be best placed to act global and make a positive impact internationally.

Picture by kind permission of Alan Frew

This blog was originally published on the Estates and Infrastructure Exchange website. To view the original post click here:

Why am I sleeping in the park?

Sleep in the Park

Why am I sleeping in the park? Blog by Graham Ross, Austin-Smith:Lord

A team from Architecture and Design Scotland is joining 9,000 others in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, on the 9th of December for the World’s largest ever sleepout to raise funds and awareness about homelessness. In the run up to the event we asked those taking part to outline what motivated them to sign up. Here Graham Ross, partner at Austin-Smith:Lord and depute chair of A&DS, tells his story:

The statistics are stark. According to Scottish Government figures there were over 28,000 people assessed as homeless in Scotland last year. There were over 10,000 households in temporary accommodation, including over 3,000 children. There are 34,000 empty homes in Scotland.

The most extreme and apparent manifestation of homelessness is rough sleeping. It is estimated that there are approximately 660 roofless folk sleeping rough in Scotland on any given night.

Rough sleeping is seriously bad for you. You’re at heightened risk of physical attack, theft and abuse. Your physical and mental health deteriorates dealing with harsh conditions, weather and the stresses of survival. I’m 43 years old – the estimated life expectancy of a rough sleeper.


In my work as an architect and urban planner on the (Y)our City Centre project to regenerate Glasgow city centre I have been struck by the impact homelessness has. An apparent increased threat of physical attack has driven many rough sleepers from secluded locations out of sight into more visible streets and doorways to seek safety and surveillance. Figures would indicate that rough sleeping is on the increase as society grapples with continued austerity, a chronic lack of available housing and a complex array of health and social issues.

In speaking with countless Glaswegians in the course of the (Y)our City Centre project I’ve been heartened by the empathy and compassion folk have for the most vulnerable in our society, struggling in our midst. There’s an overwhelming desire to confront the issue and ensure nobody has to sleep rough in Scotland. As a chap says in one of the project films, “there are people sleeping on the streets in Glasgow. It shouldn’t be like that. This is the 21st Century; people shouldn’t be sleeping on the street!”. It is totally unacceptable that this situation persists in contemporary society. Everyone has the right to a home.


The recent announcements to continue to tackle homelessness, poverty and inequalities are welcome, and hopefully prove effective. Moreover we need to continue to tackle poor housing conditions and eradicate fuel poverty which currently affects 748,000 households in Scotland.

So in this context the Social Bite initiative to face in to Scotland’s persistent homelessness challenge is laudable and worthy of support. I’ve been inspired to join in their campaign to raise awareness and funds to meet the challenge. I have to admit apprehension and dread at the prospect of participating in the mass sleep out on a cold winter’s night in Edinburgh. This despite being secure in the knowledge that it is for one night only and with a comfortable home to return to the following day. I can hardly comprehend how tough the prospect of homelessness and rough sleeping must be.

So, as a gesture of support, I’ll be participating in this year’s Sleep in the Park. I also hope that the focus Architecture & Design Scotland has to champion the need for more, quality homes can help to ensure homelessness in Scotland is eradicated for good and we strive to have better housing for all.

Please consider supporting Graham and the A&DS team in reaching their fundraising target. You can make a donation here.

This post was originally published on the A&DS website. To view the original post, click here:

Time to value design

University of Edinburgh

Time to value design: blog by Graham Ross, Austin-Smith:Lord

Graham Ross, Partner at Austin-Smith:Lord and depute chair of Architecture & Design Scotland, gives his reflections of being a part of A&DS.

This was originally published on the A&DS website as part of a series of blogs by their board members to explain what inspires them, their policy priorities and what they wish their secret built environment super power would be…



A&DS is tasked with being national champion for architecture and place-making throughout Scotland. So, in my role as a Board member, being part of a small, talented team seeking to fulfil that ambitious remit is a privilege and a big responsibility.

In Scotland we are blessed with many stunning buildings and places. We have local talent exploring innovative ways ensure that new design emulates the best of what we already have. However we also have big challenges facing our built environment.

Many town centres have been in decline, there’s too much poor quality housing, a pressing need for climate change adaptation, for public procurement reform, diminishing public sector budgets, and a continued lack of appreciation of the importance of design.

We must ensure that everybody, including senior politicians and those responsible for procuring buildings, understand the significant added value good design has for our environment and communities. We must ensure that design talent is nurtured and retained in Scotland and that can only happen if design is appreciated, valued and central to how we improve our places; cities, towns, neighbourhoods, buildings and landscapes.


In over ten years on the A&DS Board I’ve been involved in a wide array of interesting and inspiring activities including: discussing national planning frameworks and city regional planning; canvassing opinion on the updated architecture and place policy; advocating the benefits of design to communities, local authorities and national agencies; helping celebrate and showcase the best of Scottish design through supporting exhibitions, judging competitions and awards and working with A&DS’s exceptional team in delivering our Corporate Plans.

Being an A&DS Board member demands having a strategic overview but also offers opportunities to work with A&DS staff and our collaborators to deliver projects that start to face in to the challenges outlined above.


A&DS undertakes an incredibly broad array of work all across the country. Amongst the most impactful activities A&DS have delivered thus far have been in advocating the benefits and helping secure design excellence in new Healthcare and Education projects. Hopefully the lessons learned can be applied across public investment throughout Scotland.

Other highlights have included the delivery of the Stalled Spaces Scotland across the country, the culmination of our first 10 years of A&DS in the DECADE events and the exciting community outreach achieved via the Say Hello to Architecture initiative during the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016.


A&DS’ new corporate strategy places a focus on improving housing and street design. In meeting the significant challenges to deliver thousands of new homes across Scotland we have an opportunity and duty to ensure that they are well designed so they are adaptable for an aging population, energy efficient, affordable and located in the right places to meet the demands of existing and new communities; from city centres to rural landscapes.

It has to be a shared ambition, which A&DS should champion, because if we can get that right then it will have the most significant impact in the wellbeing of future generations.


Ensure that we have a public sector procurement system that values the design professions, enables innovation and provides a ladder of opportunity to new and emerging talent. This would sustain the existing pool of collective design expertise which should be given the chance to thrive to benefit us all.

All public buildings and infrastructure should lead the way and be of an enduring high design quality. We can only elevate the mundane to being elegant with enlightened design thinking.


To ensure that design and design-thinking become pivotal to ensuring Scotland thrives. If we can become a ‘design nation’ that infuses policy, planning, procurement and places with design excellence and intelligence then we can elevate our collective prosperity; socially, culturally, environmentally and economically.

To view the original post, and the other A&DS board blogs, click here:

To view the ‘Value of Design in the Built Environment’ research paper, commissioned by the Scottish Government and delivered by a team including Austin-Smith:Lord, click here:


Youngsters share aspirations for their new community square at the Maelfa Mega Fun Day


Youngsters share aspirations for their new community square at the Maelfa Mega Fun Day

Aspiring local community designers were enthusiastic to share their ideas for a new community square in Maelfa.

Blessed by a favourable change in the weather, we had a great time at the Maelfa Mega Fun Day supporting Cardiff Community HA, Jehu Group and Cardiff Council.  It is brilliant to be so directly involved with the community in which we are working and the response to our Heart of Maelfa design ideas workshop was fantastic.

You can find a selection of the designs below. We hope we can reflect some of these in our own final design for an exciting new public space at the centre of this regeneration project that will provide new affordable housing, local shops and community facilities.

You can also see some action shots from the day – just click here