SPF Dinner – 30 October 2014

Listening to Brian Taylor’s insights into the consequences of a narrow No vote in the referendum. It’s fairly sober stuff. In a minute ex referee Willie Young will warm us up with a few jokes.

SPF Dinner with Grosvenor - 30 October 2014 aWith Grosvenor, at the SPF Dinner in Edinburgh.

London, Pumpkin, Derby – 27 October 2013

Scots on tour in  London stopping for lunch at Grosvenor’s Neo Bankside

Albion - 22 October 2014

Innes’s third birthday: a Halloween theme.

pumpkin - 27 October 2014

In Derby thinking: ‘When you think about Derby, what do you think?”Moreledge Derby - 29 October

Feilden Clegg Bradley, Pugin, Sir Hugh Casson, Smiths of Derby? None of that: Rolls Royce, Bass’s beer, trains, the industrial revolution and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Boiling an Egg – 21 October 2014

Step One: Boil the right amount of water then insert egg for 60 seconds

going out - 20 October 2014Leave to stand for three hundred seconds.

innes - 18 October 2014


egg - 19 September 2014

Andrew Heiton Junior – 16 October 2014

Andrew Heiton Junior  was a good architect at a good time to be an architect. He built churches, houses, schools, hotels, clubs and other public buildings around Perth, helping the city build it’s late nineteenth century legacy.

Advanced Department - 16 October 2014We are converting his Caledonian Road School.  I’m becoming a fan of the palette of stonework details he used across his projects.This is the recessed entrance to the Advanced Department. It’s crumbling a bit, but we’ll fix it up.

derby workshop -13 October 2014I went down to Derby for a lively workshop on the future of the city…  Big Issue Seller - 16 October 2014… and watched this guy for a bit before getting on the train.


Checking out Accra, Ghana – 9 October 2014

I fulfilled an ambition and got myself to Africa, to Accra in Ghana.

Accra 1 - 6 October 2014KLM from Amsterdam was good and handy from Edinburgh. They only took my bags as far as Amsterdam though so I was less keen on them after that. Tip for next time: put the malaria pills in your hand luggage.

Accra 2 - 6 October 2014I knew about Star beer from supporting Ghana in this summer’s world cup. I knew about the $600k flats like this scheme by AHMM too. Security objected to me sketching. I’ve been told ‘no photographs’ before but never ‘no sketches’.  In the bar, they told me the expensive flats are for the diaspora to invest in and rent out to expense account NGO’s. The NGO’s skew the economy, but Accra is a safe base from which to access the rest of west Africa so it’s part of what’s driving growth.

Accra 3 - 6 October 2014

For the number of people, there aren’t that many buildings. Despite the heat, life takes place in the streets.

Accra 8 - 8 October 2014You need a 4×4 to tackle the unmade roads, and to help with the potholes on the better ones. We were driven around by Ebeneezer who made Accra seem a fairly straight forward place to navigate, the opposite of it’s reputation.

Accra 5 - 8 October 2014Ghana has an emerging middle class. It’s largely being housed in concrete boxes with little shade and no insulation. If you pick up a stone, it burns your hand. The people are living in ovens, cooled down by air conditioning.

Accra 6 - 8 October 2014Great streets and a thoughtful scheme at Pokuase, built in the ’90s by African Concrete Products. Given how much construction is going on, and how much the Africans love concrete (it doesn’t succumb to termites), this should be a brilliant business.

Accra 9 - 8 October 2014We visited the plant.

Accra 4 - 7 October 2014Arguably, the site huts are a better design than most of the housing. They have a nice big roof to keep off the heat and the rain. We are by the sea and the small central courtyard catches the sea breezes effectively.  It’s not a match for air conditioning but that doesn’t work all the time anyway, so it’s a mistake to rely on it.

One of the things the government can’t organise is enough power for the whole city, so every second night they switch it off in your part of town. It makes you realise how lucky we are that the Victorians sorted out our infrastructure. Accra has no central sewage system, no public transport and terrible roads. The place is growing but the Ceedi lost 30% of it’s value against the dollar in six months. For sustainable growth you need good infrastructure (since Roman times).

Accra 10 - 9 October 2014Too soon, it was time to come home. I left behind people worried about the health crisis lurking on the other side of the border. I wish them all well, and a good future beyond that.

Waiting – 30 September 2014

It’s nice to go to Barcelona, but the lessons for what we do are all around us. I spent a day closer to home looking at some good and bad places in Edinburgh. A sample illustrated here.

22 Lister Square - 30 September 2014

Foster at Quartermile. Head and shoulders above the other places we are making.

22 PFP in Granton 30 September 2014

Some recessed entrances for the enquiring PfP by Cooper Cromar.


22 PFP in Granton 2 - 30 September 2014Nice ground floor, generally, less successful deck detailing.


22 Festival Square - 30 September 2014Another, neater, deck at Westfield, left.  Edinburgh’s least successful public space: Festival Square. We went and had a look to try to deduce what was actually so wrong.

I’m sitting somewhere near the Scottish border, Edinburgh side. Someone in front has been hit by a train. We’re waiting for the police. After seven years of working across the border I notice this happens when we move into Autumn and it’s darker longer, and then, most notably, as we approach Christmas. For a while, it makes a difference to how I feel about everything. But after less of a while than I’d like it seems like an opportunity to get something done, like this.

HTA in Barcelona – 27 September 2014

Over the next 20 years the global urban population is set to double, from three billion to six billion, so placemaking is important. It’s what we are trying to do so we want to learn from what others are doing and what they’ve done.julie BCN-140926 150 of us went down to Barcelona to see what they are doing there, and what they’ve done in the past. 150 folk can cover a lot of ground, so we did different things and looked at different stuff. I went to see what’s happening at 22@Barcelona, 200 hectares of former industrial land that will form the next neighbourhood of this successful city.BCN tour 1 - 140927

The flea market and the Design Museum


BCN tour 2 - 140927

The Agbar tower, soon to be a hotel. A Chipperfield office building.

BCN tour 3 - 140927

A Catalan style office building. The Media Tic.

BCN tour 4 - 140927

Dominique Perrault’s not so good Melia Hotel. EMBT’s Diagonal Parc is beautiful, but the plants haven’t climbed the climbers so it lacks a bit of shade.

BCN tour 5 - 140927

All in good time I hope.

BCN tour 6 - 140927

Cathedral like solar array.

BCN tour 7 - 140927The three elegantly shaped chimneys of a now disused power station in Besos. Sagrada Familia.

BCN - Sketch Club

Sketch Club Barcelona style, with Julie and Tom Fitzsimmons.

bhotel pool - 140927After all that walking some swimming in the B hotel pool. Overlooking Roger’s Stirk Harbour’s bullring to shopping centre conversion.

martin-140926The night before we’d spent some time talking about Ernest Hemmingway, for some reason. He said “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering. The rest are merely games”. He probably wouldn’t have approved of this change of use but times and countries change; Catalan flags everywhere and a few Saltires. A desire for independence, but I don’t know if it’s widespread, or just prominent.

BCN Attic - 140927

Everyone together in Attic restaurant, on the Ramblas, reflecting on the day and the life of the office.

Pavilion - 140928The next day was rain, good food and a stroll round the classics, including the Barcelona Pavilion.

waiting - 140928The Edinburgh team, in the airport waiting to go home after a cracking weekend.

Castleward – 25 September 2014

Watching progress on site at Castleward, Derby. I like the houses with the trees so close: let’s see if the buyers do. castleward 140925The houses look quite conventional but have layouts you might describe as quirky. (Surely: intelligent response to a complex problem?) It’s housing at quite high densities, but it’s houses, not flats. The idea is to give families the chance to live in the city centre.

Brunswick 140924You could have the celebrated (and fairly quirky) Brunswick pub on your doorstep too.

newcastle railway station

I stopped off briefly in Newcastle on the way home. I like the new glass pavilions in the station in the context of John Dobson’s beautiful Victorian shed.

Referendum Day – 18 September 2014

At the parliament, on the day of the referendum. A dramatic setting: the Crags, the press pavilions, the beautiful parliament building.

referendum 18 September 2014A crowd is gathering but it’s an odd, apprehensive, atmosphere. The quiet is occasionally punctured by cars passing playing music full volume: always the Proclaimers. It’s a privilege to be here, but I don’t like how inward looking this all is so I’m off home to find out what our future might be.

Worrying about the Referendum – 16 September 2014

Monday night: a piper in Trafalgar Square, London, at a rally calling for Scotland to remain in the Union. piper in trafalgar 15 September 2014

In the last two days I passed through Newcastle, Leeds, London and Derby to meet clients and discuss some of the projects we are delivering in England.

FCB 11 September The week before I was in Bristol and Bath. About half of our 18 Edinburgh based staff work on projects for sites in England. The union gives us straightforward access to a market ten times the size of our own. Nobody questions where we started the day, they see it all as one country.

Roberto - 12 September 2014

Here’s Roberto at his leaving do. He’s off home to Spain. As it’s in the EU we could, theoretically work there but we don’t speak the language and you can’t get home in time for your tea. The UK’s the market, not the EU.train 15 September 2014 I’m not sure the ‘levers’ we can pull to transform Scotland is the problem. I think it’s the ideas and leadership around what the changes should be. Independence gives us more levers, but not necessarily better ideas.FFI 12 September 2014

Fraser, Isla and Innes talking about the referendum. I was in England for two days and I neither bought a house nor even opened a bank account so I’m worried, but not that worried.