Keppie Design

Plans for Edinburgh’s tallest building revised over risk to views

Original plans for the building by Keppie Design

Original plans for the building by Keppie Design

Plans for a hotel which what would have become the tallest building in Edinburgh have been scaled back due to concerns over the city’s skyline.

Under proposals first unveiled 12 months ago, the 400-room hotel situated to the north east of the existing shopping mall at the city’s Waterfront, would have been over 310ft high, dwarfing the church spires of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Barclay Church and The Hub.

Now, according to The Herald, the revised 230-room hotel will not sit much higher than the nine-storey Ocean Point office block next door.

Applicants Ocean Terminal said it reduced the height of the original scheme to 180ft “due to concerns over the adverse impact the proposal would have on key aspects of the city’s skyline from a number of important viewpoints”.

It is understood there were fears over the impact on key views from Edinburgh Castle and Calton Hill.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) also warned the structure could upset birds breeding nearby and called for a study to assess any potential shadows which could be cast over the tern colony during the breeding season.

In July, Iain Rennick, Forth unit manager at SNH, said: “The application site is approximately 650ft to 820ft from the Imperial Dock Lock Leith Special Protection Area (SPA), classified for its breeding tern colony, and around 600 metres from the Firth of Forth SPA, classified largely for its wintering wildfowl.

“The proposal could affect internationally important natural heritage interests and we therefore object to this proposal until further information is obtained from the applicant.”

However, following the severe curtailing of the building’s height, Carolyn Clark, Forth operations at Scottish Natural Heritage, wrote back with an update.

She said: “Our previous response was based on a proposed hotel of up to 330ft, located to the north east of Ocean Terminal.

“The reduced height of the proposal to 180ft means that a new shadow case study is no longer required and therefore we withdraw our holding objection.”

Planners have said the smaller building meets city building guidelines, and have recommended that it be granted permission to go ahead.

A report to go before city planners states: “The sightlines which cross the Port of Leith were set out to protect the open backdrop of long views of the Castle Hill, Calton Hill, Salisbury Crags and St Mary’s Cathedral spires. In addition, there is a key view of Inchkeith Island from the Castle ramparts to be safeguarded.”

However, they have advised developers to keep the birds in mind.

The report stated: “The selection of materials for building finishes, glazing and lighting overlooking sensitive areas for coastal birds should be developed in consultation with SNH, in order to ensure no detrimental impact on the special protected area.”

Rooftop public park planned for over M8

M8 roof parkThe architects behind proposals to create a public park over the M8 in Glasgow have unveiled the first image of the potential project.

Aiming to make the city centre more attractive for walkers, Glasgow City Council is about to prepare a feasibility study into the scheme, which would follow work to widen pavements in nearby Sauchiehall Street.

Under the plans by architects Keppie Design, a roof park would be built over the M8 at Charing Cross and is expected to cover the deep M8 cutting south from Tay House, which is built across the motorway on an unfinished bridge south of Sauchiehall Street.

The overall aim of the framework is to link Glasgow city centre with the west end and remove the barrier created by the M8.

The proposals are part of the Sauchiehall Garnethill Regeneration Framework which include two other projects to improve the city centre.

Work is now underway for the three key projects to gauge their feasibility and the image has been unveiled for what the new Charing Cross rooftop park could potentially look like.

The ambitious plans for the public space above the M8, however, are yet to be approved and the design stage has not yet begun.

The procurement process is expected to start in late spring and the actual investigations and modelling is expected to begin autumn.

That work will include traffic modelling to take into account heavily congested roads around the area and prioritise pedestrians.

A final decision will then be made at committee in or around summer 2018.

Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Frank McAveety, said: “This is a truly inspiring project, but also one that is complex as it is ambitious.

“We must get the groundwork right and take time to create something that benefits the city while delivering a new public space that attracts and connects people and places.

“Coupled with the other projects coming forward as part of the Sauchiehall and Garnethill regeneration project will ensure that we make this a prominent place in the city’s life.”

Keppie design director, David Ross, said: “Our vision is of a vibrant mix of people-focused inner city connections and public spaces where transport infrastructure isn’t developed at the cost of its urban realm.

“That took us to the Mitchell Library, and the disconnect of the city grid created by the wound of the M8.

“As part of the bigger vision, we had some ideas about how this wound could be healed, but without losing the necessary accessibility the city needs in order to function.”

Academy of sport and wellbeing completed at Perth College UHI

Dixons Contractors has completed the multi-million pound Academy of Sport and Wellbeing at Perth College UHI in time for the 2016/2017 academic year.

The Northern Ireland-headquartered firm met an aggressive timeline and completed the Perth College UHI design and build project in just over one year. Students, staff and the wider community have begun enjoying the purpose-built academy, which promotes a culture of health and wellbeing and hugely impacts the local area.

The £7 million structure not only includes a multi-purpose sports hall with bleacher seating for 400 spectators, spacious gyms, dance and fitness studios but also facilities for hairdressing and beauty therapy students and a state-of-the-art climbing centre, the only one of its kind in the Perth and Kinross region.

With a 40 year heritage and growing expertise, Dixons Contractors’ delivery of this new development reiterates the company’s growing reputation in designing and constructing first-class facilities and projects across Great Britain and Scotland.

With more design, construction and refurbishment projects across the UK and Ireland year-on-year, Dixons Constructions has seen turnover increase significantly.

Managing director Declan McKendry said: “The Perth College UHI project was a tremendous development to be part of, we worked diligently to deliver a modern facility designed to be fully inclusive and accessible. It provides a springboard of success for students and the local community, and we are extremely proud to be part of this.”

Declan McKendry from Dixons (left) & David Ross from Keppie Design

Declan McKendry from Dixons (left) & David Ross from Keppie Design

Jackie MacKenzie, vice principal finance and estates, Perth College UHI, said: “We have a fantastic new facility that was delivered on time and within budget. Dixons Contractors demonstrated a real commitment to working in partnership with the college, listened to us and were proactive in offering suggestions and professional advice. The team delivered everything they promised and more. It has hugely contributed to the Perth area, enabling an expansion in our curriculum and providing educational facilities for many, from school groups to Masters and PhD students.”

The Perth College UHI project was completed in partnership with Dixons Contractors, Scotland-based design and architecture firm, Keppie Design and sports hall construction specialists, Ball Hall.

GDL starts work on preparations for new AECC

Aberdeen Conference Centre - GDLGround Developments Ltd (GDL) has started a 10-month project of enabling and re-profiling works for the new £333 million Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) as a key subcontractor for Robertson Construction.

A significant fleet of modern earthmoving plant machinery has been deployed for the multi-million project that sees GDL using its expertise to deliver a comprehensive programme of earthworks to re–profile the site to allow the construction of this new world-class facility. Soil stabilisation techniques will be used to maximise the re-use of site-won material.

When completed the new 105,000m2 AECC will provide a range of adaptable spaces. It will include a 12,500 capacity multi-purpose performance area offering flexibility to host a large range of exhibitions, entertainment and sporting events, extensive covered exhibition halls and an energy centre. Plans also include a 200-guestroom 4-star hotel which will connect to the new AECC, as well as 2,500 parking spaces. Overall it will have three times the exhibition space that the current centre offers.

Plans for the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre

Keppie Design’s plans for the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre

The new AECC will be located on the 130-acre former Rowett Research Institute site in Bucksburn, close to Aberdeen International Airport, the new Western Peripheral Route and Dyce railway station. It is anticipated to be finished in the first part of 2019.

GDL has invested in a 53-tonne excavator to add to the significant fleet of plant machinery that has been deployed to deliver this project.

Aberdeen Conference Centre - GDL 2Kevin Mackenzie, managing director for Ground Developments Ltd, added: “We’re delighted to have this opportunity to showcase our specialist knowledge and capability to provide a significant programme of enabling works which will include earthworks, groundworks and soil stabilisation on the new AECC project. We’re working closely with the main contractor – Robertson Construction – to handover the site in phased parcels to allow other contractors to begin their parts of the project.

“We will also re-profile the development site to the required design levels ahead of the construction work beginning, and we anticipate that our team will be on-site until early next summer.”

Anchor development approved for Ayr new Riverside Block

Ayr Riverside BlockProposals to kick-start the regeneration of an historic part of Ayr town centre are now moving forward after plans were approved to develop new office accommodation at the Riverside Block.

Ayr Renaissance recently submitted a masterplan for a mixed development between High Street and the River Ayr which includes provision for quality office accommodation and housing, as well as for niche retail units, cafes, restaurants and public spaces. The masterplan sets out a commitment to top quality design to an overall scale that respects the surrounding conservation area.

South Ayrshire Council is now moving ahead with the design stage for a new modern office development that will eventually house around 350 workers. hub South West Scotland will oversee the development work in partnership with the council and Keppie Architects, appointed to plan and design the offices.

The final design will respond to the requirements of the masterplan and incorporate active space which can be used outside of normal office hours. The new building will replace a number of offices in Ayr which are showing their age and are uneconomic to run. These offices will be sold or demolished on completion of the new office project.

Councillor Robin Reid, South Ayrshire Council’s portfolio holder for resources and performance, said it was an exciting time for the development: “This transformational project has now reached a significant milestone, something which has only been made possible thanks to the hard work of council officers and Ayr Renaissance.

“The tenders are also out for the contract to demolish the existing buildings on the site, meaning the momentum around the development is quickly gathering pace.

“I’m pleased to say that the public will soon see tangible progress on the ground, as the project takes shape in the months ahead.”

The completed Stage 2 design, which will include a fully developed and costed scheme, is due to be considered by South Ayrshire Council in March 2017.

The Rationalisation of Office Accommodation in Ayr report can be found here.

£60m Orkney hospital clears final planning hurdle

NHS Orkney health facility entrance viewRobertson Capital Projects is set to start work on Orkney’s new £60 million hospital in “the very near future” after councillors granted the facility planning permission this week.

Orkney Islands Council’s planning committee approved the project with the additional recommendation that the integrity of the 20m buffer zone be protected by moving the pedestrian path to follow the line of the emergency road and that appropriate lighting by installed there.

Cathie Cowan, NHS Orkney chief executive, said: “The Board is delighted that Robertson has achieved this important milestone, which, with the approval of the Board’s Full Business Case by Scottish Government last month, allows us to finalise the contract in the coming weeks.  We look forward to seeing a start on site in the very near future.”

The hospital has previously won the backing of the Scottish Government which approved the health board’s business case last month.

Robertson Capital Projects was awarded a contract for the delivery of the new build in June this year and will manage the design, construction and maintenance of the facility.

Keppie Design has been appointed as architects, while AECOM and TUV SUD make up the rest of the successful team.

Neil McCormick, managing director, Robertson Capital Projects, added: “We are delighted that the planning application was presented with recommendation for approval at today’s meeting. Our team has worked extensively with OIC planning officials since our appointment as Preferred Bidder, and I believe today’s formal approval reflects those positive engagement efforts.

“Working in close collaboration with NHS Orkney we have continued to foster positive relationships with local stakeholders as part of our commitment to community benefits, and we look forward to continuing this close working relationship with all parties as we deliver a building of the highest design and quality standards for the NHS and Orcadian community.”

NHS Orkney is now working to finalise the legal and commercial agreements as soon as possible to reach financial close.

Winners revealed at Glasgow Institute of Architects design awards 2016

Ann Nisbet Studio's 'Newhouse of Auchengree' - photograph by Susan Castillo

Ann Nisbet Studio’s ‘Newhouse of Auchengree’ – photograph by Susan Castillo

A zinc clad house in rural North Ayrshire has been selected as the winner of this year’s Supreme Award by the Glasgow Institute of Architects.

A GIA Design Awards panel chaired by Michal Cohen, of Walters and Cohen Architects, described ‘Newhouse of Auchengree’ by Ann Nisbet Studio as “a house with a strong sense of place and location, which made the architectural experience ever more complex. Undoubtedly a great place to live & a fantastic piece of architecture.”

Ann Nisbet (centre) receiving her award

Ann Nisbet (centre) receiving her award

The Education category featured three award winning buildings, the Westwater Building and Saunders Centre by Page\Park and James Gillespies High School by jmarchitects; praised as “a well organised and well scaled series of intricate buildings that form a new campus each with clear programmed identity”.

This year’s Sustainability award, sponsored by Brown and Wallace, was awarded to HLM Architects for ‘Tigh na Croit’, a passive house standard highland home. Page\Park’s Westwater Building was also celebrated for its use of timber, and awarded the ‘Wood for Good’ prize.

Dakota Deluxe by 3Dreid

Dakota Deluxe by 3DReid

The Dakota Deluxe, a reconfiguration of a 1960s office building on Pitt Street by 3DReid was awarded in the Commercial category.

Awards were also given to Glasgow Women’s Library, by Collective Architecture and Ballymena Heath and Care Centre, a collaboration between Glasgow based Keppie Design and Hoskins Architects.

Inside Collective Architecture's Glasgow Women's Library

Inside Collective Architecture’s Glasgow Women’s Library – photograph by Keith Hunter

Mhor Micro, a duo of pavilions in Perthshire forming part of an annual creative laboratory, was celebrated in the Small Works category for providing “a unique opportunity for young architects to prototype and create beautiful small scale installations in an inspiring location”.

This year also saw the return of the Small Practice Portfolio, awarded to Ayr based ARPL. Dress for the Weather and Roots Architecture were both awarded commendations in the category.

Award winenrs ARPL

Small Practice Portfolio award winners ARPL

The awards were presented by Michal Cohen and GIA President Tim Gray at the annual members dinner, sponsored by IKO Polymeric at Oran Mor on the 4th November 2016.

The GIA Design Awards 2016 were kindly sponsored by Tobermore and are open to all practices within the Glasgow Chapter boundary. Practices outside of Glasgow are also invited to submit projects completed within the chapter boundary in the last year.

GIA President Tim Gray

GIA President Tim Gray

Full list of awards / commendations:


  • Saltcoats Town Hall Restoration – McLean Architects – Commendation
  • Paisley Community Safety Hub – Collective Architecture – Commendation

Small Works

  • Mhor Micro – Line Architecture – Award
  • Graphical House – INCH Architecture – Commendation
  • Brackenhill Cottage, The Lodge – jmarchitects – shortlisted


  • Newhouse of Auchengree – Ann Nisbet Studio – Award and Supreme Award
  • Fernan Gardens – Anderson Bell and Christie – Commendation
  • Tigh na Croit – HLM Architects – Sustainability Award
  • Sighthill Regeneration – Collective Architecture – Shortlisted
  • Parkview – Page\Park – Shortlisted


  • Dakota Deluxe – 3D Reid – Award
  • Finnieston Sub-station – NORR – Commendation
  • Premier Inn – Holmes Miller – Commendation
  • Glasgow Collective Studios – Dress for the Weather – Shortlisted


  • The Westwater Building – Dollar Academy – Page\Park Architects – Award and Wood for Good
  • The Saunders Centre – The Glasgow Academy – Page\Park Architects – Award
  • James Gillespie’s High School – jmarchitects – Award
  • Holmes Miller – Harris Academy – Shortlisted

Leisure / Arts

  • Glasgow Women’s Library – Collective Architecture – award
  • Helensburgh Outdoor Museum – Austin-Smith Lord LLP – commendation
  • Theatre Royal Dumfries – ARPL – Shortlisted


  • Ballymena Health and Care Centre – Keppie Design Ltd and Hoskins Architects – Award
  • Lennoxtown Community Hub – Anderston Bell and Christie – Commendation

Small Practice Portfolio Award

  • APRL – Winner
  • Dress for the Weather – Commendation
  • Roots Architecture Ltd – Commendation

Business case approved for £60m NHS Orkney facility

NHS Orkney health facility entrance viewThe full business case for a £60million new hospital for Orkney has been approved by the Scottish Government.

The project is the biggest in NHS Orkney’s history and will replace Kirkwall’s Balfour Hospital as well as integrating other health care facilities.

The new building, which will be established in the outksirts of Kirkwall, will include the relocated Skerryvore and Heilendi GP practices, as well as King Street dental services.

Cathie Cowan, chief executive of NHS Orkney, said “This is a significant day for NHS Orkney. The investment by the Scottish Government further enables us to transform the care and services that we deliver.

“This new facility is a key part of our ambitious programme to transform care and services, which to date has seen investment in primary and community care, the establishment of a small high dependency unit, a consultant led staffing model and a CT scanner to support service repatriation.”

Cathie added “My staff are simply amazing, their camaraderie and can do attitude is hugely appreciated.”

The health board have previously awarded a contract for the delivery of the new build to Robertson Capital Projects, who will manage the design, construction and maintenance of the facility.

Keppie Design has been appointed as architects, while AECOM and TUV SUD make up the rest of the successful team.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “I am delighted that the full business case for the new Hospital and Healthcare facility has been approved. This more than £60m project will provide a significant boost to the local economy during the construction phase, and once complete the hospital and healthcare facility will transform the way services are provided on the islands.

“These purpose-built, state-of-the-art facilities will enable more services to be provided at the hospital, ensuring some of our most remote communities don’t have to travel as far for routine care.”

Work begins on new Dumbarton council offices

Dumbarton council office sodcuttingLend Lease has officially started work on West Dunbartonshire Council’s new offices in Dumbarton town centre.

The council plans to relocate 500 staff currently based at Garshake to the offices at the site of the former Dumbarton Academy building in Church Street.

Delivered on behalf of the council by hub West Scotland, the £15.4 million project is set to be completed in late 2017 and will provide a catalyst for the regeneration of the town. It will also generate annual savings over the lifetime of the building compared to maintaining the current Garshake offices.

The facility will include a public area with multi-use civic space, training and meeting rooms with a substantial new building to the rear containing office space.

The design by Keppie will retain the A-listed facade of the historic building and construct new offices at the rear. The council secured a £500,000 grant to help pay for the restoration and discussions are ongoing with Historic Environment Scotland over this element of the project.

West Dunbartonshire Council office1Works on the William Leiper-designed façade should commence early in 2017 and will include re-roofing, conservation and repair of the original stonework, and refurbishment of the existing main entrance timber doors.

The annex behind the façade was demolished last year to make way for the development and enabling works have been progressing to prepare the site for the new building and work is also underway on the car park.

Councillor Patrick McGlinchey, convener of infrastructure and regeneration, cut the first sod on site together with vice-convener Councillor David McBride and pupils from Dumbarton Academy in recognition of the site’s history.

Councillor McGlinchey said: “This project is hugely significant for the council and for the town of Dumbarton. It will provide the council with much-need modern, fit-for-purpose office space while retaining and restoring a historic building for future generations to enjoy. In addition, the development will transform this area of the town and link with the planned activity at Dumbarton Waterfront. I’m looking forward to seeing the building taking shape over the coming months and to the benefits it will bring to Dumbarton.”

Councillor David McBride, vice-convener of infrastructure and regeneration, added: “We have a clear vision to regenerate our town centres and this project is a key element of our plans for Dumbarton. We’re bringing 500 staff into the town centre, increasing footfall and kick-starting economic activity. This landmark building greets visitors to our town centre and its restoration will only help to raise perceptions and send a clear message that we are open for business.”

Robertson starts work on Aberdeen’s £333m conference centre

07 smallHenry Boot has reached an unconditional agreement with Aberdeen City Council for its new exhibition and conference centre, allowing Robertson Group to start work on the £333 million project.

The Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre (AECC) development, which will be funded by the council, received detailed planning permission at the end of last year.

Located on the 130 acre former Rowett Research Institute site adjacent to Aberdeen International Airport, the scheme will include a 12,500 capacity performance venue, extensive covered exhibition halls, a four-star 200 bed hotel to be operated under the Hilton Hotels brand together with an energy centre and 2,500 parking spaces.

This initial phase of the scheme will provide more than 800,000 sq ft of space and includes a development agreement for another 150 bed hotel, to be operated under the Aloft brand, which has also been exchanged, conditional upon the grant of detailed planning permission, expected later this year.

Main contractor Robertson Group has commenced work on site and development completion is expected in the first half of 2019. The Robertson contract will entail site preparation works, including ground and infrastructure works, as well as building the new arena and conference centre and one of the three on-site hotels.

The work is expected to create 600 new jobs, including a number of new apprenticeships.

Derek Shewan, chief operating officer for Robertson Group (left) and Nick Harris, director at Henry Boot Developments

Derek Shewan, chief operating officer for Robertson Group (left) and Nick Harris, director at Henry Boot Developments

Henry Boot Developments, the property development arm of the Group, has also secured planning permission for a further 400,000 sq ft of business park space on land adjoining the exhibition and conference centre, which will be serviced as part of the above scheme, and developed jointly with Aberdeen City Council.

Jamie Boot, chairman of Henry Boot PLC, said: “We are delighted to have been selected by the Aberdeen City Council to develop the city’s new exhibition and conference centre, four-star hotel and energy centre. This is a landmark agreement for Henry Boot Developments with development expected to be completed in 2019.

“It is very pleasing to see the larger commercial development schemes we have been preparing for some time now finally on site. We remain mindful of the challenges facing our industry after the result of the EU Referendum, taking into consideration this current market backdrop, we maintain a cautious outlook and as such the Board’s expectations remain unchanged.”

Nick Harris of Henry Boot Developments said: “Following the sod cutting last month, I am very pleased that we are now in a position to appoint Robertson Group as the contractor to deliver this vital project and I am looking forward to working with them over the next three years. We understand how important the new world-class Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre is to the economy in Aberdeen and the North East and are pleased to be appointing Robertson Group which has close historical and current links to the area.”

Bill Robertson, executive chairman of Robertson Group, added: “Robertson is delighted to have been selected as the main contractor on what will be an iconic venue for millions of visitors from all over the world. We have significant experience in delivering complex, high value, innovative, major projects across the country.

“Robertson has had a base in Aberdeen for over 25 years so we understand the local area. We will focus, where possible, on local employment, the local supply chain and working in partnership with the communities in the local area.”

Last year construction consultancy Turner & Townsend was appointed to project manage the first phase of construction and be responsible for the overall programme management of the masterplan while Keppie Design was appointed as architect.