Leith Fort in the running for three industry awards

The development of 94 affordable, colony-style homes contains 62 new homes for mid market rent by Port of Leith Housing Association’s subsidiary Persevere Developments and 32 homes for social rent by the City of Edinburgh Council.

An ambitious 94 affordable homes project, which is creating a new community at Edinburgh’s Leith Fort, has been shortlisted for a trio of awards.

The £11.5 million housing development which is co-owned by Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA) and the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) is in the running for the forthcoming RICS, RIAS and Homes for Scotland awards which will take place later this year.

The homes are built on the former 18th century Leith Fort site and welcomed residents last year.

Sixty two of the colony style properties are owned by PoLHA for mid-market rent, with 32 units owned by the CEC for social rent.

Keith Anderson, chief executive of Port of Leith Housing Association, said: “We’re thrilled to have helped to restore this area to its former glory and to have created a neighbourhood where people want to live and to set down their roots.

“We are very proud of this successful modern interpretation of the Edinburgh colonies which has brought much needed high quality, affordable housing for families in Leith and North Edinburgh.

We’re delighted it has been shortlisted for three industry awards, providing great recognition for us and our partners.”

The new properties have been modelled on the Edinburgh colonies concept and are a mix of one, two, three and four-bedroom homes.

A feature of this development is that all homes have access to private south west facing gardens.

The main contractor was CCG (Scotland) Ltd and the development was funded by PoLHA, CEC and the Scottish Government.

Cllr Kate Campbell, housing and economy convener, said: “The Council and Port of Leith set out to deliver modern, affordable homes on the historic Leith Fort site but the development has created so much more than housing.  It has community spirit right at its heart and it is great to see so many award nominations coming in.

“Our aim is to deliver 20,000 affordable and low cost homes in the next decade bringing prosperity to every person in every neighbourhood.”

Nicola McLachlan, project architect, Collective Architecture, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Port of Leith Housing Association, The City of Edinburgh Council and the local residents within Leith. The project heralds an exciting time in Leith’s rich history and plays an important role in stitching the Fort back into the community – both physically and socially – and encourages positive interaction between neighbours.

“It is wonderful to see that the residents are already making their own mark within the community and flourishing within their new homes.

“I am delighted to see how well the restrained palette of materials and careful detailing sits calmly within its context.  Everyone involved with the project has worked collaboratively with the client group to ensure these homes stand the test of time; their skills and experience shine through within the project.”

Architects welcome ‘significant regime changes’ at RIAS

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) is set to implement “significant regime measures” after a series of reforms were agreed by the Incorporation’s council.

Among its changes, the next president of the architecture body will be elected by all the RIAS members and no longer be appointed directly by its council.

Other proposals include the creation of an interim audit and finance committee and a governance committee to review structural failures in the running of the Incorporation and to consider more significant reforms.

A group of around 150 Scottish architects called A New Chapter led calls for reform and launched an unprecedented attack on the RIAS last year, raising concerns at what they said was “a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability”.

A five-point plan for “a new progressive future” for the RIAS was issued by A New Chapter in January.

The regime changes proposed by the group and put in place by the RIAS council include:

  • New interim governance committee formed to review structural failures in the running of the Incorporation and consider significant reform.
  • Interim audit & finance committee formed.
  • Council approved RIAS taking the next steps towards reinstating election of the president, subject to membership approval. Any future RIAS president is to be elected by the whole membership, and no longer appointed directly by council.
  • A governance paper presented to council highlighted a number of irregularities concerning the way in which council, and some smaller working groups, had been operating i.e. without the authority of the membership.
  • President Stewart Henderson to stand aside to allow a presidential election in Summer 2018, subject to membership approval.
  • Eight non-elected members of council found to be no longer eligible to sit on council.
  • A Special General Meeting to be called to allow wider members the opportunity to approve interim bye-laws.
  • Proposed trustee annual report and next year’s budget requires further work before being re-presented to council for approval.
  • Council recognised the need for a frank and honest review of historic decisions and associated failings which should be addressed via an independent review.
  • AGM may be delayed and, in a departure from tradition, be held separately from the RIAS convention.

The announcement follows a tough period for the RIAS which saw Neil Baxter leave his position as secretary and treasurer just days after A New Chapter demanded a major shake-up of the organisation.

Then, in December, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) began a formal investigation into the 101-year-old body after being alerted to serious concerns about the way the organisation is governed.

Police Scotland confirmed it is making its own enquiries into allegations of financial irregularities at the organisation later in the month.

A spokesperson for A New Chapter said the group is “greatly encouraged” by the moves by RIAS to implement significant reform measures which “are in line with the changes aNC has been pressing for”.

“We are supportive of the changes proposed and agreed at this week’s council meeting and welcome the Institution’s willingness to engage and work together for the benefit of the wider membership,” the spokesperson said. “aNC considers the proposed changes and decisions made at Wednesday’s council meeting to be encouraging. They are in the spirit of greater openness, membership participation, inclusivity and a renewed spirit of optimism.”

25 of Scotland’s best new buildings named on RIAS shortlist

Ripple Retreat, Callander – Kettle Collective for Its Good 2 Give (c) Shannon Toft

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has announced a 25 strong shortlist for its 2018 awards.

The judging panel for this year, which whittled down the shortlist from 76 entries, includes RIAS President, Stewart Henderson, Joanna van Heyningen OBE RIBA, van Heyningen and Haward Architects (representing the Royal Institute of British Architects), Stuart McKill, senior executive and managing director, Saint-Gobain (Emerging Architect Award representative), Jon Stevenson, director of Wood for Good (Timber Award representative) and Rachel Tennant Hon FRIAS, Landscape Institute Scotland.

Ian Gilzean FRIAS, chief architect at the Scottish Government (Client of the Year Award representative) and Steven Robb, deputy head of casework, Heritage Directorate at Historic Environment Scotland (Conservation and Climate Change Award representative) were also on the shortlisting panel.

RIAS President Stewart Henderson said: “When shortlisting this year’s entries for awards the panel were struck by the continuing high standard of submissions. The quality of architecture being produced the length and breadth of the country is hugely impressive. Practices, large and small, continue to demonstrate the strength and purpose of the profession in Scotland.”

The shortlist for Scotland comprises the following buildings (shown alphabetically):

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Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries, designed by Richard Murphy Architects for Fife Council, won the 2017 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award. Having already won multiple RIAS Awards, the Library will be considered for a RIBA National Award 2018.

New Chapter architects unveil five-point plan to reform RIAS

A group of Scottish architects have launched their five-point plan for the reform of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

Presented today by A New Chapter, an independent association of around 150 Scottish architects formed to galvanise support for “a new progressive future” for the RIAS, Reform and Action aims to transform the membership body, support architects and champion architecture across Scotland.

Last year the group launched an unprecedented attack on the RIAS, raising concerns at what they said was “a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability in Scottish architecture’s professional body”.

The five-point plan to reform the RIAS includes:

Unity and Support

  • To organise, unite and support architects in their practice for the benefit of society.
  • To encourage cooperation and collegiate working between all parties working within the built environment in Scotland.
  • To advocate for the important role that architecture plays within civic life and the economy and embed this within the way design services are procured and delivered.

Collaboration and Transparency

  • To work collaboratively to foster open-ness and transparency.
  • To promote the practice of architecture with a full and active commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity.
  • To broaden the membership through the sharing and exchange of information and ideas.

Excellence and Learning

  • To achieve and uphold the highest standards in attainment in architecture and discussion relating to the built environment.
  • To lead the development and implementation of unique, quality educational and developmental projects related to the physical environment.
  • To place ecology, health and well-being at the centre of design and development of the built environment.

Federalism and Internationalism

  • To promote and represent architects at both local and international level.
  • To operate a federal organisation of local chapters.
  • To foster links with international partners with a distinctive Scottish agenda.

Governance and Best Practice

  • To represent members, their finances and their interests in an open, transparent and accountable way.
  • To operate, manage and lead in a clear and democratic manner.
  • To support members in the challenges and opportunities within an ever-changing world.

Neil Baxter left his position as secretary and treasurer of the RIAS just days after A New Chapter demanded a major shake-up of the organisation.

Then, in December, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) began a formal investigation into the 101-year-old body after being alerted to serious concerns about the way the organisation is governed.

Police Scotland confirmed it is making its own enquiries into allegations of financial irregularities at the organisation later in the month.

Police begin early enquiries into RIAS finances

Police Scotland has confirmed it is making enquiries into allegations of financial irregularities at the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

The announcement follows a tumultuous period for the RIAS during which it has been accused of being “secretive and autocratic” from many of its members, faced the resignation of its long-standing secretary and become subject to an investigation by the charity watchdog.

Now a police spokeswoman has said it too is investigating the architecture body following a complaint.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “In October 2017, Police Scotland received a report of possible financial irregularities at a professional institute.

“Enquiries are at an early stage and officers continue to establish if any criminality has taken place.”

Last month more than 150 Scottish architects under the banner ‘A New Chapter’ signed an open letter calling for a major shake-up of the RIAS, claiming it was poorly run, secretive and lacking proper financial accountability.

The letter said the group of architects is “concerned at what we see as a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability in Scottish architecture’s professional body”.

“We want an organisation to better champion the profession and provide more meaningful support in the many crises which have afflicted us for too long,” it added.

The signatories said they deplored the “general, self-satisfied torpor and bunkered, closed-up-ness that afflicts the RIAS, and demand that a culture of openness and inclusivity is now embraced”.

In particular, the group said it would like to know more about the financial records of the RIAS, which it says has become “increasingly secretive and autocratic”.

Just days later, Neil Baxter resigned as secretary and treasurer of the organisation after ten years in the position.

Then, at the beginning of this month, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) began its own formal investigation into the 101-year-old body after being alerted to serious concerns about the way the organisation is governed.

Several issues are believed to warrant “further inquiry” by the OSCR probe which will take into account the trustees’ oversight and the charity’s finances.

While yet to provide a response to the police investigation, the RIAS confirmed it had been contacted by OSCR and has pledged to co-operate with the regulator.

In a newsletter to members last week, the RIAS said it “acknowledges that a system of decision making has developed that is not supported by a robust policy framework. The findings of the review has identified a lack of structured governance and accountability”.

It said: “Very recently, the OSCR wrote to RIAS with a series of questions. All of those questions can and will be answered. The RIAS president and council will work fully and openly with OSCR to ensure full compliance with their requests and the obligations of RIAS as a charitable body.”

RIAS is to advertise for a new chief executive, and has appointed Karen Stevenson, the current director of policy and development, in an acting role.

The RIAS is also in the process of forumulating a new strategy, to cover the next five years.

The body’s president, Stewart Henderson, has been re-elected to stand for another year.

VELUX reveals new roof window design award competition with RIAS

A new design award competition has been launched by roof window manufacturer VELUX in collaboration with the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

Set to consider the innovative vision of designers in Scotland, the VELUX Roof Window Award is an exciting competition that wishes to seek out and reward inventive and modern designs that use any VELUX roof window products.

The competition will be divided into two categories: built and unbuilt. The built category seeks to celebrate the design, aesthetics and detailing of any completed project that includes a VELUX roof window, whilst the unbuilt category will consider any project that is in the design stage or is under construction. The unbuilt category has the objective of recognising progressive designs of the future that will innovate and drive the industry forward.

Winning designs will receive £1,500 in prize money and a VELUX curved glass rooflight to use in their next project.

Coinciding with the launch of the world’s first curved glass rooflight, VELUX and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland are incredibly proud to use the VELUX Roof Window Award as a platform to celebrate the work done by architects, designers and specifiers within the construction community.

Jenni Shanks of RIAS Consultancy said: “The VELUX Roof Window Award is a great opportunity for designers to be recognised for their innovative work. It also provides a platform for designers to put their work in the public domain and in turn raise their profile. The RIAS commends VELUX for wanting to encourage and recognise innovative ideas in the use of their products.”

For more information on the VELUX Roof Window Award and the opportunity to enter, click here.

RIAS finances and governance investigated by charity watchdog

RIAS President Stewart Henderson

RIAS President Stewart Henderson

The charity regulator has launched an investigation into the finances and governance of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), according to reports.

The Herald has reported that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is examining the architecture body after being alerted to serious concerns about the way the organisation is governed.

The investigation comes after 150 Scottish architects signed an open letter calling for a major shake-up of the RIAS, accusing it of being financially inept and a “secretive and autocratic” organisation.

Neil Baxter resigned as secretary and treasurer of the organisation just days later after ten years in the position.

Several issues are believed to warrant “further inquiry” by the OSCR investigation which will take into account the trustees’ oversight and the charity’s finances.

A spokesman for the regulator said that it does not comment on individual cases.

“In line with our inquiry policy, we cannot confirm or deny whether this charity is subject to an active investigation,” he told The Herald.

The open letter, signed by a group of architects calling itself A New Chapter, urged the RIAS, which it says has become “increasingly secretive and autocratic”, to release more details about its financial records.

After the publication of the letter, Stewart Henderson, president of the RIAS, acknowledged internal investigations had been carried out including “probity reviews, salary benchmarking and a review of governance policies”.

He said there had been “legal reasons” to explain why the information had not been shared more widely.

One point of contention, to be probed by OSCR, is believed to be the contents of the report and the ability of RIAS council members to access its findings.

The OSCR spokesman would not comment further but speaking generally about the watchdog’s remit, he told The Herald: “In making a decision, OSCR weighs up all the information we have obtained during our inquiry, and consider any ongoing risk to the charity including its assets and beneficiaries.

“We consider whether any actions the charity trustees took may have been misguided or deliberate, any corrective action already taken, and the intentions of the charity’s trustees going forward.

“We will decide whether we need to take any action in terms of using out formal powers, or whether it is more appropriate for us to provide support to the charity’s trustees in the form of recommendations for improvement which we may follow up.”

Blog: Gordon Gibb responds to the resignation of Neil Baxter


Following the resignation of Neil Baxter from the position as secretary and treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), fellow architect Gordon Gibb tells Scottish Construction Now that Baxter deserves recognition as a champion of Scottish architecture over his ten-year tenure.

The concerted efforts of a small group supported by up to sixty members of the RIAS, questioning governance, direction and voice of the organisation, have led directly to the resignation of its long serving secretary, Neil Baxter.  I think that it is a shame that Neil resigned and that we shall miss his quirky delivery, approachability, commitment and passion for the promotion of Scottish architecture.

In my experience Neil has been a very positive influence in his work for the incorporation and he should receive our thanks and not our condemnation.  As an aesthete and appreciator of culture and the society that is the profession, he has been a great supporter.   He also helped put the RIAS on a much more secure financial footing, through the successful negotiations to reduce the proportion of the subscription to be handed over annually to the RIBA.  Not unknown for his showmanship, he has directly engaged in education, and using his networks has certainly helped to place architecture within the scope of the arts in Scotland and has championed the role of the architect at the highest levels possible, in government.  He may have been deluded in that last endeavour, given the way procurement has changed, but perhaps to no greater extent than the profession itself is deluded.

I don’t believe for a second that the RIAS has got it right.  Indeed, it could be argued that the idea of there being a learned society furthering excellent architecture is an anachronism in this society where finance and expediency increasingly affect the client relationship and the quality of the built product.  It is also important in this new age that governance is squeaky clean and fully financially accountable.  It is a weakness of many an elderly institution, under the current purges.  For the New Chapter Group to take some form of stand, in my view, is justified.  But, do they really care that much about governance, or is this just a stalking horse, and are there other agendas to do with personalities or political control?  The voice of the organisation, the choice of president, and the right of those outside the elected order to choose one, are central to the agenda.   Of course, the whole New Chapter and its personalities arose coincident with the delivery of an RIAS-curated public pop-up display of little houses, including the work of the group’s senior members, that so offended them.  So, are they really speaking for everyone, or do they just want one of their own number to lead and expound instead?

I would suggest that if this group really wants change, they should learn the language of politics and know what they could have gained by asking politely, like the contents of the Royal Charter.  They should also find out what the RIAS is for, and they should find out about what may be public and may be private, before each public declaration.  In their latest statement they seek an explanation for Neil’s resignation.  That either shows an extraordinary lack of awareness of the consequences of their own actions or perhaps an attempt to justify an unintended outcome.  Maybe the RIAS has been too cosy, maybe it does need to hear the voice of the rank and file and it does need to become more inclusive, but I would suggest that it does Scottish architecture no good at all to have a small and far less representative group of members without portfolio self-harming, by publicly stabbing an imperfect but staunch ally in the back.

Finally, I would say that given its limited resources, the RIAS has been a rather better champion of architecture and architects than its larger neighbour and probably much less profligate.  At least the RIAS has not expended our subscriptions on numerous attempts to take over the functions of the regulator and efforts to change architectural education to suit its corporate needs.  The RIAS also does some very good things, and belatedly, the New Chapter group have acknowledged at least one; not surprisingly the practical one that keeps them on the straight and narrow and helps them when they are in trouble.  It is a pity that none of them mentioned one other benefit, that they have been happy enough to put themselves forward for, and accept, the awards and accolades bestowed and publicised by the Incorporation, as expanded, curated and inimitably compered by Neil Baxter.

  • Gordon Gibb B arch, Dip Arch LLM FRIAS RIBA MCIArb is chair of APSA (the Association for Professional Studies in Architecture), an ARB Investigations Panel member, Director of Professional Studies at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, an expert witness, adjudicator and former Vice Chair of ARB.

RIAS chief Neil Baxter steps down amid architecture revolt

Neil Baxter

Neil Baxter

Neil Baxter has left his position as secretary and treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) just days after a group of leading Scottish architects demanded a major shake-up of the organisation.

The RIAS made the announcement on Friday stating that Mr Baxter, who was appointed by the body 10 years ago, would be leaving with immediate effect.

RIAS president Stewart Henderson said in a statement: “The Royal Incorporation has agreed to the request from our Secretary, Neil Baxter Hon FRIAS Hon FRIBA, to leave the organisation after ten years of service.

“Neil will be standing down as of today and the senior management team at the RIAS will continue to deal with all matters relating to the business of the Incorporation.”

The resignation comes just days after 150 Scottish architects signed an open letter calling for a review of Scottish architecture’s professional body, accusing it of being financially inept and a “secretive and autocratic” organisation.

The group, calling itself A New Chapter, and includes leading figures including Malcolm FraserCharlie HusseyChris PlattHelen LucasJude Barber and Paul Stallan, outlined their concerns at what they see as “a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability in Scottish architecture’s professional body”.

A statement from A New Chapter said Mr Baxter’s announcement “raises more questions than answers” over the governance, finance, strategy and relevance of RIAS.

A spokeswoman said: “Over the past few months A New Chapter has seen a surge in positive thoughts and ideas about what a progressive, 21st century organisation for architects in Scotland might look like, how it might behave and what it might do.

“We now look to our president and representatives on the RIAS council to answer our ongoing questions and now, to clarify why the secretary and treasurer has tendered a sudden resignation.”

‘New Chapter’ architects call for independent governance review into RIAS

RIASA group of Scottish architects who accused the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) of being a “secretive and autocratic” organisation have rejected attempts by the professional body to address their concerns.

The group, calling itself ‘A New Chapter’, had written to RIAS president Stewart Henderson to reveal their concerns at what they see as “a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability in Scottish architecture’s professional body”.

In his response, Henderson insisted that work was being carried out to improve the structure and management of the body and defended separate internal RIAS reviews of salaries, probity and management practices.

The 150-strong ‘A New Chapter’ group, which includes leading figures Malcolm Fraser, Charlie Hussey, Chris Platt, Helen Lucas, Jude Barber and Paul Stallan, has now hit back at the RIAS for failing to address the “key failures” raised of the need to open-up the organisation.

The new letter stated: “We have consistently stated that the inquiry into the finance, governance, salaries and other matters of concern must be independent: one senior independent lead, with a clear brief, reporting to the trustees on RIAS Council – the legally responsible corporate entity.

“Instead you have created a maze with three enquiries and other separate legal entities, all reporting to your ‘Governance Group’.

“This ‘Governance Group’, consisting of you and a small number of past-presidents appointed by you, therefore leads and controls the process.”

According to the group, the consequences which fall from this include:

“1. This web of appointments, and duplication of enquiries, is a profligate expenditure of our resources.

“2. It produces a tangled landscape of overlapping advice, with the additional possibility of matters falling ‘between two stools’.

“3. This internal Governance Group control the remit and message, with you as chair acting as briefing agent, editor and judge.

“4. Most significantly, as members, we do not hold you and your Governance Group as being independent: indeed, as it is quite possible that the results of the Reviews are critical of the actions of you and these past-presidents, you and they have a clear conflict of interest and can in no way represent the interests of members or requirements of charity law and the perception will be that the ‘legal reasons’ you state for non-disclosure are simply self-interest.”