Robert Gordon University

New digital and entrepreneurship hub planned at historic Robert Gordon University HQ

A former administration building at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen is to undergo a £1.5 million refurbishment to create a dedicated regional hub for digital and entrepreneurship activity.

The Category A listed building on Schoolhill is being developed by private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (ONE) in partnership with digital tech incubator CodeBase and the university.

The 20,000 square foot Hub will provide the base for the recently formed ONE CodeBase partnership between ONE D&E and CodeBase, and for RGU’s new entrepreneurship accelerator programme. RGU also plans to deliver its innovation programme activities from the Hub.

The Hub will combine hot desking, co-working and office space for early stage digital companies as they grow towards investor readiness with flexible accommodation for established and growing digital companies. Meeting and collaboration space will ensure the Hub supports the ambitions of existing entrepreneurs and their companies, facilitates creative interaction between businesses and their customers, and inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs to create and grow new businesses in the North East of Scotland.

The refurbishment of the Hub will begin this autumn and it will open in spring 2019.

ONE D&E aims to accelerate the growth of early stage and established digital tech businesses in North East Scotland, help the region’s key industries embrace transformational digital solutions to improve productivity, and enhance the entrepreneurial environment to support company creation and scale-up.

Sir Ian Wood, chair of ONE D&E, said: “Building digital capacity and capability in North East Scotland is central to delivering the shared ambition of a long-term regional economic renaissance. ONE D&E is investing in activity and a dedicated space to support digital cluster growth in the region. The development of the D&E Hub in Aberdeen city centre will provide a focal point for digital tech business incubation and growth and wider entrepreneurship activity.”

Gordon McConnell, vice principal of commercial and regional innovation at RGU, said: “We share an ambitious vision with ONE to drive digital and entrepreneurship activities in the region to support company creation and growth and new generations of innovators and entrepreneurs. The development of the Hub will see one of RGU’s iconic and historic city centre buildings reinvigorated as a centre for new activity involving ONE D&E, RGU and ONE CodeBase. This is an important evolution in the relationship between RGU and ONE as we invest in the future success of the North East economy.”

Steven Drost, chief strategy officer at CodeBase, added: “CodeBase is proud and excited to come to Aberdeen. Having a strong partner in ONE means that we can get straight to work helping start-ups grow and we will also be there for established businesses who understand that they can use start-up smarts for managing digital transformation and innovation. It is our mission to be a strong additive to the local ecosystem, and a place where start-ups, mentors, and meet ups all cluster to do good work.”

Stewart Milne Group offers £8,000 access scholarship at RGU

(from left) Glenn Allison, chief executive of Stewart Milne Group, Professor David McClean, head of school at the Scott Sutherland School, and Sarah Dingwall, development manager for the RGU Foundation

Stewart Milne Group has pledged £8,000 to create an access scholarship that will support an undergraduate student as part of Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Giving Tuesday campaign.

The inaugural scholarship will be available from the start of the next academic year to a talented student from a group traditionally under-represented at RGU.

Thanks to the independent 5-star housebuilder and timber systems manufacturer, a talented student, potentially from a deprived area, will be able to study at RGU’s Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, studying Construction Management, Surveying or Architectural Technology.

RGU’s Giving Tuesday appeal, part of a worldwide day of giving, supports a strategic aim of the university to extend access to learning and enable individuals from diverse and marginalised backgrounds to achieve their ambitions through higher education.

Professor David McClean, head of school at the Scott Sutherland School, said: “The Scott Sutherland School is indebted to Stewart Milne Group for this pledge, which demonstrates a commitment to educating building and design professionals of the future and allowing talented individuals the opportunity to realise their potential, whatever their material circumstance or background.”

RGU has enjoyed a close relationship with Stewart Milne Group over the years. Chairman Stewart Milne was awarded an honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in 2000, then in 2005 the organisation made a significant donation to help establish the state-of-the-art RGU: Sport facilities on campus. The company has also offered placements to RGU students from various schools over the years.

Glenn Allison, chief executive of Stewart Milne Group, said: “Providing access to quality higher education to those that have talent and aspiration, but may not have the means to recognise their full potential, is crucial to ensuring that the future workforce is armed with the skills needed to succeed.

“It’s with great pride that we’re providing this transformative support as part of the RGU Giving Tuesday campaign. We’ll be looking forward to meeting and supporting the student selected to receive the scholarship throughout their degree.”

Sarah Dingwall, development manager for the RGU Foundation, added: “We were thrilled to receive the news that Stewart Milne Group would be establishing an access scholarship at RGU and are extremely grateful for their contribution.

“This type of philanthropic support creates opportunity, raises aspirations and has a life-long impact for a talented RGU student.”

‘Ugly affordable housing’ in rural Scotland is damaging tourism, says architecture academic

Professor Gokay Deveci

Professor Gokay Deveci

Ugly affordable housing in rural Scotland is damaging tourism, according to a professor of architecture at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

Professor Gökay Deveci said modern-looking homes in places like Skye and Shetland were “spoiling the best things” about Scotland, The Times reports.

He said: “Poems, singing, architecture — these are crucial parts of culture. You don’t get the same poems and singing coming out of Fraserburgh, the Borders and Skye, yet we are still seeing the same kind of housing.

“People come to Scotland for history and beauty, from all over the world, and fall in love with these islands. So why are we spoiling the best things we have?”

Alasdair Stephen, director of Dualchas Architects, with offices in Skye and Glasgow, said: “Most people tend to go to kit house companies and a lot of the designs have not changed in 40 years. There have been some inappropriate kit houses built in crofting areas.

“Croft land has become ruinously expensive. There is also a lack of contractors, which makes the ones available more expensive. People cannot afford stone and slate — it is a fundamental problem.”

Neil Baxter, general secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: “Much of the housing that continues to be built around Scotland does not have the input of architects.

“Edinburgh’s New Town was built by developers but always with the involvement of architects. Perhaps this should be a marriage that is remade between mass housebuilders and architects rather than simply relying on the same product that is rolled out in Surrey and Sutherland. [Housebuilders] simply need to pick up the phone.”

Stephen Kemp, president of the Scottish Building Federation, added: “We are delivering some of the most energy-efficient homes in the country, which also comes at an additional cost. While we do what we can to reflect local architecture and design, this needs to be balanced against commercial reality.”

Professor David McClean to deliver presentation to Scottish Heads of Planning

Professor David McClean

Professor David McClean

Professor David McClean, head of the Robert Gordon University (RGU) Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, will this Friday give a presentation to the Chief Planner for Scotland and more than 30 other Heads of Planning from across the country.

Prof McClean will deliver his presentation at the annual Heads of Planning Conference, which is this year being held at Elsick House on June 22-23.

The event, a consultation on the Scottish planning system, gives high profile figures in the industry the opportunity to reconsider how planning can help move the country forward to achieve economic and social targets.

The agenda for this year’s conference considers the role of planning for effective and efficient delivery and David will talk about holistic approaches to housing, incorporating issues of land supply, financial models, planning approaches, and landscape design in addition to architectural and urban design considerations.

He said: “My presentation presents a number of innovative models from the international arena, as well as work which our Masters students in Architecture have been doing in this area.

“Essentially, what I will be talking about is what exactly it is which makes successful places, communities and neighbourhoods.”

Among the other speakers at the two-day event are – James Bream, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce; Mark Lappin, Oil and Gas Technology Centre; John McNairney, Scottish Government; and Arne Eik, Statoil.

The venue for this year’s conference is the historic, Elsick house, provided the location for a project for students at Scott Sutherland School earlier in the year.

The year two Architectural Design students were tasked with developing plans for a bespoke ballroom venue in the walled garden of Elsick Estate, capable of hosting up to 200 people.

Working closely with the Duchess of Fife, whose family own the estate, the students worked hard to develop a variety of creative proposals which went on public display in the city centre.

Architecture student picks up prize for plans to reimagine art school

Amy Aquilina

Amy Aquilina

An Aberdeen architecture student has won a top prize for her reimagining of Gray’s School of Art as a new exhibition and conference centre for Robert Gordon University (RGU), as part of a student architecture project.

Amy Aquilina was awarded the Rob Hunter Prize by the University’s Scott Sutherland School for Architecture and Built Environment after presenting her plans for the refurbishment and reorganisation of the art school building, which was designed by architect Michael Shewan and officially opened in 1967.

As part of the project, Stage 3 architecture students were set a brief to redesign the building to house exhibition spaces, offices, catering facilities, and provide the headquarters of the Centre for Northern Culture and Design, as well as accommodation for guests.

Amy, whose design incorporates both the history of the Gray’s building with a more contemporary design, said: “I felt that keeping the aesthetic of the facade was an important factor in retaining the memory of Gray’s.

“The intention of the bar/restaurant was to draw people which aren’t part of RGU to the area so others may use the building and enjoy the views south over the river.

“As my proposal involved replacing the glazing, I decided to re-use the original frames throughout the interiors of the building to help retain the memory of Gray’s.”

Key Design SectionAmy, who won £300 book vouchers as the prize for her winning design, was not expecting to be declared the winner.

“I don’t think anyone really expected to win,” Amy said. “When they called my name it took me a minute for that to register, I’ve never won an award before so it was definitely a memorable and exciting moment where I felt all the hard work last semester really paid off, and I was (and am) really grateful to be part of RGU.”

Neil Lamb, subject leader in Architecture, added: “The judges were really impressed with the high quality of Amy’s proposal, which confidently addressed the issues of bringing the Gray’s School building up to current, and indeed future, regulatory standards without compromising the quality of Shewan’s original and well-loved design.

“Amy’s design also looked at how the interior spaces could be re-imagined to create more flexibility and liberate larger more flexible open spaces in plan which could be used for a broader multitude of activates.

“They praised Amy’s exciting, thorough and professional approach which provides a solution that clearly shows how the building could be adapted for its future use.”

This is the 22nd year that the Rob Hunter Prize has been presented. It commemorates the life and work of the architect Rob Hunter who had an architectural practice in Edinburgh and who taught for many years at the Scott Sutherland School as a studio tutor.

There will also be a chance to see the work during the students’ end of year show, which will run between June 17 and 23.

Big Crit puts spotlight on RGU architecture students


Architecture students at Robert Gordon University (RGU) are preparing to present their work to a panel of internationally respected practitioners this week.

The annual ‘Big Crit’ will see students from all stages of RGU’s MA Architecture course present a range of projects to a panel of experts including distinguished architectural professionals and educators from across Europe on Friday, May 19.

The public event, which is being organised by a group of four students – Emily Fawdon, Hannah Skyner, Kirsten Macfarlane and Vicky Mitchell, is an opportunity to celebrate the best of the students’ work, from first to final year, and to raise the level of discussion around fundamental issues of architectural design.

Grant Russell image

This year’s list of critics includes Claudia Carbone, teaching associate professor at AARHUS School of Architecture in Denmark; Professor Neil Gillespie OBE, visiting professor at Scott Sutherland and director of Edinburgh’s Reiach and Hall Architects; Eelco Hooftman, founder of GROSSMAX; Jillian Jones from Allies and Morrison Architects, visiting lecturer at the London Metropolitan University; Ben Addy of London based Moxon Architects; and Colin Harris, director of Sutherland Hussey Harris.

The students will deliver presentations of their work, as well as provide leaflets and three-dimensional models to explain the thought-processes behind their ideas, before receiving feedback from the panel.

Head of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, Professor David McClean, said: “The Big Crit always makes for a fascinating event and I am extremely impressed by the way our students rise to the challenge of presenting their work to a panel of experts in their field.

“We are very grateful to our panel of guests who have taken the time to give the benefit of their experience to our students and are excited to hear their feedback on the day.

“The event is open to the public and people with an interest in seeing the students’ work are very welcome to join us at any point.”

The Big Crit will take place on Friday, May 19 in the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, Sir Ian Wood Building, from 9.30am to 6pm.

There will be a pre-event lecture on Thursday, May 18, by two of the visiting critics and a post-event party, which is being coordinated by the school’s architecture society, 57  ̊10.

RGU architecture student receives industry commendation for Mirrored Pavilion

5An architecture student at Robert Gordon University has been awarded a commendation at the prestigious American Institute of Architects UK Excellence in Design Awards 2017.

Lucy Fisher, a fourth year student at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, designed the Mirrored Pavilion – an iconic information centre which became a focal point of the 2016 Look Again Festival in Aberdeen.

The Festival aims to challenge residents and visitors saw the North-east city and encouraged people to take time to look at the places and spaces around them with a fresh pair of eyes.

Lucy’s design aimed to capture this spirit by the use of a reflective surface which would reflect the city’s architecture while becoming a contemporary form in itself.

Lucy Fisher with RGU Principal Ferdinand von Prondzynski

Lucy Fisher with RGU Principal Ferdinand von Prondzynski

She said: “It is amazing to have received this commendation from the AIA as it recognises the huge amount of work put in by myself and two fellow students, as well as our lecturers at RGU, in developing the design, exploring the materials and preparing drawings for the creation of the Pavilion.

“The Mirrored Pavilion became a piece of artwork in itself and was more of a success than we ever could have imagined and the public really engaged with it – the mirrors even provided a distorted reflection which gave a new perspective on some of the city’s iconic granite architecture.”

6Professor David McClean, head of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, added: “This award by the American Institute of Architects for Lucy’s Mirrored Pavilion is a tremendous accolade for her and for the School and University.

“To my knowledge this is the first time that the work of our students has been recognised by the principal professional body of the United States, and the fact that the USA itself has over 120 schools speaks of the competitive strength of Lucy’s work.

“The original opportunity two years ago to host a student competition for the design of a pavilion for the Look Again Festival 2016 and the national Festival of Architecture Innovation and Design, was always an exciting one. The fact that Lucy’s scheme was realised, with notable assistance from students, Covell Mathews Architects (the original competition sponsors), SMART, and DAB Studio, gave great visibility to the school in one of Aberdeen’s most important public spaces.

“It is the simplicity and clarity of Lucy’s vision that lies at heart of her design’s success, and this award, and indeed the way in which its reflective nature captured the imagination of the public.”

Architecture and occupational therapy students join forces to design for dementia

(from left) - Elliot Gillard (architecture student), Judith Bisset (occupational therapy lecturer), Liam Davies (architecture student) 4th from left is Faith Mutyiri (occupational therapy student), Dawn Mitchell (subject lead occupational therapy), Ellen Clyde (occupational therapy student) and Neil Lamb (subject leader in architecture)

(from left) – Elliot Gillard (architecture student), Judith Bisset (occupational therapy lecturer), Liam Davies (architecture student) 4th from left is Faith Mutyiri (occupational therapy student), Dawn Mitchell (subject lead occupational therapy), Ellen Clyde (occupational therapy student) and Neil Lamb (subject leader in architecture)

Groups of architecture and occupational therapy students at Robert Gordon University (RGU) have joined forces for a collaborative learning opportunity focusing on the needs of individuals with dementia in relation to their living environments.

The joint teaching and learning sessions were developed as an innovative way to support these third year students and encourage future colleagues to collaborate, learning with and from each other.

The project has enabled a better understanding of building design and interpreting plans for the occupational therapy students, while the architecture students have gained awareness and knowledge of the needs of this particular population.

As Dawn Mitchell, subject leader in occupational therapy, explains, there are huge challenges for people with dementia when it comes to carrying out simple everyday tasks around the home.

“Individuals with dementia frequently experience challenges in their daily life due to cognitive impairment such as memory loss, disorientation or visual impairments,” she said.

“These challenges can make finding their way around the environment or carrying out new or even familiar activities difficult. Through their unique understanding of these difficulties, occupational therapists can inform and influence design and building of inclusive environments.

“This process enables older people to remain active participants in society by allowing individuals to continue to participate in their chosen occupations while maintaining independence through reducing risk and building confidence.

“Collaboratively the students have considered how the environment could be created or modified to reduce potential barriers.

“It is anticipated this shared learning will increase the students’ knowledge which they will use in their chosen careers and also support their understanding of each other’s roles and future collaborative working.”

Neil Lamb, subject leader in architecture, added: “This an invaluable experience for our student architects as they are learning to design more adaptive environments that allow people to remain independent for longer.

“Once they started chatting with the OT students, it became clear that some established design practices needed to be re-thought as they can present real difficulties for those with dementia.

“This collaborative approach to teaching and learning made perfect sense for us, as the students could gain great insight from each other and ultimately it could lead to the improvement of living conditions those with dementia.

“The students worked incredibly well together and we are looking forward to developing this concept, given the success of the pilot and the positive feedback from both sets of students.”

RGU staff showcase architecture and built environment capabilities in Egypt

Bassam Bjeirmi and the UK Ambassador to Egypt, John Casson

Bassam Bjeirmi and the UK Ambassador to Egypt, John Casson

Staff from Robert Gordon University have taken part in a three-day intensive trip to Egypt where they visited businesses and schools and delivered a workshop on architecture and built environment.

Led by RGU’s regional manager, Jamie Hastings, the team took a trip to spread the word of the institution to potential students and look at ways which universities in the two countries can work together.

Jamie was joined by RGU’s Bassam Bjeirmi, associate head of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Design, and Dr Charles Maddison, from Aberdeen Business School.

They spent two days in Cairo where they held student information and counselling sessions and an architecture and construction taster workshop.

Following this they travelled to Giza for one day to visit schools and universities and hosted another interview and information session.

Jamie said: “The purpose of this visit was to try and raise our profile in Egypt because we understand there are great synergies with our countries in terms of the student appetite for study in areas such as architecture, construction and energy – areas which we have a proven track record of being one of the UK’s top universities in.

“We talked to schools, universities and businesses as we aim to strengthen links and look at ways that our institutions can work together more effectively and enhance our students’ experiences.”

Bassam added: “The visit offered me the chance to meet with a number of private and international schools and universities for the promotion of the University, School and the courses we have on offer.

“The visit also gave us the chance to meet with and interview potential students who have expressed an interest in international study as well as catching up with some Alumni – our network of former-students is global.

“I also delivered a very successful presentation and open workshop on model making and portfolio development which focused on architecture and the built environment.”

Professional accreditation for Robert Gordon University Architecture course

David McClean

David McClean

The architecture course at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University (RGU) has received professional accreditation by the Malaysian Board of Architects (LAM), the first institution in the UK to do so.

The university’s BSc Architecture / Master of Architecture course, which is delivered by the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, received the stamp of approval by Lembaga Arkitek Malaysia, in recognition of the highest standards of teaching offered by the course, and the relevance of its curriculum to the future needs of the profession in South-East Asia.

All graduates of the course, regardless of nationality, will now be eligible to progress to undertake the registration examination with the Board of Architects Malaysia.

Professor David McClean, head of the school, said: “We are delighted to have received the accreditation from LAM and it is testament to the work of our staff that our course is highly regarded by the profession and industry both in the UK and overseas.

“At RGU, our priority is for all our courses to be as contextually relevant as possible and to ensure that our students are well equipped with the skills, knowledge, and aptitude that potential employers look for.”

“We have a long history of working with students from Malaysia and this accreditation allows us to strengthen and build on this, furthering the School’s presence in country, and helping to contribute to the expertise and vibrancy of the country’s architecture profession.”

RGU’s Architecture course, which is accredited in the UK by the RIBA and ARB, provides students with the professional and creative skills required for a successful career in architecture.

The taught course is complemented by a year’s practical experience, allowing students to gain valuable experience of architectural practice in a range of locations worldwide.

For more information on RGU’s Architecture course visit: