7N Architects celebrates 15 years of success with launch of employee ownership trust

7N Architects celebrates 15 years of success with launch of employee ownership trust

(from left) 7N's new leadership team comprising, directors Ben Watson and Craig Tait, board of trustees members Laura Adamson and Lisa Blyth, founding director Ewan Anderson, and practice manager Collette Anderson

In a move securing its long-term future, Edinburgh-based 7N Architects has transitioned to employee ownership.

The establishment of an employee ownership trust (EOT) sees founder Ewan Anderson transferring his entire shareholding to a trust representing all 24 employees, embracing a model often likened to the famed ‘John Lewis’ structure.

The EOT structure allows every member of the 7N team to share in the future success of the company.

7N Architects, which came to prominence by masterminding the ‘placemaking-led’ transformation of many of Scotland’s most significant civic and urban areas, made the announcement in advance of an event at its Randolph Place studio celebrating 15 years of operation on Thursday (18 April).

The company’s leadership will now be spearheaded by a board of directors composed of Mr Anderson together with co-directors Ben Watson and Craig Tait. They will work in collaboration with a board of trustees bringing together Mr Anderson with independent chair of trustees John Hume, and 7N team members Lisa Blyth and Laura Adamson who were both elected by fellow employees.

7N Architects celebrates 15 years of success with launch of employee ownership trust

Originally named 7N Architects after the seven company members who wanted to stay in the ‘north’ following a breakaway from a previous architectural practice, the company now employs 24 staff. And, according to Mr Anderson, with a formidable track record combined with a burgeoning project pipeline, now is the right time to secure the company’s long-term future.

“7N Architects has come a long way since the practice was formed during the financial crisis of 2009,” he explained.

“Despite many challenges along the way, we have grown steadily and incrementally, and through a defined focus and commitment to putting placemaking at the heart of everything we do, we have had the privilege of being involved on some of the most transformative and recognised development projects in Scotland and the UK.

“It’s an exciting time for the practice, with projects from London to Lerwick. We’ve created the City Centre Strategy for Glasgow, masterplans for University of Glasgow and Inverness Campus, a new station concept for Network Rail, built hundreds of new homes in some of the most deprived and affluent parts of Scotland and have developed transformational proposals for new workspaces which put people’s wellbeing at the heart of the design.

“I look forward to being an integral part of a new era for 7N Architects – and seeing the company, our employees and our clients continue over the longer-term to reap the benefits of our enlightened and progressive approach to making better places.”

Co-director Ben Watson added: “The successful completion our employee ownership trust marks the next significant step of 7N’s journey.

“All team members have been involved in this process from the start, and the new leadership structure creates both a strong management framework whilst empowering every member of staff to play a significant role in the future of the company.”

Architect Lisa Blyth, who was one of the original founder members of the practice, was voted in by fellow staff members to become a member of the new board of trustees. “The whole employee ownership process was a hugely insightful experience showing how all our employees could play a significant role in the future of the company,” she said.

“All team members took part in a variety of workshops ranging from defining our purpose statement to exploring what kind of work we wanted to focus on in the future. We now have a flexible and democratic management structure which reflects the representative and collegiate working environment that 7N has worked so hard to create over the years.”

The firm’s formative projects include the award-winning regeneration plans for Fountainbridge in Edinburgh, transforming the old brewery and rubber factory sites into a new residential neighbourhood.

7N Architects celebrates 15 years of success with launch of employee ownership trust

Also in Edinburgh, the company has spearheaded the redevelopment of the huge waterfront area at Western Harbour, created sustainable workplaces at 20 Haymarket Yards and Edinburgh Green, and delivered residential developments at Fraser Avenue, Inverkeithing, Rowanbank Gardens in Corstorphine and the New Eidyn apartments at the St James Quarter. The company also designed the Holyrood Distillery, Edinburgh’s first new whisky distillery for almost 100 years.

Elsewhere, 7N has created the city centre strategy for Glasgow, as well as masterplans for the University of Glasgow and Inverness Campus, and has led the regeneration of the former Jordanhill College Campus in the west end of Glasgow to create a new residential community of some 400 homes.

Current projects include a ‘Re-Imagining Railways’ project for Network Rail having been selected from 200 international entries to design the railway station of the future, with design guidance being published in 2022 for more than 2000 stations across the UK. 7N is also leading West Town in Edinburgh, helping to deliver a brand new ‘twenty-minute neighbourhood’ featuring 7,000 homes to the west of the city.

7N Architect’s employee ownership trust has been set up with guidance from Scottish employee ownership specialists Ownership Associates UK. “This was a very natural step in the evolution of 7N”, said adviser Carole Leslie.

“As well as creating a leadership structure which ensures a clear pathway to future succession and security, the employee ownership trust also sets up a practice-wide culture of meritocracy where there are no barriers for anyone with talent and ambition to play a significant role in the future of the company.”

Legal advice for 7N’s EOT was provided by TLT LLP, whilst financial advice was provided by Alan Watt from Reference Point.

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