Saturday, 21 August 2010

Highland Housing Fair is a joke

Nord Architecture's burned out cowshed
You know, life is full of disappointments - some great and some minor. I drove across to the Highland Housing Fair the other day, 'Scotland's Housing Expo', to see what the great and the good had produced as examples of our new nation's great residential architectural skills - complete with the sustainability label of course. Boy was I disappointed! I expected something modern and exciting with a taste of the future - a bit of Dan Dare I suppose. Instead I saw a collection of pokey wee pseudo Scottish sheds - more Brigadoon than even Andy Stewart would like. Honestly, they'll be filming the White Heather Club there in a wee while and digging up Harry Lauder to do a turn.

I know a great deal about Scottish architecture as you know and it was very sad indeed to see that hardly any of my favourite designers had bothered to put pen to paper for this event. There were some bright moments though - the ever excellent Keppies have produced a masterstroke with their lovely three-storey home.
Keppies masterstroke design at the Scottish Housing Expo
It is indeed a stately home and makes all the other houses look completely ridiculous. It is a pointer to the future while all the other houses are looking to the past of byres, black houses and butt 'n bens. Here's another wee photie of Keppies work just to make the point.
another view of Keppies masterstroke design at the Scottish Housing Expo
Truly they are one of the greatest design firms around today - famous and accomplished in architecture, masterplanning, landscape and cost cutting. This is work that merits a gold star and a big tick from me.
Bracewell Stirling's bottom drawer production
Also there is a wee building there by a firm I hadn't heard of before called Bracewell Stirling which is modest yet shows great promise. It has the look of a building that was designed some time ago - maybe they pulled it out of a drawer and dusted it down - but this is in fact what most great practices do anyway. So good luck to Bracewell Stirling - your future is bright. And to all the others apart from Keppies - you are hopeless.

PS - I heard this morning that one of the homes has been sold off to a contractor working on the site and that the rest will be sold to local councillors or their relatives at a reduced price. Isn't the Scottish development industry so great.


adrian said...

well, based on what u said i doubt u have any qualification to judge this fair. and btw this expo aims to find better solution for AFORDABLE houses not for any luxury buildings that u may see in a magazine. and this is a professional review for u :

Tim R said...

Dave, great to have your no-holds-barred commentary back again! It's been too long.

Now I no longer need to visit the Expo. I have an authoritative, credible insight into what it's REALLY like.


Tim R

Dave Thompson said...

Dear Adrian - thanks for the useful link which is much appreciated and thanks also for commenting on my post. Affordable is spelt with 2 fs by the way so maybe we should both go back to school

Tim R - hello again and glad you liked the post. In fact nobody should waste their time going to this 'Expo' - with every best wish...

Dave T

adrian said...

lol I'll watch my spelling but i still believe u should consider the expo from an "affordable" perspective. cheers

Nemesis said...

Indeed yes! It's great to have you back Dave!

I too was intending to visit the Expo, but I wonder now if it's worthwhile? As ever Dave, you have shown wonderful insight and fine architectural judgement. In fact, I think you should be invited to judge the Doolan Awards, maybe in future we will get some decent buildings winning that if you are on the panel.

It does seem Keppie's, with its fine crew of architectural technicians and CAD, as ever has managed to produce world class architecture for the Expo; it said they are world class in the Herald yesterday: )

A bit of an odd list that (Allan Murray?) but it's in the papers so it must be true.

And Bracewell Stirling, obviously one to watch.

Well, Malcolm Fraser (zinc and Scottish larch for the Expo and not flashy enough in my view, all calm modernity and no' a bit of wilfil wanky shapemaking nor a Prince Charles pediment in sight, and you know that's what the public want, that's what the volume housebuilders want to give 'em) NORD (whose Expo 'burnt out cooshed' I see you have pictured above; Caithness stone is it? Far too Scottish. it will never sell)and Richard Murphy, interesting and technologically innovative though your Expo house may be, take note. You tried for design quality allied to sustainability for the Expo. Keppie's building is clearly how to beat the downturn: bugger context, pile 'em high, sell 'em the greenwash (I see there's a twee wee windturbine whirling way merrily on Keppie's roof, might light a lightbulb or two until it conks out?).

It's clearly now what REAL world class architects see as what is needed to beat the economic downturn and the future for Scotland.

Adrian might also like to take note of the fact the Expo was only in part about affordable housing; it was intended as a mix of housing types, architects bid for designated plots on that basis. Quality design was still supposed to be the aim, to 'encourage the others'.

Keppie's design presses all the buttons doesn't it? Only one thing missing and that's Mr Duany. Now what a Dream Team that could be for Scotland!

Nemesis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nemesis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nemesis said...

Whoops Dave, seem the technology has defeated me, three postings of the same comment so I deleted two, and yes that should have read 'wilful'.

MadeUp said...

You've obviously got your finger on the public pulse as the first property to be sold is indeed by Keppie. To a member of the construction team no less. They know quality when they see it and the estimated annual running cost of £333 will no doubt result in the Keppie design rolling out across the land.

Dave Thompson said...

Dear MadeUp - that is fantastic news! Truly Keppies are one of the most talented firms in the land. Thanks so much for this information.

with every best wish

Dave T

Dave Thompson said...

Dearest Nemesis Republic - thanks as always for spreading the word...much appreciated

Yours truly

Dave T

Al in Argyll said...

I spent two days at the Expo, and my general feeling was that the interiors didn't live up to the promise of the exteriors (or the hype, come to that), and the Keppie building (plot 8) was no exception. Lovely external finishes, but inside? Dark, dark flats with one very bright kitchen/diner/living area. And their 'solar buffer space'? It wasn't big enough to sit in! But it's easy to crit. And plot 8 was so much better than its neighbour at plot 4.3, designed by David Blaikie Architects. Horrible, horrible, horrible!

adrian said...

i like ur discussion but i found both of you naive when it comes to architecture. I mean come on try to be objective - there is no way u can compare richard murphy with keppie. I don't want to be mean but richard has talent and he's famous for that. the other company needs someone who can draw and has a feeling for space.

-the flat building is in my opinion outdated and unattractive in terms of design.
-the interior is dark with long unpleasant corridors and nothing innovative.
-the roof is peculiar and it doesn't looks suitable for scotland.
I did like the living area but still overall i would give them 5 out of 10. the other keppie building it is a decent house but so boring. i would say 6 out of 10. ( btw keppies design is mentioned on some sites regarding bad architecture )

oops.. i don't want to forget the B. Stirling building. I liked the kitchen and few tiles but the rest is kind of messy:-

there is an obvious mistake at the terrace ( they just didn't know how to design a flat roof and they end up with two steps and a door that may not be accepted by building officers.

than u get no privacy in the main bedroom because of the adjacent terrace

some odd choices inside

both internal and external balustrades are conflicting with the design lines of the house.

In conclusion ur saying that the housing fair is a waste of time but there are some outstanding buildings and than u mentioned two debatable ones.

Dave sorry but ur not exactly a "connoisseur".

Nemesis said...

With my tongue out of my cheek... I did go. I found most of it a great disappointment, not a lot 'outstanding'. An architectural curiosity. I have written about it on my blog.

adrian...I found the Murphy building not really so great. . I'm still wondering, for example, where the washing machine was, and wondering why a four bedroomed house has so small an amount of real living space. I wonder how the 'breathing membrane' roof will fare long term. There's more but there's a start.

But I point out gently... Dave is being ironic. Tekkin' the pee. I gather that passed you by too...

Bill said...

I am sorry to have to ask this in all my infantile naivety, but are you being serious at all Dave? I admit that I have not read your other posts so cannot quite work out whether this is a genius piece of sarcastic journalism, or whether you are actually completely misguided and misinformed.

Nemesis said...

Try reading the rest; an unsung genius....

Mark said...

There is nothing ingenious about sarcasm.

Nemesis said...

Drollery, irony, the basis of much comedy through the ages.

Mark said...

Apologies... I thought that this blog was merely the sarcastic ramblings of a bitter man who has been shat upon by life once too often.

I did not appreciate it was an attempt at comedy.

Very funny.

adrian said...

nemesis u may be right in read it again an it looks sarcastic:) sorry but i thought dave is just confuse. Anyway I think it is good that we had a chance to see this expo in highlands. Dave's sarcasm may looks like a "kick in everyone's butt" and I would say that every kick in ur butt is actually a step ahead so i am sorry if i was rude. have a nice evening everyone

Al in Argyll said...

Doh! Have just re-read the original post and now I see it is obviously sarcasm. Apologies for missing that.

Anonymous said...

THe Keppie house looks like a cheap commercial block of flats. Hideous.

Anonymous said...

Ignorant wanker.

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled across this dirge two years late, but the gushing admiration towards Keppies is one of the most humorous, yet absurd, things I have read for a while!