Friday, 17 September 2010

Scott Wilson devoured - who cares?

the URS snake in the grass
You know, I've been pondering this week over the disappearance of famous engineering consultants Scott Wilson who were swallowed up by American giant URS, who previously gorged themselves on Thorburn Colquhoun and many others. Of course Scott Wilson weren't just engineers - they were a truly multidisciplinary company with a reputation for being mediocre at all sorts of things ranging from project management and transportation to landscaping gardens and most importantly, town planning. A cross between a Goliath and a dinosaur.

Now we all know that when a snake has a meal it sleeps afterwards. Scott Wilson spent much of their time feasting on other companies, making irresistible offers to folk who were close to retirement, scunnered with their hopeless staff and unable to sack them because of employment laws. They should have been getting on with the work instead of empire building - getting work for themselves instead of buying other firms' clients! Well Scott Wilson fell asleep and now they have paid the ultimate penalty for their greed and that was careless. Now they've gone - how cares? Well I do.
Kessock Bridge between Inverness and the north
I'm old enough now to remember a very different consultant picture in Scotland - names like Crouch and Hogg (famous for the elegant Kessock Bridge - above), Babtie Shaw and Morton or even William Gillespie and Partners, Brian Clouston and many others who I can't recall but who all worked with me at the Scottish Development Agency.

But wait! It's entirely possible that some of my current day heroes will also disappear. Folk like Archial and 3DReid, those masters of commercial design, would provide a great meal for an ambitious company. Halliday Fraser Munro - those victorious heroes who will be infilling Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen - may also find themselves digesting in the stomach of a larger predator though the sheer talent in HFM could prove to be a very rich dish. But ultimately this would be bad for Scotland - I could stomach the loss of some of these companies but one thing is for sure - Keppie Design will never surrender to a snake in the grass.
Keppies Boddington Brewery site in Manchester - truly a world beating design
They are too big and too talented to let that happen and with their heritage stretching all the way back to the nineteenth century, working for toffs and building most of Glasgow, they will surely lead our country through this century as a design leader and inspiration to all of us.

PS I've just noticed in my personal copy of Planning that the goons in the RTPI are mightily upset because Scott Wilson were their Consultant of the Year in 2009. Well what a shame but it goes with the territory - EDAW were winners in 2001 then eaten by AECOM a few years later. So if you want to remain alive, don't have anything to do with the RTPI!

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