Posts Tagged ‘scotland

22
Aug
11

hurdles

Due to the nature of my cancer it was only a matter of time before something didn’t go quite to plan. The results of my scan today at first looked promising as I skim read the report in front of my consultant oncolgist upside down. I have several tumors all of which seemed to show an ever so slight reduction in size and I was quite relieved, however, as my doctor went through report is seems an area of seedlings in my peritoneum, which is a membrane which lines the abdominal cavity, are showing signs of growth which unfortunately means I need to come off the treatment I have been receiving and move onto another form of chemotherapy.

I am trying to be as positive as I can but it is definitely my first main setback. I am feeling down about it today but I will be back fighting tomorrow. Sometimes you just need some time to let these things sink in and take time to regroup and assess what the next plan of action is. I want to be as honest as possible in this blog so sometimes it is going to be grim, you’ve been warned!

Apart from my own problems the world seems to have gone a bit mad in the past few weeks. Everyone seems to have something to say about the riots and with the massive media bombardment of CCTV coverage and debate shows I have listened to a lot of different arguments over why this happened and where the fault lies. The over-riding opinion is of widespread condemnation and on the whole I certainly share this view. I need to try not to be hypocritical as many years ago I was involved in protests against the student loans where I learned how easy it can be to get carried away in the heat of something which seemed to mean a lot to me at the time. The difference with the recent riots is that I see no political agenda in anything that has happened. One rioter was interviewed stating that she had no qualms about who she was robbing as these were all rich business owners who could afford to be robbed. I am a business owner and for a start, I am not rich, secondly, I have been robbed, and, even insured there are things that cannot be replaced. There is disruption and upset that can never be recompensed by insurance companies. Also, probably like many of the business owners affected and especially the 144 year old House of Reeves furniture business, I have spent years of hard work and 11 years in the higher education system getting a business to a level where I can make an honest living only to be decimated by the global recession.

There is no excuse for stealing, burning people’s homes and wrecking the streets of your own city. There seems to be a need and desire for instant wealth, celebrity and success without the years of hard work that used to be the accepted method of doing something with your life. Our country is obsessed with reality shows and talent shows that seem to be the accepted method of becoming a celebrity and making it in life. The current ‘celebrity’ big brother is a great example of this, full of reality show refugees. As those that know me well enough will be aware, I have been partial to watching Big Brother and actually enjoying it. I have also watched the pop idol or x-factor from time to time but can never say I have found the experience enjoyable and with my illness keeping me in much more on a saturday night than I am used to or like, I am scared I will get drawn into watching this rubbish even more. If everyone that stayed in on a saturday night to watch x-factor went out for something to eat or drink maybe this industry sector wouldn’t be struggling as much and maybe folk would enjoy themselves and talk to one another instead of paying to vote for whoever takes their fancy this year.

With Big Brother, I liked the concept and in the early years the contestants seemed to be on there out of curiosity of being involved in some sort of experiment but by series 4 I think things began to change with contestants being chosen to try to shock viewers by their outrageous behaviour and by their longer term star potential although I think there have been very few who have achieved very much.

Enough of my ranting though, I have plenty to worry about without ranting about tv. Since my last post I have been to a wedding in the church in Luss which is quite wonderful if you ever get a chance to stop and have a look inside. Luckily with my recent weight loss my kilt still fits me and I dressed traditionally although I am short of photos in my full regalia.

lodge in the loch, august 2011

The reception was held in The Lodge on the Loch on Loch Lomond and is a great venue with sweeping views of the loch. I was able to sneak a rest in our room between the meal and the band starting which let me last all the way to the traditional rendition of Runrigs Loch Lomond at the end of the night.

With Julie a bit worse for wear the next day we headed round to Campbeltown to visit her Gran. We drove out to the Mull of Kintyre with spectacular views all the way to Ireland. I couldn’t tackle the walk all the way down a winding road to the lighthouse but walked far enough to get the best views on a surprisingly dryish day! Also surprising was I had the best phone reception on the peninsula here.

me on the phone to big bruv steve with mull of kintyre lighthouse beyond

Other news involves a nice new project at work, planning submitted for my own new house and a wee holiday and wedding to go to in Portugal next month which I am seriously looking forward to! The setback with the treatment is a bit more of a shock to me as I was starting to get a bit more normality back to my life with my treatment now at home and I had managed back to a GIA council meeting and a visit to lanarkshire business group, both for the first time since I was in hospital. Nearly everyone remarked how much better I looked, I know they wouldn’t say I look awful but I genuinely feel better and have put weight on and certainly look better than before I went into hospital!

casa scarpadog

Writing this helps me think better and more positively. It clears my mind to consider what is happening and what I need to do next and how I can prepare to cope with it. I have great support from my family, friends and Julie and nothing is too much trouble for them. Sometimes it just helps me to write and rant on my own!

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25
Jun
11

up the middle and turn left

I had a different title for this post yesterday and should have written it down at the time as either the chemo or the other drugs they give me seem to play with my short term memory, but I like this one which was the extent of our plan for a weekend caravaning trip. I have been started on yet another drug, amlipodine, which is for high blood pressure, something I have never knowingly had, but seems to be a side effect of the trial drug, regorafinib.

The time between my hospital visits seems to pass far too quickly but I have crammed a fair bit into the past two weeks including completing the judging of the Glasgow Institute of Architects student awards at Strathclyde University following from our visit to The Mackintosh School of Art the week before, a day out with Lanarkshire Business Group at Hamilton Races, my first CT scan since I started treatment and a weekend caravan trip up North not mention squeezing a bit of work in too through necessity.

I have landed in a 4 person ward again. They other patients are nice enough but as I had mentioned before there are draw backs. One noticeable one this time is one that snores pretty much all day and all night, I am sure I have my moments but nothing on this scale! Another thing I will grump about is toilet etiquette and in particular the leaving of floaters and hair in or on the toilet, I know folk are not well but even when I was at my worst and in a room of my own I wouldn’t want someone coming across that! some of the banter is real strange too, I wouldn’t like to elaborate too much as there is always the possibility that someone will read this and recognise who I am talking about but some folk can talk some amount of ‘floater’.

I was hopeful when my treatment started about 5pm this time around but this hope was soon dashed when a few hours later, just after I had seen a doctor, I noticed a numbness in my right arm where my drugs are being infused. I had a bandage over the area as it keeps the tubes in place and out of the way of harm so hadn’t realised that for about 6 inches up my arm a swelling had started, it was only when this crept beyond the area of the bandage that I got a bit of a fright. I hadn’t seen anything like it and I am hardly exaggerating when I say it looked like the bottom half of my arm was Popeye’s. What had happened was the vein my infusion was in had blown and the chemo was effectively building up under my skin. My I.D. strip was on this arm and had stretched so much it was cutting off my circulation and my hand was turning blue. I jumped for the nurse call who quickly acted and removed the drip and provided heat packs to dry and dissipate the swelling. This made for a bit of an uncomfortable night but has slowly reduced and it is almost back to normal now. I lost about 2 hours before being hooked up to the drip on my other arm again so will probably be a late escape tonight.

Last Wednesday I had an enjoyable day at Hamilton races with Lanarkshire Business Group. I have been a member of the group for a few years now and have gained work through involvement as well as meeting some great people. I had taken the role of vice chairman and was just getting into the swing of it when I fell ill. This applied to my role of convener of the education committee of the GIA, another role I was beginning to really get my teeth into.  Lanarkshire Business Group is always looking for new members so please have a look at our site and contact us if you are interested in coming along. I have been unable to attend much recently but have been overwhelmed by the support and well wishes offered by everyone there.The race day was great even though I didn’t win anything at all. It was a long day and I was feeling really tired around 5 but found a second wind and stayed out for a while longer.

lanarkshire business group race day June 2011

Last Thursday I was back at Rosshall Hospital for a CT scan. The CT basically shows up the extent of tumour growth or spread. It is one of those big donut shaped machines that I am put through after drinking what is called gastrografin which helps the image show up better. I knew I would have to wait until the monday morning to hear the result and was quite anxious so my my caravan trip was a welcome distraction. The result of the scan seems to indicate that growth has halted which is great news.This would indicate that the treatment I am on is having some effect. I would have preferred to hear that there had been a reduction in size but this may have been too optimistic after only 6 weeks. Generally scans are taken at 10-12 week intervals, but I get more due to being on a trial, so it may be after 12 weeks there is more sign of a reduction hopefully. I see my surgeon again in august and I want to fully understand what the possibilities are for further surgery to remove the areas of cancer which is the only way that I can ever get to a stage where I might be able to reduce or stop the treatment I am on and maybe have a chance that growth wont recur which will eventually happen without surgery or advances in treatment. I am looking into surgical techniques developed for conditions like mine which are at very early stages of development but if I can keep on track with treatment and keep getting stronger I can work towards trying to get accepted for this.

Martin and Jason are two great friends of mine that I first met on what I remember as a sort of introduction day for students starting the part-time architecture course at Glasgow School of Art in what must have been 1992. Martin infamously asked after the introduction day if we wanted to ‘go for a coffee’ which soon turned into something a bit stronger and from there our friendship has grown over the past 20 years. Martin being the real family man of the trio bought a caravan a few years ago and we started talking about taking it somewhere for a weekend trip some time ago. We met up in Glasgow a few weeks ago to do some meticulous planning and just came up with the idea of ‘heading up the middle and turning left’ which is effectively what we ended up doing.

martin, me, jason and molly

My vision of heading for the hills and basking in June sunshine sipping wine next to a river were soon dashed, I should really know better by now. After a supply stop and an 8 peice £4 breakfast at one of our ‘friendly’ supermarkets, we headed north past perth and and took our left toward loch tay stopping only briefly in Aberfeldy and some tea and coffee at the wonderful watermill cafe and bookshop, well worth a stop if you are passing through. Once reaching Crianlarich we headed north again towards Glencoe. A quick pit stop and pint in the Kinghouse and it was decided to head along Glen Etive and find a pitch. Undeterred by the ‘unsuitable for caravans’ signs we pressed ahead to find a spot to stop for the night debating along the way the pros and cons of each potential site we spotted. eventually settling for a roadside spot close to the river and near some stunning waterfalls. We ditched the caravan and scoped the area taking pics of brave deer and lonely trees along the way despite the incessant rain.

I took shelter in the caravan to try to get a heat while watching and gloating at the other two putting up the awning before we settled down to some food and a well deserved drink or two. A small break in the weather the next morning allowed us another photo stop at the Buchaille Etive Mor, probably one of the most pictured peaks in Scotland and featured in most Scottish scene calendars every year. It was my first Munro of many and a very enjoyable climb with hugely rewarding view from its peak. A high start and not a long walk in makes it very accessible although there is some steep scrambling required to get onto the ridge wich is spectacular once you get up there.

The Buachaille Etive Mor

A visit to the Glencoe Visitors centre by gaia architects along with some tea and cake was followed by a forest walk while the weather held. I hadn’t walked very far at all due to the fatigue I suffer but with taking my time and the fresh air I was able to get along. It is frustrating being in a place were I have climbed extensively over the years but everything seeming so out of reach right now. With the forest path I always know how far i have gone and how quickly and easily I can get back. I used to go off walking on my own without worrying about how I would get back but now I always need an exit plan!

The heavens opened as we finished the walk and we took shelter in the climbers bar in the clachaig. In the past you could camp in the field next to the pub and it was always busy on a saturday night with a mixture of climbers and bikers partying most of the night after spilling out the pub. The area is fenced off now and only official campsites encouraged. I can see the environmental benefit of this but there is some magic lost.

As the rain persisted, so did our stay in the pub sampling the huge range of real ale on offer and getting a good feed before our retreat to the caravan. I had a bit of a kip when I got back before a night of poker and banter and a relatively early night. A few years ago we would have lasted till the daylight hours, especially at this time of year. As expected the sun came out the next day as we were due to leave but we had a bit of time to explore the near by waterfalls and experiment with some more long exposure shots.

etive falls

Headed back to reality via crieff for some lunch and eventually got home on Sunday at a reasonable time and a good sleep, not that molly wasn’t comfy but you can’t beat your own bed sometimes. Plans are afoot for our next adventure already.

Due to the tracking on my arms from the chemo infusion it has been agreed that I will get a pic line inserted which is a semi permenant point were I can get my treatment plugged in. The real advantage to this will be that I should be able to get a portable pump that I can take home rather than being in the Beatson every fortnight. I will still have to come in as an outpatient to get part of my treatment but the part that takes 46-50hrs, I will be able to take home. The pic line will resolve the problem with tracking as it goes into deeper stronger veins an wont show up on my skin. Until I get the pump I don’t know how mobile I can be with it but it sounds reasonable enough and will help get a bit more normality back, so everything going well, hopefully I will be writing my next post from my sofa!

02
Jan
11

my 2010

2010 was a real mixed bag for me on many levels. I am approaching 40 in 2011 and still take some comfort in this still being generally acknowledged as young for an architect. As I have mentioned previously, I have become more active on twitter than this blog but still feel there is some worth in posting on here from time to time, especially now at new year to record a bit of what I got up to in 2010.

Workwise, our most major achievement was the completion of the £3.5m community business centre now known as ‘one wellwynd’. It opened for business in November and there will be an official opening sometime soon. My practice has been working on the project for around 5 years and we are extremely proud of the outcome and initial feedback from the tenants and the public generally has been extremely positive. More images can be seen on the gca architecture+design website or on my flickr stream

one wellwynd

 

I have continued to progress other projects which will hopefully see the light of day in 2011 including more community based projects, an interesting agricultural residential development, an office extension, a sports pavilion, equestrian centre, several domestic remodelling/extensions and the redevelopment of Hartsdown Park in Margate which is a project I have worked on for around 7 years off and on and is now looking close to being realised.

I have found time to look at entering a few competitions reaching a shortlist of 10 for a new arena at Queen’s Park in Glasgow (see May post) and more recently, a sculpture competition to design a sculpture for the headquarters of SELECT, the trade association for the electrical industry in Scotland which we won. I am not sure what the programme is yet to complete the sculpture and there is a bit of work for me to do in working out the logistics of sourcing the materials and how it will be constructed but i am sure I will hear shortly into the new year.The idea is that it is formed in glass insulators and will light up and glow in the evening.

dielectric sculpture

I recently took the role of vice-chairman of the Lanarkshire Business Group and continue in my role as convener of the education committee of the Glasgow Institute of architects. Organising the Alexander Thomson Scholarship is top of the list of duties along with getting the next GIA photo competition up and running in the next month.

I didn’t travel as much as I had hoped during 2010, mostly due to pressures of work. I managed a few days on the Isle of Skye and the beginning of Spring and a trip to the Alps in Autumn to climb the highest mountain in Italy Gran Paradiso via some walking in chamonix in France. I did keep up my growing interest in Photography and started to get a good bit of interest in my work. I invested in a DSLR, a canon 400D a few years ago with a view to taking pictures for the GCA website. Since then my interest in photography has grown and grown and I love taking pictures of architecture, landscapes and pretty much anything else. The one area I haven’t developed in is portraits which I have started to concentrate on more. I have now started my own photography website www.jmcphoto.co.uk and invested in a canon 5D Mark II and a new tripod, now looking into investing in some good lenses and seeking out good assignments for myself.

 

portencross, one of my first trips out with new 5D Mark I

i never managed to get to any music festivals this year, which is the first time in a while. I go through phases of wanting to go to see live music and this year I haven’t seen much and missed a lot of gigs i would usually have gone well out of my way to see. It may be an age thing but i find myself much less likely to go out midweek, it’s probably more to do with working long hours though. I recently saw the pogues on what they were calling their farewell tour. I have lost count of the amount of times I have seen them live, the first time being in 1987 supporting U2 at Murrayfield during their Joshua Tree tour. Although McGowan can be eratic in his performances, the strength in the rest of the pogues and the quality of the song writing always make these gigs a worthwhile experience. I am going to see New York band The Walkmen in glasgow shortly which will hopefully ignite my enthusiasm for seeing a bit more live music this year.

2010 wasn’t the greatest for film releases, the fact that Clash of the titans made the top 10 grossing films of 2010 backs this up. I enjoyed The girl with the dragon tattoo, the town, kickass and confess to having a soft spot for ironman but was not as enthralled with Inception as I hoped I would be from the reviews it received.

In August I made the trip to inverness to see the Highland Housing Expo. An interesting collection of house designs, some more successful than others. There is so much been written about the expo that whatever I think is probably quite insignificant. I am not sure what it will achieve, I don’t know if the Homes for the future housing on Glasgow green had much influence on future housing design but it did produce some good and mediocre house types.

 

living area in house designed by Nord

I became a bit disillusioned by social media for a while over 2010 and withdrew from it a bit. I think a lot of people mis-use it and mis-interpret it a lot which can lead to misunderstanding. I tend to keep all the various social media outlets I use separate as some of the issues I discuss are not relevant from one outlet to another. I try to a certain extent to keep what I say on each platform relevant to the people I am connected to and I do not see the use of social media for me a marketing tool although there is sometimes a spin-off benefit of this. Generally when I discuss social media with others they always reply that they don’t have time for it and don’t know how I find the time. I have found though that through my interest in social media I have also developed my I.T. skills to an extent where I now control and update my own websites which I would have thought impossible in the past and which I have also spent a lot of money on previously.

Resolutions for 2011 include improving on the lack of travelling I have done over the past year, entering some larger architectural competitions, getting more of my photographs printed and framed for selling, completing my house designs and submitting for planning and not grumping about being 40 too much although i can’t promise not to at all. I have also been set the challenge of climbing the inaccessible pinnacle in Skye before my birthday which I have accepted enthusiastically! watch this space!

Happy New year All and best wishes for 2011

 

 

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02
Nov
10

Airdrie’s New Community Health Centre

 

building making way for the new health centre

 

In 2000, Airdrie gained the dubious honour of winning the Carbuncle Cup for being the most dismal town in Scotland.

Ten years on, huge sums of money have been invested in the town, millions on streetscape improvements, the award-winning and environmentally accredited business centre has been constructed, and the oldest church in Airdrie , Old Wellwynd, which lay empty for fifteen years, has been rescued and re-used through conversion into a modern community facility.

Airdrie’s problems are shared with many places in Scotland; it is a former industrial town struggling to find a new identity in tough economic times, and it is a victim of poor planning and design decisions of the past few decades.

At the time it was given the Carbuncle Award, the accompanying statement was clear: This is not a criticism of the people of Airdrie, it is a criticism of the professionals who decide what does and does not happen.

This is why I feel strongly enough, as a local architect, to voice my concerns over what I perceive as a fresh mistake, the recently commenced Airdrie Community Health Centre.

The Health Centre is a welcome major investment of £27million; it will provide a wide range of primary care and community-based services under one roof in the heart of Airdrie, and bringing these services together is an opportunity to breathe further life into the town centre.

The problem begins, however, and this is where I see history repeating itself, and the potential for future criticism of the professionals involved, in the design of the proposed new building. I feel this is misconceived, in terms of a lack of civic presence, a failure of integration with the town centre, and visual appearance.

I understand fully issues of budget and design constraints in the delivery of a building of this type; however, in a building of such importance to the regeneration of the town, I believe there is a duty amongst design professionals to stick our heads above the parapet, difficult though this is, and question exactly what is being built.

The design of this building has gone through a rigorous planning process and a design assessment carried out by the government official body Architecture and Design Scotland; yet the comments and recommendations made by A&DS in its report, which heavily criticise the proposals for a lack of civic presence, have been paid barely lip service in the final design.

The architects claim, on their website, that they are a team ‘driven by design excellence’, and they are indeed an award-winning practice.

I have no doubt they will be working to a tight budget, on a challenging site, to a demanding brief. All this will have to be delivered for a ridiculously low fee. However, all this should not prevent appropriate design considerations to be a priority.

The façade of the proposed building includes large amounts of white render.This a fundamental mistake for a building situated where it is proposed; one only has to look at the problems of this material at Glasgow’s Homes of the Future, Glasgow Green, to understand the inherent difficulties posed by white render in the Scottish climate in a building situated next to a busy roundabout.

It will soon shed its bright new image and become very grimy indeed.

In addition, the facades are featureless and bland, a nod to modernism without any of its soul, and a repeat of why Scotland has so few really good modern buildings.

There is little articulation or sense of what this building could be. No doubt the designers could argue there is little local context to draw on, but that is no excuse to build something as architecturally uninspiring as the lump being torn down to make way for the new.

This building should be an exemplar of what Airdrie could achieve in future and allow it to finally shake off its Carbuncle image.

The new building does nothing to enhance or engage with the streetscape, and it turns its back on Graham Street; these issues have been raised during the design process so there is no excuse for the decision makers if this goes wrong.

I believe architects have a responsibility to the wider built environment and should not consider their designs in isolation. They should be brave enough to question the brief, to explore alternative approaches to present to clients to demonstrate how buildings can work better as part of a holistic solution rather than merely providing an envelope to house the brief.

A building of this civic importance should be designed as an integral part of what will become the Conservation Area of the centre of Airdrie, and designed to stand many decades into the future.

As things are, it will be lucky if it survives as long as its 1960s predecessor.

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20
May
10

Queen’s Park Arena Competition

This is the entry I put together for the Queen’s Park Arena Competition which has been shortlisted as 1 of 10 entries out of 77 to be included in an exhibition to be held in The Glasshouse, Queen’s Park, Glasgow on 22/23 May 2010.

Full list of shortlisted entries are listed below which can be viewed on the competition website under the entries catagory

19 – Nicholas Roberts, Manifest Architecture, based in Queens Park, Glasgow.
24 – Nicholas Ecob, based in London.
29 – Martin Jarvie and Judy Cheung, based in Glasgow.
44 – ZM architecture, based in Glasgow.
70 – BFLS, based in London.
5 – Lucid Architecture, a Glasgow based practice.
6 – GCA Architecture and Design, a Coatbridge based practice.
10 – Dress for the Weather, a Glasgow based practice.
20 – Martin Baillie and Colin Davies, Architects based in Kirkintilloch.
73 – Superfusionlab, a London based practice.

For what it is worth I liked No.20

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12
Apr
10

Feb/Mar 2010

It didn’t take me long to fall behind with my 2010 blog posts. I started this as an almost diary like blog but my use of twitter and flickr has taken over on this role so I have been thinking a lot about what role the blog page should have. I knew when I started it would need to evolve which I think it has, although I still view it as a personal record rather than an information service and those of you read or even just look at my page I hope that there is something of interest there (I know there are some!).

Work is as tough as ever, i just think it always will be that way for what I do and where I have chosen to practice. No matter what the economy holds, as long as I ensure that I keep the standards I have set for myself and the company and we produce good design then I will be happy. It is easy to get disillusioned by the industry and I must admit that I have considered and still do consider,  moving from Scotland to practice somewhere else. I have weighed up the pros and cons of this many times. Although successfully running my own practice for 5 years, I am still under 40(relatively young in architectural terms) and think I have a lot more to offer and to achieve, I just don’t know if I can do it where I am.

Probably our biggest and most high profile project, the redevelopment of Old Wellwynd Church in Airdrie, is really taking shape now. The external screens are due on site shortly and it will be wind and water tight before long. I am holding off posting pics untill the scaffold comes down as it just looks like any other building site at the moment. There is one section of the building which I think would make a great architectural office!

About this time last year I started working on a new community building for the village of Glenboig, full planning was granted in March and we are now awaiting funding approvals(images in August 2009 post). Hopefully if we get funding we can move onto detailed design stage with a view to getting on site early next year and would be a great follow on project to the Wellwynd development.

I have continued to get out and about taking photos with trips to Edinburgh, Skye, Troon and another visit to the 20th Century ruin of St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. There has been a lot written about this building by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, the last I heard was that Gareth Hoskins was working on a spa/residential development of the building with Urban Splash but I think that in the height of the property market this would be a difficult and risky venture nevermind now.

St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

I have started printing some of my photos. In the past I had only printed any for competitions or exhibitions but have decided to get a few put together for myself or anyone else interested, the first being this dark foreboding picture of the Black Cuillin in Skye which I particularly liked:

Black Cuillin

Black Cuillin

Skye is an amazing place and I would encourage anyone to visit. Stayed in an apartment just North of Portree called Dunsgiath with views over Loch Fada and beyond to the Old Man of Storr. I had been planning on getting some serious walking done but was failed by my faith in the Scottish weather and was in fact nearly snow bound in Skye even though we were nearly in April! A last night stay at the Michelin star awarded Kinloch Lodge made up for the disappointing weather though and were treated to an amazing meal in a tremendous setting.

Stayed a night in Edinburgh at the end of March to catch The Beauty Queen of Leenane, a play by Martin McDonagh who wrote the screenplay In Bruges. I took the opportunity to take the guided tour of the Scottish Parliament building while there which I have done before, once during construction and once when it was newly opened. I am almost always asked for an opinion on this building which is in extremely loaded question in Scotland. It can be a tricky one to answer depending on who you are talking to as generally they will already have formed their own view on it based on all the bad press it has received and 9 out 10 will not have visited it yet. Having met Enric Miralles in the early 90’s in Barcelona and visiting Igualada cemetery with him, I was more than happy with his selection to design the Scottish Parliament and I was not disappointed in the building produced. If cost and politics are put aside, a true appreciation the architecture can then be looked at with an open mind and I consider what he has done is the work of a genius.

The Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament

I will be 39 at the end of April and plan to make the best of my last year as a 30 something!

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01
Feb
10

Jan 2010

I like the way I was able to go back 12months and see what I was writing about then. There was a lot of doom and gloom around the construction industry and this continued for most of 2009. As I write this, the news is that the UK is officially coming out of recession. Things have been tough, but, I feel like things have always been just as difficult. The many articles on how to survive the recession listed ideas which I would have thought anyone running a small business should have been doing already. The one thing that I have maybe learned is that as a small company, i cannot afford to have people working with me who are not contributing as much as they should. I need to learn to interview better and attract staff that want to be part of a team with a common goal. For years it has been difficult to get staff and I was plagued with agencies trying to do business with us for outrageous fees. The problem has often been that that those who previously worked for volume housebuilders cannot expect the same salary and conditions that they enjoyed previously. If I continue to be as busy as the start of the year suggests i will be advertising again but I will be thinking long and hard about the kind of person I need.

One of my New Years resolutions was to get out and take more photo’s, and try and improve my skills. I have started a list of places I want to photograph, some local, some further afield. The cold weather at the start of the year provided some good opportunities and my first trip was to Whitlee Windfarm, the largest onshore windfarm in Europe. I like the turbines, I think they are elegant and fit in well in most circumstances.

whitelee windfarm

It was amazingly quiet while I was there and it was quite eerie with the sound of the blades whirring in the wind. You can see the scale of the turbines against tiny speckle of a few people in the picture above in front of the turbine on the right. the freezing cold misty conditions added to the atmosphere.

whitelee windfarm

A couple of weekends later, I took a trip to the Galashiels to try and get some photos of Gala Fairydean Stadium. The main feature of the stadium being a 500 seat concrete stand designed by Peter Wormsley completed in 1964.

Main Stand

There is very little information available on Peter Wormsley but he is notable for some quite interesting buildings. I have been planning to visit this building for quite some time and was able to sneak through a gate that had been left open to get some pitchside photo’s. It seemed deserted but someone came out to see what I was up to and kindly showed me around and filled me in on some of the history and the adaptions that have been made over the years.

gravity defying roof

The most striking feature is the gravity defying roof. The great mass of concrete seems to be effortlessly suspended over the stand. Advertising boards fill gaps that were once filled with glass which once  emphased the illusion. Concrete like this doesn’t wear well in Scotland and, unsurprisingly, the building is plagued with cold bridging and water ingress. It has now been listed in order to preserve it for future generations and I agree that something like this which is so rare in Scotland is certainly worthy of maintaining. There is very little money in football at this level and maintaining the stand will be a burden for the club unless they can get help elsewhere. I would certainly volunteer to help out if they need an architect on board.

stair detail

stair detail

More photos available here

I have submitted 3 project to the Scottish Design Awards and will hopefully at least get shortlisted for one of them. I have talked about awards before and don’t lose sleep over them but it would be nice to get somewhere sometime.

Some new projects on the board at the moment, Wellwynd Church progressing well on site and will post progress photo’s next month it is just a lot of steelwork at the moment.

Decent Film’s I have seen this month include The Wave, Moon, Mesrine Parts 1&2, 44″Chest, Un Prophete, Romano Criminale and The Badder Meinhoff Complex. Seems to be a bit of a theme developing but really governed by what lovefilm send out.

Not seen much live music recently but got tickets for LCD Soundsystem. Would love to get some tickets for the Manic Street Preachers at the legendary King Tut’s in Glasgow but they are currently going for £300 a pair, a lot more than the £3.50 I think I paid nearly 20 years ago. Yeasayer on in Oran Mor next week and might go and see them.

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