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Cairngorms and Caledonian Canal win second round of Scenic Routes projects

March 31 2014

Cairngorms and Caledonian Canal win second round of Scenic Routes projects
Scottish Canals have announced the location of five new Scenic Routes projects on sites near Devil’s Elbow, Glen Shee and on the Lecht Road near Cock Bridge in the Cairngorms National Park and at Banavie and Laggan on the Caledonian Canal.

The £500k project is the second stage of a competition to invite young architects to design installations which celebrate and improve access to some of Scotland’s most scenic spaces.

Steve Dunlop, chief executive of Scottish Canals, said: “We know from the experience of Scandinavia that creating new and innovative opportunities for visitors to stop off and enjoy the landscape can significantly benefit the nation’s tourist economy. With the help of some of the finest young architectural talent in Scotland, we have no doubt this project will encourage even more people to leave the couch behind and explore the many wonders of the canal network.

“Banavie, which sits in the shadow of Ben Nevis and is home to the iconic lock flight of Neptune’s Staircase, offers some incredible sights. Laggan, where the rugged, fjord-like scenery of Loch Lochy meets the man-made beauty of the Caledonian Canal, is just as stunning. Both locations are jewels in the crown of the Caledonian Canal and we can’t wait to see how the competition’s designs celebrate them.”

The first phase of the project saw three projects given the go-ahead at Inveruglas, Falls of Falloch and Loch Lubnaig, all within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
Falls of Falloch was amongst the first round of projects to share in another £500k of funding
Falls of Falloch was amongst the first round of projects to share in another £500k of funding
The project draws inspiration from the success of a similar scheme in Norway and is being funded by the Scottish Government
The project draws inspiration from the success of a similar scheme in Norway and is being funded by the Scottish Government


#1 Posted by Stephen on 31 Mar 2014 at 13:17 PM
Why couldn't this be offered out to more experienced architects as well and proposals judged anonymously on quality alone? To restrict it to such a narrow and inexperienced group smacks of exploitation and has severely restricted quality (although of of course the competition process is inherently exploitative).
The Norwegian's commissioned Zumthor amongst others for their version. Ours isn't quite the same...
Rem Koolbag
#2 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 31 Mar 2014 at 14:14 PM
hear hear Stephen. Although I hasten to add the winners of previous round were of a high quality, it does seem overly restrictive to set such a short time post-qualification for entry.

Personally, I would love to enter this competition, exploitation or not (and that is a completely different discussion) but am 1 year out of time. Given the process of qualification means you could be 45 and working in practice for 20 years before being 'qualified' or straight out of uni in to part 4 exams, it still isn't very fair.
#3 Posted by Anon on 31 Mar 2014 at 17:52 PM
Given the state of modern Scottish architecture under these more 'experienced' architects, I wouldn't be so bold as to assume their inclusion into such a competition would raise the quality - far from it! You only need a glance at the RIAS 2014 Award shortlist for a current example of the sort of gash they're all churning out.
Big Chantelle
#4 Posted by Big Chantelle on 31 Mar 2014 at 18:00 PM
I agree. We need quality architects like Keppie doing it.
#5 Posted by Robert on 1 Apr 2014 at 07:41 AM
The entry restrictions do seem a tad too, er, restrictive. In the world of competitions and awards the common threshold for what constitutes a 'young' architect is generally taken as being under 40.

As Rem has suggested, number of years qualified is not always meaningful. I know of a director of a large established practice who left the P3 exam a little late and would probably qualify but as a young sole practitioner I am not eligible.
Peter Wilson
#6 Posted by Peter Wilson on 2 Apr 2014 at 17:43 PM
Rem & Robert are misinformed - the entry requirement states that applicants should be within five years of completing RIBA Part II or the landscape architect equivalent so, sorry, no old lags with 20 years experience are going to make the cut. I can state this with some confidence because it was me that wrote this into the brief and whilst it may seem unduly restrictive, believe me, there is a huge constituency of young architects out there who have been unable to gain practical experience because of the lack of available (or worthwhile) jobs over the past few years. This is of zero benefit to the profession.

As regards the suggestion of exploitation - nobody is obliged to enter, nobody has to pay an entry fee, the workload requirement is restricted to one A1 panel only and the authors of each shortlisted project receive £1000 to enable them to produce material for the second stage assessment. There were 15 shortlisted in the first group of competitions, so entrants had a 1 in 6 chance of getting a result. And every entry is published, not just the winners. Whilst not yet perhaps the perfect competition process, I'd be grateful to anyone who can show me another architectural competition anywhere in the UK that offers this scope of opportunity to entrants in order that we can learn from it.

The challenge for us all is not to whinge about the entry criteria in this particular case, but to create new opportunities where none currently exist. I would suggest that the Scottish Scenic Routes series of competitions or their entry criteria are not the problem: the real problem is the absence of any competitions that seek to extend particular areas of architectural skill and experience. An instant way to affect the procurement debate, for example, would be for the profession to collectively demand that our government and our own institutions support the creation of a simple, coherent, consistent and independent competition structure for all publicly funded projects under the £4.32m procurement threshold and that these be open only to practices of ten people or less. Since more than 80% of the profession in Scotland falls into this camp, it would open a door to a huge spectrum of work presently slammed shut by ludicrously restrictive PQQs and skewed interpretations of EU procurement limits. And it would unquestionably up the ante in terms of design quality.

Put simply, it is up to us all to use our collective clout to lobby for simple, but radical change. Anyone with me in wanting to make this happen? If so, the Scottish Scenic Routes initiative need only be a beginning in repositioning architecture in Scotland to a far more positive place. There, I've gone and thrown my glove down.
Not An Architect
#7 Posted by Not An Architect on 2 Apr 2014 at 21:30 PM
Hear, hear! @Peter Wilson, you and this competition are restoring the faith of a new generation of designers in this profession.

I often like to drop into UR to see the new ways that commenter's find to denounce new work but I'm afraid the geriatrics have finally got to me. Speaking from personal experience, after graduating during this recession with two architectural degrees this industry offered terrible career prospects. Moreover, the few positions that were available promised little or no pay on short-term contracts until eventually, the RIBA had to step in. You will find other industries have coherent development programs beyond academia because they recognise that the success and growth of the company is linked to nurturing young talent.
So, many of us are eager for a chance and responsibility to prove ourselves and are very grateful for competitions like these. We must remember that this is very small budget stuff, £50 000 for each site in phase 2 - I doubt it is really comparable to commissioning Peter Zumthor! However, it is just enough to give us fledging designers a chance to test our creativity in ways which our offices would not let us do for a decade or two, especially as there are so many window schedules to be written ;) Personally, I think the submissions for the last round were some of the most interesting designs published on UR last year given the short time scale! Hats off to the people who have the belief and foresight to offer chances like this!
Rem Koolbag
#8 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 3 Apr 2014 at 09:25 AM
Thanks Peter, appreciate the in-depth response.

I take your point on the entry being set from Part II. This is a good idea, and can totally see the point. I am simply miffed that one of the best competitions for a while, on my doorstep, and I can't enter due to impending old-fogey-ness! The general issue of controlling entry to competitions is a really difficult one.

I also agree that generally the level of comments here can be very negative. I hope I am not adding to this perception.

Agree entirely with third paragraph also, but think the throwing of gloves is taking things just too far.
#9 Posted by stephen on 4 Apr 2014 at 17:26 PM
Peter, I absolutely believe you have nothing but the best intentions at heart but I'm afraid my objections still remain:
1. Architects have a responsibility to society at large, not just to our own profession. That responsibility is to achieve the best possible built outcome, because that is our very manifest and physical legacy (as opposed to the improvement of our own CVs). What we build is either what we bequeath/inflict on the rest of society and these projects will stay in place for decades if not longer. This is also a very public scheme (being discussed as our version of the Norwegian exemplar) which will be promoted widely, not some experience-gaining back-garden shed or temporary art installation.
2. Those 'Architectural Assistants' that won are not struggling to get experience because they were amongst the best in their years. Perhaps we're educating too many architects and should raise entry requirements?
3. Architectural competitions are exploitative and in this one you are not paying the going rate for design services, either once on site or for the free designs you have been given. We are pressured into entering for these 'opportunities' because it is one of the few ways we can get our designs built.
#10 Posted by Stephen on 5 Apr 2014 at 18:18 PM
By the way, the first three Scenic Routes winners are (or at least have been) working at EMBT, Rogers Stirk Harbour and Dualchas respectively. They aren't "struggling for opportunities", they're doing just fine. The rest of society on the other hand would like the best possible built environment, especially when its money is funding this scheme.

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