(c) Malcolm Cochrane

At a ceremony last night at the National Museum of Scotland in Chamber Street, Edinburgh, Ms Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, together with Mrs Margaret Doolan Hon FRIAS (mother of the late founder of the award) presented the RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award to Sutherland Hussey Harris for the West Burn Lane housing development in St Andrews. The ‘Doolan’ is the richest architectural prize in the UK, worth £25,000 and one of the most significant architecture awards in Europe.

The judges’ citation for West Burn Lane commented:

“Expertly woven into the existing fabric of St Andrews, although uncompromisingly contemporary, the development acknowledges the historic street pattern and scale of its special context.” and

“The client and the local planning authority are well worthy of praise for creating a fine, twenty-first century, housing development, wholly appropriate to the place and the needs of owners.”

However, the decision is highly controversial. When the building previously won an RIAS Award in June this year, Howard Greenwell, Chairman of the local Community Council in St Andrews, said that

“The only award this should be shortlisted for is Carbuncle of the Year”.

He went on to say

“If this wins any other prize, the architecture profession will go down several notches in my opinion as they seem to be completely dismissive of, and ignorant of, conservation issues of the town”.

Graham Wynd, Chairman of St Andrews Preservation Trust said that he felt that

“The brickwork is inappropriate, lifeless and almost industrial”.

He said his main objection was that the development

“Protrudes too far out the lane”.

In response, the Secretary of RIAS, Neil Baxter, commented

“It is a pity that some people are uncomfortable with anything new. This is a superb development, well worthy of one of our most important historic towns and the top architectural award in Scotland. There are worse things than continental brick, straight lines and big windows.”

The building was selected from a strong shortlist of twelve projects which represented a comprehensive range of building types. The judges felt that two projects merited a Special Mention. These are:

1. Arcadia Nursery, Edinburgh

Malcolm Fraser Architects

2. Laurieston Transformational Area, Glasgow

PagePark Architects and Elder and Cannon Architects

The panel of judges was chaired by Willie Watt PRIAS, along with Dame Barbara Kelly Hon FRIAS, Peter McIlhenny FRIAS, Past President of the RIAS’ Inverness Chapter and Margaret Richards FRIAS, winner of last year’s RIAS Lifetime Achievement Award.

The panel looked for projects which showed innovation and design excellence, irrespective of size or type. Other key considerations were: detailing, accessibility, environmental issues and technical skill. From the sixty five entries for the 2015 RIAS Awards twelve were shortlisted for the ‘Doolan’.

Willie Watt PRIAS commented that;

“Year on year the shortlist for this award, all winners of RIAS Awards, demonstrates the superb quality of contemporary Scottish architecture. The work of architects can be transformative, not simply of places, but of people’s lives. This shortlist testifies to that and the worthy winner is a great building of the current era which will hopefully contribute to a more enlightened approach to our historic townscapes. Well done all the architects and particular plaudits to the superb winning scheme.”

The shortlist for the RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award comprised this year’s RIAS Awards winners, as follows:

1. Arcadia Nursery, Edinburgh

Malcom Fraser Architects for The University of Edinburgh

2. Dalmunach Distillery, Moray

Archial Norr (Inverness Studio) (for Chivas Brothers (part of Pernod Ricard))

3. Highland Steading, Blairgowrie

Marcus Lee/FLACQ and cameronwebster architects (for a private client)

4. Lamb's House, Edinburgh

Groves-Raines Architects Ltd (for Groves-Raines Architects)

5. Laurieston Transformational Area, Glasgow

PagePark Architects and Elder and Cannon Architects (for New Gorbals Housing Association)

6. Maggie's Lanarkshire, Airdrie

Reiach and Hall Architects (for Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres)

7. The Mill, Scottish Borders

WT Architecture (for a private client)

8. Regency Dormer, Edinburgh

Konishi Gaffney Architects (for a private client)

9. Rosefield, Edinburgh

A449 LTD (for Format Scotland LTD)

10. The Shields Centre, Glasgow

Anderson Bell + Christie Architects (for hub West Scotland)

11. Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Page Park Architects (for Scottish Opera)

12. West Burn Lane, St Andrews

Sutherland Hussey Harris (for EASTACRE Investments LLP)