Newbyres Castle – Recording the archaeology

Last Wednesday I organised the latest community workshop at Newbyres castle – a 16th century ruin in the heart of Gorebridge. The day was lead by Piers Dixon, an archaeologist from Historic Environment Scotland, who was ably helped by two colleagues – Eva Boyle and Adam Welfare. The day started with a tour of the castle and the land around. Piers speculated about what buildings might have surrounded the castle. By looking at the flat areas and man-made banks, some of which were only just discernible to the layman’s eye, we slowly built up a picture of what might have stood here once, including workshops, barns and kitchen gardens.  We then took a more detailed look at the ruins themselves …

Renewable energies CPD

Earlier this month I organised a CPD to unravel the complexities – claims and counterclaims – around the renewable energy sector. Several independent experts gave their views on how to sort through the issues and provided us with much food for thought. Thank you to all who contributed to an enlightening afternoon.

100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings

I recently attended the book launch of “100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings” by SEDA (Scottish Ecological Design Association). I strongly recommend it to everyone. As Robin Harper (SEDA’s patron) said “It is a celebration of new ideas, of ingenuity, imagination, philosophy and art, a tribute to creativity, joyfulness, human scale design, an expression of our dedication to live with nature and the ow of life, to be genuinely sustainable in every possible way.”

Slovenian wood

Last week I was in Slovenia for a tour of Riko’s timber factory in Ribnica, about an hour’s drive south of the capital Ljubljiana. I was invited there to look at their facilities as I am intending to make the Woodland Nursery out of timber, or — more specifically — out of cross-laminated timber panels (CLT). Cross-laminated timber is large-format, innovative, engineered timber that is manufactured off-site. It was first developed in the sawmills of Austria and Germany in the early 1990s there are now CLT factories right across Europe, but not yet in the UK. Although wood has been used in buildings for centuries, the development and production of large format CLT panels was the first time a wood …

Tree columns bring wildlife into nursery

Tree columns bring wildlife into nursery

Horntails, or wood wasps, have made their nests in the internal oak trees supporting the roof of Halvorsen Architects’ recently completed Happy Days nursery extension, along with several other species of insect! Rather than be alarmed at their new, uninvited guests, the creative and environmentally-friendly nursery has embraced the chance to study wildlife indoors and set their under fives a project on these mean-looking but quite harmless beasts! (See blog for more information on this project)    

Beauty and elegance

At last a skyscraper that is not yet another phallic symbol.  Herzog & de Meuron, architects of Tate Modern, have designed Beirut Terraces, a residential tower in the Lebanese capital. This beautifully elegant building is made of staggered floor plates with large overhangs breaking the relentless pursuit for the sleekest vertical tower. How refreshing to have a tower that both grounds one with its horizontals but with such a lightness of touch. Read more in Dezeen.  

A Class Apart

Good article about new ways of looking at classroom design by John McDermott of the Economist. Just what I am doing for Happy Days nurseries.

Woodland nursery

Planning permission has now been granted for a new nursery building that we have designed for Happy Days, in Eskbank, Midlothian. Midlothian Council planners refused to give consent last December, but the Local Review Body (comprised of Midlothian councillors) overturned their decision earlier this week. Happy Days moved in to Hardengreen House – a large Georgian house originally built in 1796 – a couple of years ago but have already outgrown the premises. The house has extensive grounds, with fields in front and woodland behind. The client asked Halvorsen Architects to design a new building at the edge of the wooded area directly behind the house. The proposed building has two-storeys and a floor space of 130 sq. m. It …

Newbyres castle conservation

Despite the bitter cold over 20 volunteers and archaeologists turned up this week to spend a day clearing vegetation around the little-known ruin of Newbryres castle in Gorebridge town centre. Newbryres castle was ‘adopted’ by the Adopt-a-Monument Scheme run by Archaeology Scotland last Summer. Last week saw the first community volunteering day, led by myself on behalf of Gorebridge Community Development Trust  and Rebecca Barclay of Archaeology Scotland, to start conserving the remains of castle. The sun shone and we had a very enjoyable day, including a delicious home-made lunch served up by more volunteers in GCDT’s office down the road. Newbryres castle is 16th century L-plan, thee-storey tower house built by Michael Borthwick of Glengelt. He acquired the land …

My new signboard

I never really took to the yellow RIAS architects signboard. So I designed my own. Here is the finished product on site at Happy Days nursery, Dalkeith.