Buildings that take your breath away

Scotland’s Festival of Architecture is a major, year-long celebration of Scottish architecture led by The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.  It is a key part of 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. The Scottish Borders is participating with its own Scottish Borders Design Award Scheme.

A writers retreat in the Scottish Borders shortlisted for 2016 RIAS awards

A Scottish Borders house is one of 23 projects shortlisted for this years RIAS Awards 2016. Blakeburn (take a peak, you’ll love it) near Melrose, by A449 architects, is a complete overhaul of a nondescript mid-20th century house  to create a unique and elegant country home. The house was extended to the east and west, with the entire building then clad, in scorched larch, to blend in with nearby woodland. The client is a writer (alas not me) but what a wonderful setting for stimulating your creative mind. Fingers crossed it’s a winner.

In Stately Silence


Photo Credit Bob Lawson

Mellerstain House will host ‘In Stately Silence’, a major new exhibition by artist Duncan Tattersall, from 29 April – 26 September 2016 (on house open days of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday). You can meet Duncan at the two day opening event on Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May.  Since 2008, he’s been seeking out Scotland’s lesser known derelict mansions, exploring their remains, and creatively recording an enthralling chapter of their history.  The exhibition combines painting, sculpture and photography with historic materials to reveal the stories of 46 derelict mansions.

Reflections at The Haining, selkirk 

Reflections showcases contemporary glass art by students  from Edinburgh and Sunderland Universities, alongside local artists.  Reflections runs from 30th April to 8th May

Celebrating the work architect Peter Wormersley

During October (1st-23rd) the Heriot Watt Campus in Galashiels will be hosting a series of talks on the work of modernist British architect Peter Wormersley (1923-1993).  While his work has been very influential nationally and internationally, he is mostly unknown in Scotland outside the design sector. This project celebrates his contribution to Scotland’s built heritage and his collaborations with others.  He worked  with Scottish Borders textile designer, Bernat Klein, for whom he designed a studio near Selkirk.

Big House Twilight Tours – Borders Heritage Festival

In September six of the best big houses in the Scottish Borders open  their doors for a series of Twilight tours.  Come and enjoy some of the regions finest architecture and marvel at the interiors and garden designs. Twilight Tours (mostly with supper and a glass of wine) are on at Floors Castle, Bowhill, Traquair, Abbotsford, Gunsgreen and Paxton Houses.  Booking will be through the Scottish Borders Heritage Festival website, keep looking as the tickets are sure to be snapped up quickly.   Please note fees will apply for the Twilight Tours.  Hope to see you on one of these tours.

8th September Floors Castle  Gardens will be on show.  Daniel Defoe enthused about the gardens in 1723, as you almost certainly will do too.

Abbotsford Walter Scott

Photo Credit Robin Chapman

10th September  Discover Abbotsford House.  The home of Sir Walter Scott, created almost 200 years ago on the banks of the River Tweed and the fount of his inspiration.

15th September  Floors Castle.   Scotland’s largest inhabited castle (Duke of Roxburghe), designed by William Adam in 1721.  .

22nd September Bowhill House.  Sir Walter Scott, a kinsman and frequent visitor, admired the house so much he christened it ‘Sweet Bowhill’ in his famous poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel.  It contains much of the Duke of Buccleuch’s art collection.  But if you have children it is home to the most amazing  Adventure Playground.

24th September Traquair House. Dating back to 1107, originally a hunting lodge for the kings and queens of Scotland.  Later a refuge for Catholic priests. The Stuarts of Traquair supported Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobite cause without counting the cost.

30th September  Paxton House One of the finest neo-Palladian examples of architecture in Scotland (designed by John Adam).  The house contains an amazing collection of Chippendale furniture.  The magnificent picture gallery (a particular favourite of mine) has many works on loan from the National Galleries in Edinburgh.

Gunsgreen House

Photo Credit S J Whitehorne

28 & 29th September Gunsgreen House Built in 1753 by local smuggler John Nisbet. Look out for the secret hiding places where smuggled goods were kept.

Scotstyle Building the Century, Bowhill House 

A free exhibition celebrating the top 100 buildings from 1916-2015, nominated by the Scottish public.  The exhibition will be open from Thursday 21st April to Thursday 5th May .  The exhibition is accompanied by a superb new book, edited by Neil Baxter and Fiona Sinclair (who was my architect when I made some changes to my house), featuring the top 100 buildings. You can also vote for your favourite  building.   Scotland’s best building from the last 100 years will be announced at the Grand Finale of the Festival in Dundee on 18 November 2016.

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