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This past week has been atypical but not unusually varied in my 20 odd years’ experience at LDN Architects.
Monday morning saw my colleague Ross MacTaggart and I rendezvous at Castle Stuart, the 17th century tower house outside Inverness to carry out an initial fabric audit, the first stage in a feasibility study on behalf of Cabot Highlands, https://cabothighlands.com/ the owners of the renowned golf links of the same name that is nearby. The survey was fascinating and cold in equal measure but was made much easier by being able to fly the office drone between snow flurries once permission was granted by nearby Dalcross Airport.
Tuesday started in the Forres office catching up on paperwork but by late afternoon I was bowling down the Great Glen in spring sunshine towards the snow-covered bulk of Ben Nevis before turning right for the Road to the Isles.
Wednesday was an early start for the team charged to deliver the Canna House project for The National Trust for Scotland as we gathered on the pier in Arisaig. Category B Listed Canna House is on The Isle of Canna, which is the most remote of the Small Isles in the Inner Hebrides and a 1.5-hour boat trip from the mainland (on a good day). Luckily the sea was like a mill pond and the views of Rum and the snow covered Cuillins on Skye amazing. In addition, we were treated to the sight of sea eagles squabbling with gulls over a shoal of fish brought to the surface by porpoises.
Canna House is a key part of the Trust’s current capital programme and a £2.5M project that is to be delivered by Simpson Builders, https://simpsonbuilders.co.uk/ based in Beauly. Both t house and the island were donated to the Trust by Gaelic scholar John Lorne Campbell and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw, who together amassed and researched a huge collection of Gaelic and Celtic songs, stories, poetry and a unique collection of butterflies and moths. Canna House contains their archive and collection which is now to be interpreted for the public.
LDN have been involved on Canna since 2015 when a team spent an unforgettable week in December that year carrying out a full audit of the properties owned by the National Trust on this island and have been visiting ever since, but despite having carried out some emergency work on Canna House in 2019, this visit marks the real beginning of the year long restoration project for Canna House and was an opportunity for the design team to meet the contractor’s team and review the project together.
Wednesday night was spent in a hotel in Inverness as I was due on site at Inverness Castle on Thursday morning. This visit has become an almost weekly ritual. LDN has been involved in this flagship project for Highland Council since 2017 when the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service decided to relocate from the Category A listed Law Courts designed in 1833 by William Burn in the centre of Inverness to its new home designed by Reiach and Hall on the outskirts. The scheme when complete is intended to provide a gateway for Highland Tourism and the interpretative exhibition it will house designed by Mather and Company will celebrate the ‘spirit’ of the Highlands. The site is very prominent within Inverness and dominates the town centre so the process to date has been demanding but after almost a year on site the project is beginning to come together. The project is being delivered by Bancon Construction https://www.banconconstruction.co.uk and the core design team includes Harley Haddow, Gardiner and Theobald and Narro Associates as structural engineers.
By Friday I was looking forward to a day working from home quietly catching up on paperwork but in reality much of the day was spent responding to site queries with my colleague Kristi Greer for another live LDN project – 30, The Square, Huntly. https://no30.huntlydt.org This community building which LDN has designed on behalf of Huntly Development Trust includes a cinema and is intended to help revitalise this Aberdeenshire market town. Again, it is being delivered by Bancon Construction and after 4 years involvement from LDN and the wider design team it is due to complete in May 2023 so we are beginning to see the fruits of our labour.
That Friday evening I was ready to relax and this came in the form of an evening spent in the company of the comedian, Ed Byrne who amazingly was in the middle of a tour of Scottish village halls.
Saturday morning dawned bright, still and sunny with good snow cover so it was off to the hills to recharge my batteries in preparation for another, hopefully less hectic week. It is the variety of work and the colleagues that make LDN such a vibrant place to work.