irvine grass

A couple of work projects have seen me spending a fair bit of time over the last few months down in Ayrshire, a hour south west of Glasgow on the Irish Sea.

irvine 2irvine 2
In particular I’ve been documenting Irvine, a sea-side town that with an interesting harbour that we are exploring the regeneration of. The harbour was cut off from the town in the 70’s by ‘New Town’ development but has retained a distinct character. The harbour lies alongside a marshy wildlife reserve and is dotted with enough old boats to keep me interested while boring the pants off Chhay.

irvine 1


red road towers

French tightrope walker Didler Pasquette recently attempted to walk between 3 of the Red Road Flats (above) – one of Glasgow’s more famous mega housing tower complexes built in the sixties. The event, title Highwire was part of an arts project for the Glasgow International Festival of Contemporary Arts. The set-up was fantastic with huge support guys stretching off the main lines connecting the massive apartment slabs in a spidery embrace. There were metaphors a plenty with the symbolic linking of poorly constructed & maintained and much derided high rise towers that are (for now at least) a strong part of Glasgow’s urban fabric. Visiting the site in person reinforced to me how the greatest problems these towers suffer (apart from poorly perfoming lifts) is the terrible manner in which the hit the ground – so stark and without any landscaping on transition zones, and no amenity to speak of.

tightrope walker

The walk turned into a bit of a non-event when Didler (above) made it about a third of the way across the first wire only to decide that it was unsafe to continue due to high winds and therefore backed his way back to safety.

springburn wintergarden

On our way home we crossed through Springburn park and discovered the decrepit Wintergarden (above & below) that is housed within its grounds. While a shame that it hasn’t been restored like its more famous counterpart in the Botanic Gardens near our flat, as a derelict structure it possesses a certain beauty in it’s rib like structure and faded grandeur that fascinated Chhay & I.

springburn wintergarden detail


stockholm - sodermalm 1

With word on the street that summer might finally arrive in Scotland we instead escaped to Stockholm for grey and drizzle over Scandinavia. It was an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to catch up with some of the unwashed masses of Australians that seem to be floating about the continent this summer, but although we didn’t catch up with the people we intended to it was still a fun weekend (if a little carbon intense).

We had a fairly low key approach spending most of our time in Sodermalm (above) the former working class area now over-run with bars, cafes fancy home ware outlets and trendy kids clothing shops, not to mention full of ‘hipsters’ according to the locals we met.
stockholm crematorium

We kept our architecture addiction under control with a quick visit to Asplund’s world heritage listed crematorium & chapel (above) which were suitable serene in the misty rain, and a peek inside Raphael Moneo’s contemporary art museum which had a fantastic collection (much better though more conventional than Helsinki’s Steven Holl designed Kiasma even if the building was more sedate).

On Saturday night we continued a theme of catching bands missed in Glasgow by squeezing into a show by Deerhoof (below). Packed full of before-mentioned hipsters (Stockholm has a serious thing for skinny jeans and male annorexia!) it was a great gig, and according to a couple of the audience members we bumped into later, the peak of any Stockholm weekend.

stockholm - sodermalm

Having peaked early with Deerhof, on Sunday I dragged Chhay along to learn how not to build a ship in 17th century Sweden, before we spent more time wandering in the rain and absorbing the cafe scene before our flight home.


great glen house

I was lucky enough to get a work trip to Inverness for a presentation of a winning competition entry that I had worked on. While we didn’t see much of the city (and spent 7 hours on the train for a 2 hour event) the reception was held at Great Glen House (above & below), an interesting new sustainable building (designed by Chhay’s firm) so I was able to poke my nose around it and see what a top rated Scottish sustainable building feels like (the answer was stifling in the atrium, although apparently the ventilation systems wasn’t operating while we were there).

great glen house 2


sans souci

Having tasted the purity of Scandinavia we then ventured back to the somewhat more rough & tumble Berlin. With more rain, graffiti and abandoned buildings it was a different but no less interesting cityscape that awaited us.

We spent a couple of days in the South West of the city including a day trip to Potsdam and the Sans Souci palaces and gardens(above), and a quick sqiz at the somewhat surreal Norman Foster library at the Free University (below) before heading east.

library at free university

Most of our time was spent wandering the wonderfully textured inner suburbs of Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain(below) and Kreuzberg ducking into cafés or bars whenever the weather turned ugly. It was nice to have limited time pressures having covered touristy things in our previous visit 6 years ago. As there is a huge surplus of accommodation in Berlin there are fantastic re-uses of vacant buildings dotted about the place with beautiful run-down apartments overlooking leafy squares.


We tried to taste a bit of the culture of the city – watching Holly Golightly play at a tightly packed smoky bar as well as visiting a slew of Wallpaper mentioned bars and clubs with our architouring friends – the architecture tended to be great while the music was often crappy house. There was even a design festival on while we were in town to allow us to complete our overdose of design.

beaut bute


With our aim of getting to the islands for Easter seemingly scuppered by a lack of accommodation (or should that be a lack of planning) Chhay and I snuck a quick visit to the closest and most accessible island on Saturday: the Isle of Bute. On arrival in Rothesay the main town that encircles a harbour with a series of Victorian ‘beach’ houses (above) we decided to stay for the night and soon discovered a room available at a little B&B on the harbour – a foruitous decision as we belatedly remmebered it was our 7th anniversary (or close enough to in any case)!

On Saturday afternoon we wandered around the town absorbing the Victoriana, with our favourite piece being the 1938 (and therefore very un-Victorian) Bauhaus ‘The Pavilion’ building pictured below.

The Pavillion, RothesayNext we hopped on a random local bus for the beautiful ride down the eastern coast, overlooked by a series of wind farms on the mainland. Alighting halfway down where the bus stopped, with promises of collection and a free ride from the friendly bus driver we walked for a couple of hours through the farms and hedgerows before catching the same bus right down to the very southern tip of the island to Kilchattan Bay (below).

Kilchattan BayWith a few hours to kill before our ride home we explored the start of the West ‘Island’ Way – a much abridged cousin of the West Highland Way, and had a feed sitting outside a delightful seaside pub watching the world go past.On Sunday we visited the main attraction of Bute, Mt Stuart House a massive neo-gothic pile financed by years of plundering and good marriages by Scottish lairds. Being geeky architects most of our attention was spent on the visitors centre by Munkenbeck & Marshall (below), but the house and gardens were impressive if a little over the top.

Mt Stuart Visitor's Centre

london weekend

barbican 1

As part of the high powered architecture collective that is Keppie Design, Chhay was flown down to London last week for a couple of days of eating, drinking and pretending to learn about hospitals. Not wanting to be left behind Claire and I jumped on the train on Thursday night and joined her. Lugging the laptop to keep us entertained on the 5 hour journey we stayed in West Hampstead the first evening.

Friday morning while Chhay inspected hospitals we took a turn through Hampstead Heath and neighbouring Hampstead Village, both of which were delightful despite persistent drizzle. I decided that Hampstead Village was the place I wanted to live if we ever move to London until I looked in a real estate window and saw the weekly rents matching our monthly contribution in Glasgow! West Hampstead while less gentile than Hamstead Village still provided a nice urban feel and is definitely an area that I will go back to.

Friday and Saturday nights were low-key affairs spent catching up with friends in various London locales (and realising how long it takes to navigate around the big smoke).

Saturday we had booked tickets for an Alvar Aalto exhibition curated by Shigeru Ban at the Barbican Centre. Having never been to the brutalist gem (pictured above & below) that is the Barbican we took some time to explore the whole complex (another place that I wouldn’t mind living but could never afford) as well as taking in the exhibition. Shigeru had spread his signature cardboard tubes throughout the exhibition space with a wave like ceiling particularly impressive. The exhibition items reminded me of how solid Aalto’s ideas were with many of the buildings still feeling contemporary today. It gave us further inspiration for our trip to Finland in May, which we have just booked.

On Sunday after a late lunch Claire & I raced Chhay back to Glasgow – but with a smooth check-in and flights from central airports rather than budget carrier specials she comfortably beat us home even giving us an hour’s head start, somewhat disproving my train = plane time comparisons that I have been bandying about!
Barbican 2

walking the clyde: helensburgh

helensburgh waterfront

I took the train out to the end of our line last Saturday, destination Helenburgh. This pretty commuter town near the mouth of the Firth of Clyde has a few connections for me. I am playing part time for their hockey team, and spend my eight hours with the man working on their new school.

As I was there primarily for the hockey I didn’t get a chance to explore much of the town, however I did wander around for an hour or so along the waterfront and sneeked a quick squiz at the school site which dominates the approach into the town.

Helensburgh Academy - Under Construction

To give you some sense of context – I also took a photo of the neighbouring property!

Mill House

I’m not sure quite how they are taking their new neighbour! It remains to be seen if the school will become the gateway building to the town that it is suposedly designed to be.