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Architects draw upon 50 years of memories at The Scott Sutherland School reunion

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Pyramid image of the 1971 group of architecture students from The Scott Sutherland School
Architects from across the UK are gathering in Aberdeen for a memory-stirring weekend of events as they celebrate their 50-year reunion from 24 – 26 September.

This is the first time the group, who studied a BSc in Architecture at The Scott Sutherland School, has been together in Garthdee since the 1977.

The reunion will give former students a chance to see how The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment has changed in the half-century since they studied as they meet the Head of School, Professor David McClean, for a tour around the state-of-the-art facilities used by the architectural, urban design, construction and surveying students.


Previous reunions have been held in St.Andrews, Tromso in Norway and Lucca in Italy, all destinations that the year had particular associations with, arising from student course work.

As well as visiting old haunts around Aberdeen, the group will enjoy a dinner on the final night with some of their original lecturers from the seventies. The group will also meet current students at The Scott Sutherland School and have the chance to explore 'The Scott Sutherland Digital Exhibition 2021', a 3-D immersive virtual event which  showcases a host of projects from across the school including architectural visions for Aberdeen.

One of the main organisers of the event, Allan Cumming, who ran his own architectural practice in Aberdeen said: “With the 50th anniversary, it seemed fitting to hold the reunion back in Aberdeen where it all began. In 1971, there was only The Scott Sutherland School on the site, together with The Art School.   Many things have changed in these 50 years including the buildings themselves. Today the whole of RGU and other commercial developments now occupy the entire south side of Garthdee Road.”

Another former student, Gordon Jack, managed the reconstruction of Inchmarlo House near Banchory and latterly developed the Supreme Education Council’s Headquarters in Doha, Qatar. Gordon Jack explains his thoughts to anyone thinking of studying architecture at The Scott Sutherland School; “There is a great chance to lead again, especially creating sustainable communities and building environmentally conscious buildings.   The Scott Sutherland School is a great place to develop friends. I love our reunions. Everyone else is getting old yet but I feel just the same as I did back in the early seventies!”

Head of The Scott Sutherland School, Professor David McClean said: “We are delighted to welcome our architecture alumni back for this reunion. As one of the three ​oldest architecture schools in the UK and with a heritage that extends back to the 19th Century, the Scott Sutherland School offers a unique undergraduate and postgraduate experience. As this reunion shows, students who study here form lifelong bonds and gain an invaluable grounding in all aspects of architecture that set them up for fulfilling and rewarding careers. I look forward to sharing the latest news and to demonstrating how innovative and forward-thinking The Scott Sutherland School continues to be.”

The group reflects the diverse range of careers a foundation from The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture can provide.  Former student, Colin Allan, primarily designed modular structures and living accommodation for offshore platforms all over the world including the Shell Clipper Platform, a totally self-sufficient installation, that he developed from first concept to full operation.    Colin Allan said: “We all began our studies 25 years after WW2 ended. Fifty years later we are in a period of relative prosperity and with the developments in 3D & 4D design with all its opportunities, today’s students will hopefully have great opportunities ahead of them.” 

Other architects attending the reunion weekend include Charlie Smith whose work included Chevron HQ, Talisman HQ and Stewart Milne housing projects here in Aberdeen.  

Bernt Bekke one of a number of Norwegian students worked on new offshore Living Quarters including one for the Norwegian ‘Ekofisk’ Field – a stand-alone installation, effectively a top standard hotel for over 550 people in single berth cabins, and including almost all of the technical support systems.

Architect, Frank Pollachi, designed a number of sport facilities across Scotland.    Whilst Bruce Blackhall originally from Tarland, Aberdeenshire, helped re-build 55 Bishopgate in heart of London following the devastating IRA bomb, as well as many other Westminster and City of London projects.  

Rob Campbell from Glasgow designed a number of social housing projects including, Faifley in Glasgow which won an Environbuild Award. He also helped restore the Grade A listed Pollokshields Burgh Halls and Lodge House in Glasgow – one of the first lottery funded projects in Scotland.

Former student, Willy Findlater designed an innovative recycling centre as well as smaller scale projects on historic buildings and said: “I am looking forward to a ‘time machine’ experience whisking me back to my teen years!”

Anyone wanting to find out more about the The Scott Sutherland School can visit rgu.ac.uk/scotts or register for an on-campus Open Day on 2 October, 30 October and 20 November at rgu.ac.uk/open-days

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