In 2013, The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment celebrated its 100th year of continuous professional accreditation by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Scott Sutherland building - Garthdee flickrTo celebrate this historic achievement we would like to take you on a journey through some of the school’s history to explore the people and events that have led us to become the school we are today.

The early days

 The history of The Scott Sutherland School is inherently intertwined with its current neighbour Gray’s School of Art. Prior to any formal architecture courses, aspiring architects would attend evening classes at Gray’s in subjects such as freehand drawing and perspective. In fact many of Aberdeen’s leading architects such as George Watt, Herbert Wigglesworth and James Souttar attended evening classes, some as early as the age of 10. It was not until 1898 during the formation of the Aberdeen Society of Architects that the first course structure started to appear, a five year part-time course run by George G. Irvine and James Blake.

R. Rowand Anderson praised this early course saying;

“I was much impressed by all I saw at Aberdeen. The Headmaster is well supported by his assistants and I left the feeling that I had seen a school doing admirable work, full of vitality and with a great future before it.”

It seems that looking back now over 100 years later that Anderson was right - the future of architecture courses was set to become a significant part of the University.

Professional Accreditation

In 1912 it was decided that the School would try to gain professional accreditation for the architecture course. Under the advice of The Architectural Association in London “The Scheme for Architectural Education” was put together and in late 1912 submitted to the Aberdeen Society for Architects. On January 31 1913 Arthur Clyne informed the school that the scheme had been approved and the first official Diploma in Architecture commenced. Later on in April 1914 the scheme was also submitted to the Board of Architectural Education at the RIBA. This was also accepted and the school soon became one of only 3 schools in the country to have RIBA exemption.

The new architecture school

From this point onwards the architecture course continued to grow and after emerging from the First World War student numbers began to increase. The course welcomed a variety of students who soon went on to be influential architects, including Edith Burnett who is considered to be Britain’s first female architect. Other early students included Herbert Reid, George Keith and of course Thomas Scott Sutherland.

At this time the course was still located within Gray’s School of Art in the Schoolhill campus. However, in the 1940’s and after the Second World War a surge in student numbers started to cause concern about the current accommodation for the course. The Governors of Robert Gordon Technical College (as it was then known) had their eye on a property in Garthdee as a potential site to move the course to, Garthdee House. The property and land was owned by Modern Homes, a company run by Thomas Scott Sutherland who had decided to move in to the house with his wife Georgina. The house, however, was a little big for just the two of them and after discussions with the Governors, Thomas agreed to sign over the property to the school. The first students moved in during September 1956 to what had now become known as The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment.

The current day

Over the last 100yrs, from the date at which professional accreditation was conferred to the current day, The Scott Sutherland School for Architecture and Built Environment has continued to thrive with courses now covering a variety of subject areas relating to design and construction at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate level. The continued hard work and dedication of the staff and students over the years has led the school from its humble beginnings to one that now holds an international reputation for producing professional, knowledgeable, and skilful graduates. Many of these individuals have gone on to work on some fascinating projects all over the world, and many have established highly successful practices and businesses.

Download more Alumni stories and examples of the projects our graduates have worked on.

50 Year Exhibition Posters - Part 1

50 Year Exhibition Posters - Part 2

Take a look back at some what some of our graduates have had to say about the school over the years.

  1. Professor James Paul

    Studied at the school between 1947 – 1953

    James was in the first intake of students after National Service

  2. George Grant Benton, OBE RIBA MSIA

    Graduated in 1956

    Gordons’ career has taken him all over the world

  3. Trevor W. Smith

    Studied at the school between 1972 – 1978

    Trevors’ has worked on number of projects in Aberdeen including His Majesty’s Theatre.

  4. Graham Donald

    Studied at the school between 1982-1986

    Graham’s career has included working as a project manager on the iconic Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

  5. Ray Gammack

    Studied at the school between 1991 – 1995

    Ray’s career has taken him from Aberdeen to the Middle East

  6. Annie Kenyon

    Studied at the school between 1998 – 2004

    Annie now runs her own Architectural practice.

A full history of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment can be found in Jim Fiddes' book 'A Commemorative History - 50 Years' priced at £6 (includes p&p) can be purchased by contacting:

Helen Aggasild on (01224) 263700 or email h.aggasild@rgu.ac.uk