Alumni make generous donation to The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Alumna from The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture donate a cheque to Head of School, Professor David McClean
Alumni from The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment have made a generous donation that will help set up a new School Climate Forum and the construction of large-scale site models, after a memory-stirring 50th-year reunion in Aberdeen.

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

The reunion, which took place in the autumn, gave former students a chance to see how The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment at Robert Gordon University had changed in the half-century since they studied as they met the Head of School, Professor David McClean, for a tour around the state-of-the-art facilities.

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

Dean of The Scott Sutherland School, Professor David McClean said: "It is always a pleasure to show alumni around the campus and when I was approached by Charlie Smith on behalf of the Class of 1971, I was only too pleased to meet with the group. I thoroughly enjoyed the flow of anecdotes and the recounting of memories as we visited the old School and looked around our new facility. 

"Along with Dr Bill Brogden, John and Marion Donald, and Iain Ramsay, it was also a privilege to be invited to the celebratory dinner during which the fondness for, and loyalty to the School became ever more palpable. A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining evening, for which my thanks.

"Shortly after, and to my great surprise, I received an e-mail saying that the group wished to donate £1550 to the School which had been raised as a gesture of thanks. This not only speaks of enormous generosity, but of the ties to the School that endure over half a century. On behalf of our students and staff, I want to warmly thank the Class of 1971 for this act of kindness and support. I will ensure that the monies go directly into supporting our students and have identified two causes to which we will direct your gift.

 "The first is a fund for supporting the construction of large-sale group site models, which are essential to understanding place, yet which are inherently expensive.

 "The second is to support the establishment of a School Climate Forum, through which invited guests and speakers are to be invited as a means of deepening understanding of the challenges presented by climate change, and how the profession and wider industry must respond. I understand that some of the group were unable to make it to Aberdeen for the celebration, but whether I had the pleasure of meeting you or not, my sincere thanks to you all for your support."

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!”

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 included 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!”

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