Malcolm Fraser Architects goes into liquidation

Architect Malcolm Fraser. Pic: Neil Hanna
Architect Malcolm Fraser. Pic: Neil Hanna
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AWARD winning Malcolm Fraser Architects has fallen into the hands of liquidators after its owner admitted he could not make it pay.

Malcolm Fraser, who has established himself as one of the most prominent names in Scottish architecture over the past 22 years, said the work his firm had carried out was “beautiful and important”, but said he could not make it financially viable. A total of 15 staff have lost their jobs as a result of the collapse.

The work is beautiful and important

Malcolm Fraser

Mr Fraser said: “The work we did is beautiful and important. However, we have been unable to make it profitable. I am immensely proud of what we have done over 22 years and the influence it has had.

“I hope my colleagues here, and the clients and ongoing work we had, will continue with other architectural practices. I, myself, will continue as an independent consultant, but will also work with other architects, including on existing, long-gestating projects.”

Its latest accounts, filed with Companies House, revealed the firm was owed £350,000 for the year to the end of February, while it owed £380,000.

The company is credited with some of Edinburgh’s best known modern buildings, including Dance Base in the Grassmarket – for which it won the Stirling Prize and the Doolan award in 2002 – the Scottish Poetry Library and the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile. It has also worked on projects in other parts of Scotland including Glasgow, Stromness and Stornoway. Earlier this year, it won a £3.5 million contract for the conversion of the 19th-century City Observatory in Edinburgh into an arts centre.

Many architects have raised concerns about the viability of the industry after the recession.

“Something wrong with our profession when the brilliant Malcolm Fraser closes down his practice,” said architect Alasdair Stephen of Dualchas Architects on the Isle of Skye on Twitter.

A spokesman for architecture body RIAS expressed “great regret”. It added: “It also demonstrates that trading conditions remain extremely tough and margins in architecture are very tight indeed. It seems odd that when architects can contribute quite so much to the quality of people’s lives that this is not recognised by some clients who see it as their duty to shareholders or the public purse to squeeze fees to a point where architects’ businesses are no long viable.”

Mr Fraser was one of a group of Scottish architects who supported independence in September’s referendum. Explaining his decision, he spoke at the time of how he felt his primary responsibility as an architect was “to serve Big Business” and build “big, aggressive towers in London”. He added: “But I believe, instead, that an architect’s primary responsibility is to society, building places where all of us can share in the wealth of Scotland’s built and natural environment.”

The liquidation comes just two years after Edinburgh-based rival RMJM, which was behind the creation of the Falkirk Wheel, fell into financial difficulties and went into receivership before being rescued by a company run by its owners.