The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)
Couple breathing new life into old farm buildings
Couple building a success through shared love of agriculture and design
Scotland’s countryside is certainly not lacking in beautiful old agricultural buildings crying out for rejuvenation.
But, with the right vision, old steadings or dilapidated outbuildings – once at the heart of a farm business – can still hold considerable scope for future transformation, particularly as diversification projects or even new family homes.
Unlocking these doors and bringing this vision to reality are Ben and Rosemary Scrimgeour, who run architecture practice and Courier Business Awards rural category finalist the Building Workshop from the Angus Glens.
“We both grew up on mixed farms and we have always wanted to work in the countryside,” said Ben.
“My grandmother was an architect and inspired me as a child. What we are doing now gives me the best of both worlds – my two passions, design and agriculture – we like to call it agritecture.
“We’re thriving in a job that gives us unparalleled access to the countryside, breathing life into older agricultural buildings and engaging with farmers, all whilst doing a job we truly love.”
Rosemary studied business and languages at Bath University and has recently completed Scottish Enterprise’s Rural Leadership Programme.
Her interest in rural business and her vision for rural diversification has inspired the way the practice has been set up and developed.
Combining their creative and practical abilities, they first made waves within Scotland’s architectural sphere when Ben became the UK’s first ‘self-taught’ chartered architect.
His trailblazing move paved the way for the formal recognition of experience gained during personal practice, beyond education.
Ben’s journey saw him graduate from Dundee University with an MArch in 2008, before completing his placement year in the heart of London at Foster & Partners – famed for its progressive architectural work on projects such as the iconic Gherkin.
But the pull of home and the rural lifestyle brought Ben and Rosemary back to Angus and ultimately they launched their design firm in 2009, with the support of the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust and mentoring from a local chartered architect.
As natives of rural Angus, the couple have gone full circle, spreading their wings from farms as far afield as Europe and South America before settling on their own segment of land on the southern banks of the Loch of Lintrathen.
Here they built their home and ‘shop window’ – Humpty House – for their business the Building Workshop, marrying family living with light and functional working space, bringing the outdoors indoors in the most spectacular fashion.
The couple offer a unique ‘tea and
cake’ approach to each of their many individual design projects, with the aim of making it as simple and straightforward as possible for clients to visualise exactly how buildings, old or new, can be metamorphosised.
If the Scrimgeours’ business had a motto, it would undoubtedly resound simplicity.
“We’ve had to learn how to procure a building from scratch, so we understand how complex it can all seem to clients,” said Ben, who utilises the latest of graphic technologies to bring sketches and plans to life in 3D on his computer screen and whose workspace brims with a plethora of clean- cut, small-scale models of projects currently under way.
“The way we communicate with our clients is so important,” Rosemary added.
“But we’re just so passionate about architecture; we love design and I think people can really appreciate that.”
Although the duo have completed projects further afield – including in France and London – the vast majority of their current designs and builds can be found in rural Scotland, particularly Perthshire and Angus, where they take the utmost of pride in rescuing old farm edifices and houses both commercial and family purposes.
They count Guardswell Farm, Burmieston Farm, Peel Farm Steadings and the Granary at Incheoch as just four agricultural diversification projects in which they have played a large hand.
Each of these conversions has sympathetically retained the beauty and the agricultural character of the farm buildings, while adapting them to serve a new purpose for a more modern lifestyle.
“Perhaps it is because we both grew up on farms, but we really understand how attached and nostalgic people can feel when it comes to old farm buildings,” said Rosemary.
“They provide a tangible link to the past and to the generations of farmers they were so important to in years gone by.”
Ben said: “It is rare that we are asked to flatten old steadings and start again.
“So, much of our work involves an element of restoration, saving and re-purposing buildings and we love that.
“We have a very hands-on approach,” he added.
“From the first chat and sketch to the last light bulb, we like to appreciate how a building will be used so that we can ensure the interior layout works and flows exactly as it should do best.
“Good buildings come from a good brief, but our method also allows buildings to be designed and function efficiently around their landscape – guaranteeing them a good long lifespan.
“There’s nothing better than bringing new light and new life into a farm, or farmhouse again.”
In launching the business, Ben and Rosemary have overcome many a hurdle, not least Ben’s dyslexia, but with an exquisite, high-quality portfolio and full order book, the partnership is clearly on the right track.