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Ten minutes with… Lorn Macneal

Lorn Macneal Architects have a long established association with clients from the Far East and specialise in a variety of residential projects throughout Scotland. Recent and ongoing projects include the completed joint venture development with a Hong Kong based client, where they were awarded the Scottish Homes Award for the conversion of a listed building in Gullane into twelve apartments, attracting many overseas investors.

Lorn Macneal talks to LOFT about why Scotland is attracting world attention.

Why is Scotland a good place to buy? As oppose to other countries in the UK.

Scotland,  a romantic land of rugged mountains and heathered glens with picturesque castles from Loch Lomond and Loch Ness all the way to the Isle of Skye. A powerhouse of enterprise, invention and industry emanating from its great universities boasting the likes of Baird, Bell, McAdam to Stephenson. Famous for whisky, its resurgent tweed, fisheries and booming oil industries. It is a land rich in culture, heritage and architecture that adorn its beautiful historic cities, market towns and villages. Edinburgh,  recently voted the fifth most attractive city in Europe proudly boasts  its international festival, fringe and military tattoo. Not least , it is of course it is the home of golf with over 650 courses to choose from, glorious sporting estates and great rivers rich in salmon.

Which region in Scotland would you recommend to purchase a property?

Certainly the Central Belt achieves greatest value with Edinburgh recently tipped as one of the top property investment hot spots in Europe. That said,  I have clients who have relocated into all areas of Scotland, who all love wherever they have settled for its own individuality and charm.

How will Scotland’s housing market evolve over the next decade?

There is no doubt that property rises across the UK have fallen behind London and the home counties. Blue chip cities like London and other major capitals including Hong Kong can achieve £3,000/ft with Edinburgh and Aberdeen struggling to reach £400 and £500/ft. It makes no sense. Edinburgh is a capital city and voted amongst the top five most attractive cities in Europe. Surely the gap in these values must reduce.

Country houses too represent extraordinary value with castles trading hands for as little as £1m, which is the price of a one bedroom studio apartment in Battersea Power Station in London.

What has been your favourite project that you have worked on?

People have asked me how long I have practised architecture. I have been ‘practicing’  for thirty years, and hopefully I am getting better! During this time most of my work has been with private clients and I can say I have worked with so many wonderful clients and have been hugely proud to have engaged in such a diverse range of projects  across the length and breadth of Scotland.

Invariably,  I enviously covet all I have set out to achieve with each client. All projects are an emotional journey from inception to completion, and when the journey ends I just wish I could share their home with each and every one of them. Woodhall, the 16th mansion house we have just finished restoring in Edinburgh for Martin & Dawn Robertson returning from Hong Kong is certainly a very very special project.

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The journey from inception to completion of the property in Gullane has been a long one, what have been your highs and lows of the project?

St Andrews Court (www.standrewscourtgullane.co.ik) in Gullane was a dishevelled 17th century historically listed hotel having been boarded up for almost a decade. It was a great logistical exercise in carving it up, altering and extending it to created 16 apartments all with their unique space and amenity. Working both as an architect and a building contractor alerts you to all issues, and in working through these, it ensures a better understanding and in turn an improved service for all clients. As a developer and architect, it has a great accolade to have won the Scottish Homes award of the year for this project. Now I look at all owners as friends, all sharing with me the pride in their wonderful homes.

SAC FrontWhy do you think buyers from Asia are attracted to Scottish property?

During the past decade I have engaged with many clients from Asia in all manner of projects. Some have arrived with some uncertainty, but I can say once they have become acclimatised, they just cannot visit Scotland often enough. Much of this is to do with the sheer size of their homes, the fresh air, and congenial pace of live.

What has the impact been, if any, of the recent Scottish referendum?

On the up side, the referendum has created a global awareness of Scotland which must be good. I should guard my words carefully being a hugely proud Scot and British patriot. I found much of political posturing by the Nationalist hugely embarrassing being blatantly racist towards the United Kingdom. We are where we are, the wounds are fast healing, and much of the uncertainty that had arisen should now be behind us

What building do you wish you had been a part of?

I would prefer to say structure, as before studying architecture I aspired to be an engineer and I studied civil engineering at Edinburgh University. I would have loved to have been involved in creating what to me is the eighth wonder of the world being the Forth Railway Bridge. The sheer scale and dominance of that structure is overwhelming and whether I am passing over or wind surfing below, I would have dearly loved to have been part of the team that created such a feat of engineering a century and a half ago.

What is your favourite building in the world?

 I have always admired the work of our great Scottish Architect Charles Rennie McIntosh, whose arts and crafts works have a global recognition. Hill House in Helensburgh is to my mind his finest in its subtly in scale mass and form, the manner in which daylight transcends through, and his attention to detail in everything down to his design of furniture, door knobs and cutlery.  He is truly aspirational, but it should be remembered, behind every strong man there is a stronger women, and quite certainly his wife Margaret MacDonald too was a force majeure in his architectural work.

www.lornmacnealarchitects.co.uk

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