Annual Review 2020: Our Year in Review

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“At the start of 2020 we were looking forward to our usual busy programme of workshops, engagements and events, all while preparing our corporate strategy for the next decade and our contribution to the Venice architecture Biennale. But we all know what happened next.”

Ann Allen, A&DS Chair

In our Annual Review for 2020, we look at how, despite the challenges of lockdown, we continued to deliver high quality work. In a year where many of us had rediscovered our local areas on our daily walks, we continued to champion Carbon Conscious Places and the delivery of good design across Scotland. Our review features highlights from our work across the year, a look at our achievements and stories of our people – how our team responded to lockdown over the year.


On this page you will find an overview of the stories featured in the full Annual Review available to download on this page.



Designing for a Changing Climate: Creating Carbon Conscious Places

How could we help places reach net zero carbon by 2045? For the past year we have been running a pilot project to learn by doing. Working with four local authorities we helped them progress their spatial plans with a focus on decarbonisation. From this learning we proposed eight principles for Carbon Conscious Places. To read more about how we addressed the climate emergency in our work, read our annual review in full here.

Designing for a Changing Climate Event Video from Architecture and Design Scotland on Vimeo.



Engaging with communities during lockdown

Architecture and Design Scotland knows from experience how much better buildings and places are when the people who use them are actively involved in shaping them. But how do you do this during a pandemic? As well as moving our own engagements and workshops online, this year we shared examples of good practice at our Engaging with communities during lockdown session.  To learn more about our support, read our annual review in full here.

Public engagement during lockdown: An illustration of people using computers and sat on planters as they engage with the planning system.


Improving Public Space – New Provanmill Bike Lane – Neil Young from Architecture and Design Scotland on Vimeo.

Supporting the learning estate in the “new normal”

A key part of our work in the learning estate involves engaging directly with learners and teachers to help improve places for learning and teaching. 2020 has been a challenging year for all and, understandably, our direct work in schools was affected.

When we couldn’t meet face to face, our team needed to look at different ways and opportunities to continue our work with the learning estate. To learn more about how our support to education spaces and buildings, read our annual review in full here.

Going online to showcase Scotland’s student architects

After consulting with the schools of architecture, and our awards partner the RIAS, we decided to go ahead with our annual awards in 2020 – this year the awards process was fully digital. We received a record breaking 96 submissions for the awards.

“Having a body like RIAS and A&DS give such thoughtful comments has made me feel that my values as a designer are not only recognised but encouraged. Whilst interviewing for my Part 1 placement I spoke about the award and I’m sure it helped me to secure a position, especially considering the difficulties we’re facing finding jobs due to Covid-19.”
Lily Whitehouse, winner of the A&DS Award for Best 3rd Year Student.

The judges, led by the President of the RIAS Christina Gaiger and joined by guest judge Jude Barber, reflected on the strong themes around climate and social sustainability. To read more about how we showcased new talent in architecture, see our annual review in full here.

Andy MacMillan Lecture 2020 – Jude Barber Subtitles from Architecture and Design Scotland on Vimeo.


An illustration of swimmer under water looking up at a floating pavilion as part of a submission to the student awards for architecture
Amphibious – Lily Whitehouse – Glasgow School of Art

Supporting health infrastructure with design advice

Despite the obvious challenges faced by NHS Scotland this year, our work in Design Advice Health has been as busy as ever, especially supporting a range of infrastructure projects which were progressed to boost the post-covid recovery.

2020 marks ten years since the introduction of the NHS Scotland Design Assessment Process (NDAP). This process – which we support in conjunction with Health Facilities Scotland – helps Health Boards describe a clear path between the Business Objectives for a project and the necessary qualities of the building development to deliver on these.

Over the past year we have supported 20 projects across 10 health boards through NDAP. The total value of these projects is around £425m. To read more, download our annual review in full here.

An illustration of low rise modern buildings designed to sit tastefully along a mountainous landscape

Creating sustainable tourism infrastructure

We all love to enjoy the natural and historic heritage of Scotland. However, over the past few years we’ve heard of pressures for tourists and locals alike – particularly at the most popular destinations and routes such as Skye and the North Coast 500.

Working with Visit Scotland and other partners, A&DS has helped address these challenges through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund. Now in its third year it has evolved from a reaction to the worst pressures of increased tourism to one more focused on resilient, sustainable solutions which consider a place-making approach and a more coherent offer to tourists. To find out more about how we supported sustainable tourism, read our annual review in full here.

Skye Mobile Micro home being transported by truck along winding rural roads to its site
A Micro Home is transported across a rural Scotland.

Green recovery – a cross agency approach to building back better

Working together is about sharing insights, shifting mindsets and adding value. While lockdown slowed down many major developments, A&DS continued to collaborate working together across disciplines with our partners. This year, working with the Key Agencies Group, we unveiled our joint offer to local authorities to support a green recovery in their area.  To find out more about the green recovery offer, read our annual review in full here.

Place Skills for Housing – Supporting Whole Place Approach in Housing

At the end of 2020 A&DS launched the first Module of its online Skills Project. The first module focussing on taking a whole place approach to locating for place quality in housing.

The Skills resources support local application of the Place Principle and draw on many of our other resources; case studies, work presented at our Local Authority Urban Design Forums and developments we provided advice on.

Providing these skills modules online will allow us to reach authorities across Scotland, and throughout 2021 we will add further modules on briefing and influencing for place quality and develop further online support to help apply the learning. To learn more, read our annual review in full here.

A screenshot for the place skills for housing video showing the advantages of a place-based approach. Text: 'Shared Ambitions...align efforts' 'Place Principle- collective impact' 'best benefits for a place'
Place Based approach to housing


Dispatches from The Happenstance

Published in 2020, the story of The Happenstance unfolds through twelve dispatches. The publications explore the themes and learning from the 2018 Scotland + Venice project the Happenstance. Each dispatch has a guest writer – from an architecture student to an international journalist – discussing and illustrating a particular theme. You can read more about this project in the Annual Review here.

The Opening and Beyond from Architecture and Design Scotland on Vimeo.



2020 in Numbers

A&DS 2020 Annual Review: in numbers from Architecture and Design Scotland on Vimeo.

Click here to access a transcript and description of this video.

Further Information

Click here to read a Message from our Chair 

Click here to read Our People’s reflections on 2020

Annual Review 2020: Our People

As part of our Annual Review of 2020 we asked staff and board members to reflect on their experiences in 2020.

Carbon Conscious Towns Case Studies

These Case Studies identify two towns in Scotland working on the ground to deliver on the 8 Principles of a Carbon Conscious Place: Dumfries and Leven

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