Geddes-Gram: “Adapt to changing circumstance and our high streets can thrive” – Sandy Beattie

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We have put together a series of questions to get to know what you think about Scotland’s (and beyond) built environment, inspired by Sir Patrick Geddes, the pioneering urban planner and geographer. Sandy Beattie, A&DS Board Members, gives his Geddes-Gram.

What’s your favourite environment town/city/country village? 

Fittie in Aberdeen (or ‘Footdee’ if you’re non-Aberdonian). 200 year old fishing village at the mouth of Aberdeen Harbour set around 3 squares with allotments and ‘tarry’ sheds in the squares.  Nae cars!

What place in Scotland makes you happiest – and why?

Pittodrie when there’s a last minute winner against *the rangers*, any Iron Maiden or AC/DC gig in the mosh pit, but in terms of place – Orkney has it.  Honeysgeo Beach for seals, Brough of Birsay for its causeway, cliffs, puffins, lighthouse (and top-notch burger van) or Rackwick Bay on Hoy – all spectacular natural environments with easy access to Kirkwall, a real sense of community (watch out when the cruise liners are in though…) and a fantastic celebration of Scotland’s Neolithic heritage.

Where do you go to get away from it all?

See previous answer!

If you had a ‘place super power’ what would you do for Scotland’s places?

“Uninvent” the supermarket and shopping centre to ensure high streets thrive with local business.  Also have people walk and cycle more.

What do you think are our biggest challenges in the Built Environment?

Quality and imagination in mass market housing, diminishing public service resources and an ever increasing reliance on internet retail.

What place here, or abroad, could we most learn from?

Lessons can be learned from anywhere, but the Netherland’s infrastructure first approach is worth looking at.  Public transport, schools and local neighbourhood centres come before housing.  There are many good places in Scotland: Plockton, Tobermory, Pittenweem, Stonehaven all with a range of facilities in relatively compact town centres bespoke for their setting.

Anything make you mad in Scotland’s places?

Dominance of the car, urban sprawl, out of town shopping, public transport (how complicated does buying any sort of travel ticket need to be?), poorly designed/ maintained public space, and garden centres that sell everything but plants!

What has ‘Scotland the place’ got that we should protect forever?

Immediate access to the most wonderful landscape in the world.  You can achieve splendid isolation and yet have everything on your doorstep.  Managing how we access that successfully and equally for all generations in society is worth the effort.

Optimist or pessimist for our High Streets?

I’m always a glass half full person – if we work to adapt positively to changing circumstance our high streets can thrive.  Incentives for local retail, encouragement for high quality town centre living, leisure, recreation, civic and social activity in pedestrian focussed spaces… we need to help ourselves!


Do you want to answer our Geddes-Gram in the future? Get in touch with us on

(updated September 2018)

Housing Typology Case Studies

These examples illustrate where architects and urban designers have reconciled functions of the individual house that are integral to placemaking.

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