Under One Roof tenement talks

Under One Roof does Doors Open Days 2020

Annie Flint of Under One Roof summarises for us the online talks that were delivered as part of our Doors Open Days 2020 festival

Normally our inbox is full of tales of woe – tenement flat owners who can’t get their co-owners to agree to repairs or whose repair has gone wrong in some way – or even had their tenement burn down.

So a Doors Open Day with an audience of people who love buildings is a joy not to be missed. So lockdown, no problem, we’ll go online. We gathered up volunteer conservation architects from some of Scotland’s largest cities and some of the smallest island towns, not to mention one of the rare conservation surveyors in Scotland–and launched events that would help people realise the value that professionals can bring to any repair job. And then we thought “Why not get some trades firms involved who can share their knowledge and delight of working with traditional materials?” Thus came about our webinars with three-way “illustrated conversations”.  Each webinar touched on some of the history of tenements in the locality and then looked at a particular aspect of the building or the building process.

In Inverness Calum McLean showed how a Victorian shop sign had destroyed a stone balcony, and Steven Laing of Laings Traditional Masonry showed that the cost to erect and dismount scaffolding can be 40 times the cost of keeping it up for an extra week – so it's not surprising that sometimes scaffold can cost more than the repair and it's worth putting together a programme of work.

In Aberdeen, Roz Artis, from the Lime Centre, and James Roy explained that granite is actually a very brittle stone – and we looked at Victorian Architects’ design errors.

In Argyll, architect Nick Blair looked at “Platties”, a form of tenement made most famous in Dundee and found in few other places.  With the aid of Gordon Matheson, lead specialist, we also looked at beautiful, even idiosyncratic leadwork – little joys only to be found by those who explore roofs.

In Glasgow our discussion with Fiona Sinclair turned around how previous health concerns, particularly those relating to infections and the need for ventilation, had driven both tenement design and tenement demolition.  Graham Frame of C-B-C Stone showed images of new stone repair techniques.

In Edinburgh we talked shaped roofs with conservation accredited surveyor David Gibbon and conservation architect Jo Parry, with each describing how high level litter picking had solved clients’ damp problems. And then we looked at windows with Andrew Seatter of Sash and Case Scotland. 

And it was perhaps during one of those inevitable technical hitches that my favourite moment occurred as John Gilbert, our own conservation specialist, extemporised on the historic development of sash and case windows and their impact on interior design and dusting regimes north and south of the border. “The difference” he said “ is that English windows are set to the front and they have big window sills filled with plants etc. In Scotland, our windows are set back to protect them from weather so we don’t have big windows sills. Fewer nick nacks.”

Links to all the recordings can be found on Under One Roof Scotland’s Doors Open Days 2020 page

What did 2020's digital talks programme look like?  here is listed the information on each of the talks


16.00 – 17.00 Saturday 5th September 2020

Annie Flint in conversation with local conservation architect Calum McLean and Steven Laing of Laings Traditional Masonry, the firm that recently repaired Inverness Townhouse.  The session covers some of the issues the beautiful ornamentation on Inverness’ stone buildings can give for maintenance, where Inverness building stone came from and some of the issues of working at height.


16.00 – 17.00 Saturday 12th September 2020

John Gilbert  in conversation with James Roy, an Aberdeen based conservation architect and Roz Artis of the Scottish Lime Centre,talking about the Aberdeen style of tenement,  innovation and insulation in traditional buildings and how the use of lime can save your building.


16.00 – 17.00 Saturday  26th September 2020

Asking when you should call in a conservation architect as opposed to a conservation surveyor and  looking at timber in buildings, including timber windows. Guests were David Gibbon of GLM (Surveyors), Jo Parry-Geddes a conservation architect with Mill Architects, and Andrew Seatter of Sash and Case Windows.


16.00 – 17.00 Tuesday 15th September 2020

The Glasgow “Talking Tenements” webinar focussed on stone with conservation architect Fiona Sinclair talking to  John Gilbert, and Graeme Frame of CBC Stone.

Argyll & Bute

Recording played on demand throughout the official Doors Open Day weekend of 26th/27th September. 

In this webinar, John is talking to Nick Blair of ZM Architects , a firm which has repaired many tenements in Rothesay and Campbeltown. Joined by Gordon Matheson of Mathesons Plumbing, and showing pictures of leadwork normally only seen from high.

This was recorded in advance of the weekend with CARS owners in Argyll able to pose questions to the expert panel.