Kitchen Conversations No.2…

… with Project Architect Claire Cockburn. This is the second of a series of kitchen conversations with team members to catch up and find out what life is like under lockdown. Whilst working remotely has proven to have its advantages, we are all looking forward to getting back to working together in the office soon!

How are you finding lockdown?

In many ways I’m really enjoying it. My boys are 2 and 5 and it has been great spending more time with them, and I definitely don’t miss the rushed nursery drop off and commute into work! I’m lucky in that my husband and I have been able to share our childcare responsibilities between us, and we’ve found everyone – employers, colleagues and clients – to be very understanding about this which has been great. We’re lucky to live on the edge of the city, so have country walks, forest and a golf course on our doorstep which I’m very grateful for.

Tell us something you have discovered about yourself during lockdown that has surprised you?

Being at home most of the time isn’t as boring as I thought it would be! As a family we usually don’t spend much time at home – we’re busy with work, nursery, sports classes for the boys, and days out and about, so the idea of being stuck at home was fairly terrifying at first! But we’re having lots of fun. My eldest will be starting school in August so I’m enjoying this extra time with him.

What have you found most challenging about lockdown and how are you overcoming it?

Working as a team whilst all being in different locations is challenging! MS Teams is great for communication but nothing beats being able to sit round a table together and discuss design ideas and share sketches.

Not seeing extended family is also very hard – I’ve got family in Manchester and Spain and we had trips planned to visit both that have had to be cancelled. But we’ve been having weekly Zoom catchups and quizzes to stay in touch. When it all feels a bit overwhelming an evening walk usually clears my head!

What is keeping you busy?

I’m working on my first Passivhaus projects, which are incredibly interesting, along with a social housing scheme in Alloa and several projects for improving housing for older people. One advantage of lockdown is there are so many webinars and information sharing opportunities, so I’m making the most of the extra learning available. I’m a member of the Women In Property committee and the team have been working hard to provide different presentations and social events for members.

With the boys we’re doing lots of craft activities, growing sunflowers and many vegetables, and making the most of the sunshine.

Where is one of the first places you will go once lockdown restrictions ease?

Down the road to our favourite café for brunch, then off to the beach for the day – which was also the last place we went before lockdown began.


Lockdown Diaries – B&W Photography Challenge

Whilst in lockdown and our holidays cancelled, we have dusted off our personal photo archives to find cherished #travel memories and moments of architectural beauty. B&W, square, no people, name the city.

We have been sharing a selection of our photographs on our twitter account and on LinkedIn.

Feel free to join the fun and share your photos on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Lockdown Diaries – Reimagining Streets

Our team have been reflecting on the new patterns and habits of our streets and neighbours. We find it fascinating how this lockdown has forced many of us to be reacquainted with our homes and neighbourhoods in a new way.

We have been thinking about what our streets re-imagined could look like in response to our new circumstances. Collective observations include pedestrians reclaiming streets lined with gardens and playgrounds on our doorsteps instead of parking bays. New cycle / pedestrian highways being formed with lower pedestrian-focused bollard lighting to shift the emphasis of the street from cars to people and a diagram for a greener and healthier future. More ideas to come…

Kitchen Conversations No.1…

…with Senior Architect Ben Rainger. As the SSM team continue to work from home, we have started a series of kitchen conversations with team members to catch up and find out what life is like under lockdown. Whilst working remotely has proven to have its advantages, we are all looking forward to getting back to working together in the office soon!

How are you finding lockdown?

I have adjusted to the new working situation relatively well. I had prepared to be working from home and have created a space for my computer. I have set up a workstation on the kitchen table with a great view of the sky and I now enjoy hearing the birds while I work. I have also been listening to more music during the days which has been relaxing and provides some background noise.
I have also been keeping in touch with colleagues, having regular social conversations and coffee breaks and joining in with the SSM Team Social chats.
I am also able to work with my wife Jenny on days when she is working, which is a nice change.

Tell us something you have discovered about yourself during lockdown that has surprised you?

I thought that I would be doing more baking or cooking recipes that take time, but haven’t done this. I am fairly resilient and keep going, adjusting to the needs of the situation. I think this is because I am still working similar hours and have to communicate regularly with colleagues and teams.

I like drawing and think it is an important part of the design process. You learn through observation and I enjoy the slower pace of life required to look and draw.

What have you found most challenging about lockdown and how are you overcoming it?

The most challenging thing has been to maintain the work life balance when living in a small flat and not having a lot of space.
I make sure that my computer and workstation are cleared away at the end of each day. I also dress as if I was going to the office. I find it helpful for my work life balance and wellbeing to try to separate the working and home periods.

What is keeping you busy?

Work! I have a variety of projects at different stages ranging from inception to tender. These have each had to adapt to working from home. There have been lots of meetings to keep projects going. Fortunately, clients are being understanding about restrictions of working from home.
I have been helping to organise internal CPD sessions on Sustainability and Passive House to help spread the knowledge gained from completing the Passive House Fundamentals course across SSM and hearing first-hand experiences of my colleagues as we develop passive house designs for our clients.
The allotment is also keeping me busy. With the long spell of dry weather, I have had to water the plants every day as they germinate. I have had my first harvests of various salad leaves and the fruit plants are starting to flower. I am able to pop up to the allotment more easily as part of my daily exercise ‘walk home from work’ in the evening.
The other think keeping me busy is my role as President in the Edinburgh Architectural Association. I have been re-elected for a second year following our on-line AGM and we are working with the RIAS to find ways of supporting the profession at this time.

Where is one of the first places you will go once lockdown restrictions ease?

For a coffee at Artisan Roast, then to the beach to paddle in the sea.

25 Year Drinks

In March, we had our annual jazz and drinks event in the studio, this time to mark 25 years of Smith Scott Mullan Associates. It was great to be joined by 100 of our clients, fellow consultants and friends.
In these uncertain times, we hope we can meet up again soon. In the meantime, we are still ‘business as usual’ working from home and using Teams etc. for our meetings.
Take care, stay well and keep in touch, from all at SSM.

Conservation Re-accreditation

Congratulations to our Director Jamie Bateman on renewal of his RIAS Accreditation in Conservation Architecture for another five years. Jamie was first accredited in 2015, reflecting his experience of bringing new life to old buildings through conservation and sensitive interventions.

Spreading Festive Cheer

This year, instead of the usual office Secret Santa presents for each other, our team decided to donate Christmas gifts to the Citadel Youth Centre, to be given to the children in the community that the Citadel support.

Our Christmas elves left the gifts with the Citadel team, who will be delivering them to families this week. It feels great to know that we have provided many children with something special to open on Christmas day!

The Citadel Youth Centre in Leith is our chosen charity for this year and we are participating in various initiatives throughout the year to support the work they do. The Citadel Youth Centre in Leith provides a safe place for local kids to meet friends, do fun activities and learn new skills. Their youth workers are on hand to offer advice and support to anyone who needs it. The Citadel stands up for young people, and helps them to have a say in their community.

HTN Conference

“No place in the world will stay special by accident” – Ed McMahon, Urban Land Institute

Better places and particularly better high streets and town centres are a complex balance of knowledge on Communities, Economic Viability, Design, Heritage, Funding, Ownership and Stewardship. The importance of a shared knowledge and collaborative approach was very effectively captured at the excellent Heritage Transforming Neighbourhoods Conference ( in Derry this week. SSM’s recent masterplan for Lady Victoria, Newtowngrange and our involvement in regenerating town centres confirms our belief that historic buildings and strong local communities are essential to successful place making.

There were particularly thought provoking contributions from Patrice Frey and Ed McMahon from Main Street America, a movement for preservation-based economic development and community revitalisation across America ( With discussion on the integrity of place, ensuring sustainable tourism and keeping our high street Diverse, Durable and Local. This was very effectively balanced by Maeve Monaghan, of NOW Group, presentation on Creating Sustainable Buildings ( a social enterprise based in Belfast supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future.

We need to engage and collaborate in this complex mix of elements to create enhance and protect our special places.

SSM Joins the Heritage Trust Network


We are proud to have joined the Heritage Trust Network as Corporate Supporters and to have been selected for their Talent Bank. Eugene Mullan will be attending the annual conference later this month to meet the local heritage groups which benefit from the peer-to-peer support the Network provides. We are keen to help them secure viable futures for neglected historic buildings by bringing our expertise in conservation, regeneration and community consultation to their projects.

A perfect example of how a town’s regeneration can be spearheaded by smaller conservation projects is our recently completed conservation and extension of a derelict Harbourmaster’s Office in Stranraer to form a community facility. The project was a key element of the Stranraer Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme for Dumfries and Galloway Council and part-funded by both Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

SSM Annual Golf Event

Smith Scott Mullan Associates once again welcomed clients, consultants and colleagues to their annual golf event on Tuesday 24th September. Duddingston Golf Course provided again a beautiful backdrop and a great afternoon of golf was had by all with a mixture of business, pleasure and a sprinkling of good chat along the way. The weather did pose a challenge but some delightful shots played all the way around the course.

Congratulations to Mike, Gus, Mike and Graham for winning the team trophy and to all the individual prize winners.

We look forward to next year’s event with fingers crossed for a little less rain!