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Dualchas: The Architects of Restraint Come of Age

Since 1996 Dualchas Architects has been spearheading the renaissance of architecture in the Highlands and Islands to extensive acclaim.

Headquartered in Sleat on Isle of Skye, the award- winning Scottish practice is celebrating turning 21 with a new brand marque designed by Spey.

Alasdair and Neil Stephen founded their practice from a desire to see good new housing in the Highlands of Scotland. The identical twins initially sought inspiration from the true vernacular of the Highlands - the blackhouse. A new modern longhouse was developed with a simple objective; to offer an affordable beautifully designed alternative that could be seen as part of the cultural regeneration of the Highlands. The design ethos is often described as ‘the architecture of restraint’; simple in form, highly finessed and in harmony with the landscape.

Central to the new Dualchas brand is the charging goat. Whilst people were cleared across the Highlands and often replaced with sheep, the domestic goat remained,
becoming feral in the remote glens. It is an iconic symbol of resistance and survival.

Co-founder of Dualchas, Neil Stephen, said:

"Our manifesto comes from the idea of what architecture can do for cultural confidence and helping Highland architecture be important. When you look at what Dualchas does in contrast to other practices, it has been clear we have led the way in establishing that.

For 21 years our work has centred on the premise that by instilling community confidence and value in architecture, you can help sustain rural communities through good design.

As a practice, we want our design to stand the test of time. And to do that architecture must connect, it must be of a place, otherwise the next generation won’t cherish it and it will end up being a ruin or a memory. That’s how you design buildings that are truly sustainable."

Co-founder, Alasdair Stephen, added:

"The principles of Dualchas design philosophy have been applied not just in rural Scotland, but in urban Scotland, the UK and further afield.

Architecture is a multi-layered industry; it is about delivery, responsibility to the client, landscape, environment as well as being creative. For the past 21 years we have worked with a dedicated international team to deliver award-winning buildings, helping us become an industry leader in rural architecture.

While we are proud to have contributed to improving, and making high quality design a reality in rural Scotland and beyond, there are serious challenges for our profession in trying to help deliver affordable housing. Rural Scotland could be transformed into a modern, vibrant economy, but it faces a crisis through a lack of housing for the young. Vision and leadership are needed at every level to solve this problem."

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