21st September 2018
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Past Times: Heddell’s Park – top award

From The Shetland Times, Friday 17th February, 1961

Local people were delighted at the weekend when it became known that, for the first time since their annual awards were started in 1937, the Saltire Society had selected a far north housing scheme for their award for good design in houses – the Heddell’s Park scheme in Lerwick, designed by R. E. & B. L. C. Moira, architects, Edinburgh.

The scheme had many opponents when it was first mooted, but the Town Council went ahead with it, and since it was completed it would be difficult to find many people who don’t have a good word to say for it. The scheme has attracted very favourable comment from visitors during the past two years, and we join with everyone else in congratulating Mr Richard Moira, the architect, on a richly-deserved award.

The Society’s official intimation of the award says:

The Lerwick scheme is laid out on a sloping site, of which full advantage has been taken, and consists of a series of enclosed courts at varying levels. Means of access within the scheme is primarily for the pedestrian, the only car park being placed in a cul-de-sac so that the privacy and intimate character of the grouping is not destroyed. The scheme emerges on to the main shopping street through typical Lerwick “lanes.”

Climatic conditions in Shetland will obviously have limited scope of landscaping within this layout, particularly as regards planting. Apart from shrubs and small irregular grass lawns, there are also well designed areas of paving and cobbles with retaining walls of particularly effective rugged masonry. An unusual and very pleasing feature of the layout is the children’s playground, centrally placed near the only 3-flatted block in the scheme. Hard materials have been used, such as tarmac and paving and a symbolised concrete ship has been assembled with some imagination. Not only is this playground obviously much appreciated by the children, but it is pleasing to look at and makes an important incident in the whole environment. Remembering what has happened in so many urban schemes elsewhere, it is also interesting to note the provision of a group of smooth cement “blackboards”, to allow the children to chalk with impunity to their hearts’ content, thus diverting their efforts from chalking elsewhere, apparently with success.

The houses are imaginatively grouped, considerable care having been taken to have nicely turned corners; and they are well planned internally. The design of windows is unusual, and obviously intended to suit a boisterous climate, most of them consisting of vertical sliding sashes alongside a fixed light; and they are painted white throughout, thus lending a crisp quality to the exterior of the houses. While some roofs are covered with green bituminous felt which gives a pleasing colour, some, unfortunately, have purplish Welsh slates which rarely look well in a Scottish setting – the much pleasanter texture and colour of Scottish slate would, the Society feels, have justified any extra cost that might have been incurred. Colourglaze panels have been used to provide permanent bright colour at various entrance window features, an while these are excellent the standard of colours used in applied paints on the doors is not as good, although sea air may well tone these down in time. The harling is of two colours, deep terracotta which is very effective, and a grey which is on the drab side for Lerwick except in the brightest June sunlight.

In a scheme so original and so good as Heddell’s Park, the Society feels that the presence of that persistent fault in Scottish local authority housing design, externally exposed plumbing pipes, is aesthetically unfortunate, obviously unwise and easily avoidable in most cases; and they also feel that the standard of fittings used for street lighting could have been better.

Rather surprisingly, no official comment about the award was made at Lerwick Town Council’s monthly meeting on Tuesday night – at least not during the public session, which lasted little more than a quarter of an hour.

Earlier, however, the Provost and town clerk had privately voiced their pleasure at the award.

Provost Blance said he was “very pleased” to hear the news. In his opinion, the scheme was an excellent one in every way and the architect, Mr Moira, had made a masterly job of retaining the old lane formations, at the same time blending them into a modern housing scheme. The picturesque charm of old Lerwick remained, but in the most up-to-date surrounding. The provost declared Mr Moira to be “a most brilliant artist.”

Town clerk Mr R. L. C. Manson said he knew all the councillors would be delighted that the scheme had merited such distinction. The award reflected great credit on the builders, as well as the architect, and justified the Council’s enlightened approach to the development of such a difficult design.

It was very gratifying that the tremendous amount of detailed work that Mr Moira undertook in planning the scheme had been rewarded in this way. As the scheme had proved so successful there was no reason why its pattern should not be continued in the redevelopment of the whole lanes area.

Residents in the scheme were also pleased to hear the news.