Does BBC Scotland’s architect expert know pigeon poo about giant hospitals or indeed anything big?


On Good Mourning Scotland and then repeated by Reporting Scotland, one of ‘Scotland’s best-known architects’, Malcolm Fraser said, based presumably on his years of training and practice in the design of large complex buildings, that the new Southern General is not ‘a happy building’ and that bigger places tend to ‘cut corners’. In my own four years as very junior laddie in an architect’s office, we’d all have laughed our heads of at that ‘happy building’ waffle and reflected on the corner-cutting we’d seen in virtually all contracts of any size at all.

Then, revealing awesome insight, he said ‘In this case it appears to be an issue with the mechanical ventilation and a gap that’s been left that pigeons can get in.’ Oooh, wish I’d thought of that.

He then said that hospitals tend to be built with mechanical ventilation, but that it was possible to design them with natural ventilation. Is he saying natural ventilation wouldn’t have gaps where pigeons can get in? What as in cathedrals and castles? No birds inside those.

When you read that stuff, alarm bells ring about Fraser. Is he a credible expert for the BBC to use? Did they approach someone who had built a giant hospital elsewhere? Did they approach a ventilation engineer, expert in such systems? Why just Malcolm?

You’ll see above that Fraser’s business collapsed in 2015. According to his own website, He doesn’t seem to have built anything at all of note since the quite modest ‘Scottish Story Telling Centre’ in 2006. He appears to have been recognised for designs for the quite large Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow but seems not to actually won the contract. There’s no evidence of him having designed or managed the construction of anything remotely as big or a complex as the ‘monster hospital’.

So, BBC Scotland, why him? Another pet ‘expert’? In September 2018, on the GSA fire, he told the Guardian:

‘Malcolm Fraser, one of Scotland’s leading architects, accused the school of prioritising “flashy new buildings” ahead of “the jewel at the heart of its estate”, in a combative hearing of evidence from invited experts on Thursday morning.’

‘Flashy new buildings?’ You can’t buy that kind of expertise.

Footnote: Is Malcolm Fraser another cog in that scary anti-independence, multi-tentacled, crime syndicate involving Douglas, Murdo, the Fraser of Allander Institute, the late House of Fraser, the late Mad Frankie Fraser and Putin? See this for more:

House of Fraser implicated in Putin / Murdo Fraser ‘botplot’ to weaken Union





10 thoughts on “Does BBC Scotland’s architect expert know pigeon poo about giant hospitals or indeed anything big?

  1. Alasdair Macdonald January 26, 2019 / 12:54 pm

    If an authoritative comment was required why not seek a statement from the Health and Safety Executive or from the institute of heating and ventilation enginerrs.

    As with so many things which the media make a fuss about, there is a bona fide concern about potential sources of infection in hospitals and other health centres. The levels of iatrogenic infections in such places is markedly reduced from the slaughterhouse they were in Florence Nightingale’s day. The level at the QEUH is less than the Scottish average, which is as good as any in the world. Hospitals contain people whose immune systems are weakened and, as Professor Hugh Pennington pointed out the infection caused by this is very mild. (He is an expert in this field, but not, in, say, politics). For someone who is poorly, even a very minor stressor such as this could further weaken an already weak system, but not be the CAUSE of death.

    With regard to the entry point, we are told that it was not visible to the naked eye. All buildings have tensions within them. In fact, it is tensions which hold them together. Buildings are built on land which is continually shifting and settling and, as a result, buildings crack. These are natural occurrences and cannot be designed out, although good construction and design has an ameliorating effect. Routine inspection and maintenance picks up most of these when they get above a particular threshhold and repairs are effected.

    Thresholds will be set in terms of levels of risk and cost. In all aspects of our lives we live with acceptable levels of risk. When I go out on my bike their is a finite chance I will have an accident. I am aware of that and conduct myself in a way that minimises the chances. But, a tack on the road, or a driver looking in another direction, a pedestrian or og running out could all have an effect.

    Let’s discuss these things and not give platforms to mendacious fascists.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. William Henderson January 26, 2019 / 1:53 pm

    Has anyone thought to check out the ventilation system at Pacific Quay?

    It just might be worth a look. Environmental factors ca have unpredictable effects on human behaviour. (eg. lead in drinking water and in the air from old lead pipes and leaded petrol).


  3. Robert Johnson January 26, 2019 / 1:59 pm

    Malcolm Fraser built many major buildings, including the Scottish Ballet Headquarters, a magnificent space in 2009. And anyone will tell you that architects have to know the consequences of structures, unless you are gigantic thumper who knows nothing about architecture and journalism and had to be quietly pensioned off by UWS because your data was so embarassingly biased towards your own pre-existing beliefs.


  4. Jon January 26, 2019 / 3:13 pm

    Malcolm Fraser was involved in Architects for Yes.
    He wrote the statement for Architects for Yes on their webpage

    Here’s an extract.

    “And none of this changes the fact that small, developed nations, with the benefit of simply-defined boundaries (no bureaucratic devo-muddle and Houses of Lords and Commons), that they then, in this inter-dependent world, connect across, tend to be both wealthier and better able to fight inequality. And that while the Union has been good for all of us it has ceased to be so, maybe forty years ago, and history will see the Referendum of 2014 as part of the final unravelling of Empire.

    Our “Architects for Yes” group agreed on all this, and started a conversation about how a new Scotland with full powers could re-energise its built environment, putting a socially-responsible architecture at its heart. Like all the myriad, beautiful “Youth, Women, Scots-Asian, Scots-English etc etc etc for Yes” group, that have lit-up this movement for change, we were no SNP supplicants.”

    During the interview after Malcolm Fraser said he prefered natural ventilation the interviewer asked if he meant open windows, I think he said yes.
    The hospital is in the vicinity of the busy M8 and right next to the Clyde Tunnel.


  5. Ranald January 26, 2019 / 9:12 pm

    MFA did do the Linlithgow Town House (aka Burgh Halls) project. I think it’s a bit rough to have a go at him simply because he closed his practice. He is well respected and often a go to expert for the SG. He thinks differently and comes up with solutions other than the ‘it’s aye been’ approach. I liked working alongside him on a couple of projects and found him only too happy to offer advice free of charge. Not many would do that.
    In short, much as I like your blogs and cannot stand the so-called BBC, you are way off beam with this one. I actually have more respect for Malcolm stating the bleeding obvious. If others are so damned clever (Richard Murphy is another stand out architect based in Scotland) why haven’t they put their heads above the parapet? Mind you, seems you are quite happy to shoot from behind the parados.


    • johnrobertson834 January 27, 2019 / 9:53 am

      Weren’t his comments a bit lacking? Is he really competent to critique a massive complex building given his experience? Was he used by BBC in this?

      Like the ‘way off beam’ comment. Beams, buildings, very good.


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