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11 July 2022

The Crichton Project: Design competition launched for major new Scottish cultural project

RIAS Consultancy – the competitions and procurement arm of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland – has today launched a design competition to find an architecture team for a major new cultural building with a focus on mental health and well-being. The ambitious £15 million project, organised on behalf of The Crichton Trust, will be one of the most significant cultural buildings in Scotland, transforming cultural provision in Dumfries and Galloway, while complementing the extraordinary range of facilities and organisations at The Crichton.

The Crichton Trust’s enterprising custodianship of The Crichton – an 85 acre estate on the outskirts of Dumfries – has brought together an extraordinarily rich mix of academic institutions and businesses. The Crichton is also the venue for a wide range of events, and its landscaped gardens and historic buildings are a valuable recreational resource.

The new building – provisionally titled The Crichton Centre for Memory and Wellbeing – will contain exhibition and archive facilities to house the Crichton Archive, and the Crichton Heritage Centre: enhancing people’s understanding of The Crichton’s 180 year heritage and innovation in the provision of mental health care and arts and health. The building will also bring together a new visual arts and exhibition space, an intergenerational academic study space and resource centre, and a land art archives and research centre.

The design competition is seeking architects for a sustainable new building, on the site of a former hospital laundry*, that will do justice to its extraordinary setting and offer a world-class counterpoint to the other facilities across the estate. The Crichton Trust hopes to create a world-renowned home and destination for innovation – somewhere for people to come together and share ideas, inspired by The Crichton’s history, places and spaces.

The Crichton Trust and RIAS Consultancy have developed a competition structure that seeks out talent wherever it may be, encourages collaboration, and enables a wide range of practices to apply. The competition has been explicitly designed to encourage teams of practices, including smaller firms, to work together and submit joint bids. The competition is part-funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

An initial expression of interest stage invites participants to present their approach to this project with reference to their experience, although no design work is required at this stage. The closing date for first stage submissions is Friday 19 August. Following a blind shortlisting process, five teams will then be awarded an honorarium of £20,000 to develop their proposals, with the expectation that a winning team will be announced in November.

Detailed information for entrants is available at

Gwilym Gibbons, chief executive of The Crichton Trust said:

“We are very excited about creating The Crichton Centre for Memory and Wellbeing, in what will become a new landmark building in the heart of The Crichton. This project is about preserving our past and building the heritage of the future and I am intrigued to see the design proposals when they come through. This is one of several development projects included within our ambitious 100-year plan for The Crichton and is an important milestone in our journey to connect people, place and the past to shape the future.”

Tamsie Thomson, chief executive of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said:

“We are excited and honoured to be working with The Crichton Trust on this hugely significant project for architecture and culture in Scotland. The end result will be transformative for The Crichton and wider cultural provision in south west Scotland, and in the meantime represents an outstanding opportunity for practices of all shapes and sizes to create a building with a valuable purpose and an enduring legacy.

“This competition represents a step-change for RIAS Consultancy. The Crichton Trust’s progressive approach has allowed us to frame a competition that swerves many of the common blocks to larger tenders for small businesses, and will hopefully attract talent from every shade of the architectural spectrum.”

Detailed information for entrants is available at

*The former laundry building is currently utilised by SHAX; a social enterprise and homeless support charity. The Crichton Trust is also working with SHAX to facilitate the development of a new build on site that is fit for their purpose going forward. Learn more


More Information:

The Crichton Trust is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status, established in 1996 to promote, regenerate and care for The Crichton and other buildings of historic interest throughout Dumfries and Galloway. The Trust has the overall strategic responsibility for ensuring that the site is managed and developed to an appropriate standard.

Their mission is to preserve, enhance and interpret the historic character of The Crichton and develop it with a clear identity as a place of educational, commercial, recreational, cultural and artistic excellence taking account of accessibility and stakeholder and community needs for the benefit of Dumfries and Galloway.

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) was founded in 1916 as the professional body for all chartered architects in Scotland and is the foremost institute in the country dealing with architecture and the built environment. A champion of architecture and the built environment in Scotland, the RIAS supports the interests of its growing membership, united through its six regional Chapters, to promote the importance of well-designed buildings and places.

RIAS Consultancy has managed design team procurement for close to 100 clients and 150 projects throughout Scotland. They have in-depth experience across the full range of competitive processes for selecting design teams, from fully compliant public-procurement methods to bespoke design competitions. They provide totally impartial services for both public and private sector projects.

Their aim is to help clients stay informed at all stages of the procurement and construction process, whether those clients are already working within the industry or are coming into contact with it for the first time. They are proud of our record of supporting clients in the procurement of design team services, with an extensive client list including the Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Government and many of Scotland’s universities, colleges, councils, and arts venues. They provide guidance on competitive, quality-based processes to ensure that a design team is selected which can meet the client’s vision, needs, timescales and demonstrates best value for quality and price.

TheUK Community Renewal Fund is a UK Government programme for 2021/22. This aims to support people and communities most in need across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches to prepare for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.  It invests in skills, community and place, local business, and supporting people into employment.   For more information, visit

Background to The Project

This project is part-funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

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