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Experts gather for Historic Scotland vernacular buildings conference

15 February 2011

Experts from across Scotland will gather at New Lanark tomorrow (16th February) for Historic Scotland’s vernacular buildings conference.

The event will look at the important role of Scotland’s rich vernacular heritage in telling the story of Scotland’s past, its people, and their communities.

These buildings, in contrast to architecturally designed ‘grand’ buildings, tend to develop over time, using local resources which reflect the environmental, cultural and historical context in which they exist. Key examples include black houses, mining communities and mills.

The conference will look at specific case studies ranging from the industrial legacy of some of these buildings - such as the coal industry, to what can be described as one of the finest examples of vernacular buildings in the world - St. Kilda.

The conference was welcomed by Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External Affairs;

“Scotland’s vernacular heritage is hugely important.

“It is a physical embodiment of a community’s past, how it developed and how it contributes to the overall story of Scotland.

“These buildings also have the potential to contribute to our continuing story. I’m sure that this conference will provide a valuable opportunity to discuss new ways to appreciate and learn from this hugely important resource.”

The continued value of these buildings today will be a key focus for the conference. Research is currently being conducted which looks at the construction of these buildings and the lessons that could be applied in areas such as insulation, for example.

Chris McGregor, Depute Director for Historic Scotland’s Conservation Group said;

“There is a lot of interesting work going on at the moment looking at the potential of these buildings to learn more about what we perceive as modern issues such as environmental impact and sustainability.

“Blackhouses for example were extremely well insulated from wind and weather, and were very good at retaining heat.

“There is also a clear sustainability message here, as traditionally communities would source the materials required to build their homes in very close proximity to where they lived.

“Whilst not all vernacular buildings developed in this way, those that did are excellent case studies in responding to the needs of their environment and could help the wider sector as we increasingly need to look at ways to reduce our carbon footprint.”

The role of vernacular buildings in providing a vital lifeline for the preservation of some traditional skills is also hugely important.

Chris continued;

“The other lasting legacy of our vernacular building heritage is its role in helping to protect traditional skills. This is hugely important, as a means of passing skills from one generation to the next, but also equipping ourselves with the tools to ensure that these buildings are protected for the enjoyment of future generations to ensure their ongoing survival as part of Scotland’s story.”


Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.



For further information


Iona Matheson
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858
iona.matheson@scotland.gsi.gov.uk