But now the transformation of a former tip near the Balmoral Estate into a new community cafe and studio space for architects has been crowned Scotland’s “Building of the Year”.
The new Scottish headquarters of Moxon Architects, which was awarded the £10,000 Dooland Prize at a ceremony in Edinburgh, was praised for its “highly sustainable” concept by the judges.
Surrounded by thick forest in a site in the Cairngorms National Park, on the outskirts of Crathie, the firm’s Quarry Studios development was designed as a “low-energy, lightweight building” to minimise its impact on the surrounding site of special scientific interest.
The architectural practice had previously been based in a nearby studio in one of the outbuildings at founder Ben Addy’s home before relocating to a former depot and tip used by Aberdeenshire Council. Its new building features a steel and timber frame, a sheet metal roof and black timber walls, as well as two vertical concrete chimneys.
The studio, which has space for 25 workers, and the cafe, which is open six days a week, are joined by a covered walkway.
The development saw a “rehabilitation” of the surrounding landscape, including the planting of new seedlings and trees, and the creation of a new bog and wetland area.
Other contenders for this year’s Doolan Prize, which is awarded annually by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), included a new campus for Forth Valley College in Falkirk, a new Jedburgh Grammar building, a restoration of the modernist building High Sunderland in Galashiels, and new offices and a visitor centre for Lockerbie Sawmill.
The prize was instigated in 2002 in memory of the late architect Andrew Doolan. Recent winners have included a revamp of Aberdeen Art Gallery and a new distillery and visitor centre for Macallan whisky.
Architect Amin Taha, chair of the judging panel, said: “Comparing such a wide variety of buildings was hard, but Quarry Studios demonstrates exceptionally careful thought in creating a high-quality and tactile building that is full of detail, while also delivering broader social outcomes.
"Moxon Architects have designed a building that is highly sustainable – not only in terms of its carbon footprint and support for local biodiversity, but also in how it acts as a catalyst for supporting local businesses and its community.”
Mr Addy said: "Quarry Studios has seen Moxon Architects commission, design and build a bespoke home for our team in Scotland, offering us unique freedoms combined with the inherent challenges of being client, architect and contractor.
“The location has afforded us the privilege to showcase our understanding from a client perspective combined with the knowledge and environmental commitments we hold as architects."
RIAS president Chris Steward said: “Each year the Doolan Award allows us the opportunity not only to consider some wonderful projects, but also reflect on how they tackle contemporary issues. Quarry Studios by Moxon Architects finds ways to regenerate what was brownfield back into the landscape while creating a community resource and a self-developed place of work.
"How we blend solutions through design is at the heart of what we do. In that context it is a pleasure to see all the shortlisted projects and a joy to discover the winner.”