Q+A with GLM Architect Neil McAllister

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in We Are GLM

Q+A with GLM Architect Neil McAllister

Neil brings a deep knowledge, love and understanding of old buildings and a flair for new architecture to the GLM design team. In addition to receiving his BSc in Architecture from Strathclyde University and his MSc in Architectural Conservation from Edinburgh College of Art, Neil is a member of the RIBA and RIAS. We sat down with Neil to discuss his work on some of GLM’s iconic projects, creative influences and the role spirituality can play in an architect’s work.


What made you decide to become an architect?

I think I probably realised my love of buildings in late primary school.  By the time I got to choosing subjects, work experience, etc. I knew what I was aiming for.  The interesting thing is when remembering events early in my life  it is often the buildings I remember.

What influences you?

I’m influenced by the solidity and permanence of ancient buildings, the exquisite detailing of fine furniture and the wild landscapes of Scotland.

How do you approach your projects?

Each project is different and I try not to come to them with preconceived ideas but I always aim to create something of beauty within the physical and financial constraints of the brief.  I like to work with sketches and 3d models early on and try to resolve as many of the details as possible while it is still on the drawing board. 

I know you are very much involved in your Church. Does spirituality play a role in your work and if so, how?

There is a quote by the great Glasgow architect, Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson that I love on this subject: “being made in the image of God, man was made partaker of the divine nature so far as to become a fellow-worker with God – in however a humble a sense, a co-Creator”.  I see it as my role to try and create glimpses of beauty, joy and hope within a groaning creation.

Are there other architects whose work inspires you? Who?

My influences are pretty eclectic – Abbot Suger and the early gothic master-masons in the 12th century at St. Denis, the Arts & Crafts architects and Gaudi in the late 19th century, Hassan Fathy in 20th century Egypt or in the present day – the beautiful detailing of Knox Bhavan, the revived vernacular of Dualchas and the organic forms in the landscape of Stuart Bagshaw – the list goes on…

You work on a variety of different types of projects from small scale private/residential to multi-million pound redevelopments like John O’Groats. What kind of projects excite you the most and why?

I am probably most excited about the smaller scale projects where you can get your head round every detail but I’m happy to work with any client with an exciting brief, the ambition to create something great and the passion to see it through.

 And one day I will build a cathedral…

What projects are you working on at the moment that you can talk about?

I’m currently working on a master plan for further development at John o’ Groats, a speculative housing development in Cornwall and a luxury master suite and guest bedrooms in a rural property to the south of Edinburgh.

How do you feel about all the recent press and accolades for your design of the Inn at John O’Groats?

The press coverage and awards are very gratifying after all the late nights and hard work that went into it.  It is particularly rewarding to hear the reactions of my peers and the general public.  Nothing, however, beats the feeling of seeing the form of the building against the sky for the first time- I was giggling like a schoolgirl!


If you have questions for Neil, or would like to discuss a potential project, please click here.