The Aberdeen Society of Architects was established in 1898 by a group of architects in Aberdeen, Scotland, as an institute to represent and support them, to promote lectures and educational trips, and further the objectives of the architectural profession as a whole: over a century later, the publication of this website is part of its ongoing work. Aberdeen Society of Architects’ (ASA’s) membership in the early days consisted of the partners in prominent architectural practices in the city. There was a rival organisation, in the shape of the Aberdeen Architectural Association, founded in 1905, but by the early years of the century, “ASA Territory” covered the whole of northern Scotland above Stonehaven and Deeside, including Inverness and even the Shetland Isles.
ASA’s founding president was James Souttar, who was in the chair from 1898 to 1900; he was followed by Arthur Clyne, formerly of the significant local practice Pirie & Clyne, designers of John Morgan’s house at No.50 Queen’s Road, and the nearby Queen’s Cross Kirk. Clyne retired as president in 1914 with an honorarium of £20, after having served two periods each of five years (1900-04 then 1909-13): by that time, the Society had allied itself to the national architectural bodies in Edinburgh and in London. In those days, representatives from Aberdeen made regular trips south, as they still do today, to put forward the views of architects in the North-east.
After a proposal was tabled at the start of the Great War, the ASA discussed and tentatively agreed to the registration of architects, and also to chartered status for the profession: the debate is recorded at length in the chapter’s Annual Reports of the time. By the end of 1916, the chartership was in place, and the Aberdeen Society of Architects acquired a second identity, as the Aberdeen Chapter of the newly-founded Institute of Scottish Architects- thus the “1916” on the chapter’s crest. Dr. William Kelly – an architect and antiquarian who is famously remembered for “Kelly’s Cats”, the cast iron leopards on Union Bridge- was a fellow of the ASA, and an early president of the national body.
At the same time, the ASA’s remit was altered to take in only the counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine: a new society was established in Inverness to cover that area, which was previously served by the Aberdeen chapter. Proposals for the registration of architects were resurrected in 1923, and these were backed by the ASA, plus the Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, as the Institute of Scottish Architects was now known; it was later to become today’s RIAS (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland). Meanwhile, registration was finally put in place ten years later- as a result, today’s architects are members of the ARB (Architects Registration Board).
Whereas the Aberdeen Society of Architects had 23 members in 1907, it grew to more than twice that number after the War, and it currently numbers some 200 chartered architects. Over that time, the structure of the profession has also changed: the larger private practices of turn-of-the-20th Century Aberdeen consisted of relatively few architects, with many apprentices and assistants; after the Second World War, the rebuilding effort and establishment of the Welfare State encouraged many architects to work for the public sector, in Local Authority offices: nowadays, the majority again work in private practice.
The ASA’s logo represents Aberdeen’s Kings College Chapel, with its steeple in the form of an imperial crown. It is the only remaining building of the original college, which was founded in 1495 by Bishop Elphinstone – although the steeple had to be rebuilt after a hurricane destroyed it in February 1633. The 15th century chapel is still at the University of Aberdeen’s heart, and conservation work was recently carried out by one of ASA’s member practices… which closes our circle, since the chapel’s first restoration was carried out in Victorian times by none other than William Kelly.