By Kevin Dorrian

The extended and renovated A’ the Airts on the High Street, Sanquhar, Upper Nithsdale has been tipped to transform the local landscape by bringing an enhanced creative arts hub to the town.

Established in 2010 by Upper Nithsdale Arts and Crafts Community Initiative (UNACCI), A’ the Airts sits within the local conservation area which meant the conceptual design by Aitken Turnbull adhered to local planning and regulatory protocols and also enabled the team to enhance the layout by creating a series of open-plan internal spaces.

Mark Buchanan, our lead architect on the project, said, “Our design was very much driven by the space available. UNACCI purchased the upper floors of the existing building next door, which was to be converted from a flat to additional crafting areas. This purchase did not include any external space, so any new build floor space had to be contained within the current UNACCI garden which is fairly constrained.

“So, it was a case of providing a minimal extension and fitting the spaces required into the existing footprint. Externally the building remains relatively unchanged, but the internal design and the space provided are the key elements of the design.”

One of the challenges was retaining the character of the existing building while adding more flexibility internally.

Having now doubled in size, A’ the Airts will be a key attraction for rural Upper Nithsdale. It will house a gallery for local artists; an upgraded 50-seater theatre/cinema area for performances and film showings; a digital media suite and two craft rooms.

Upstairs, there is a new hospitality area; an expanded shop where local people can sell their crafts and art; a new Sanquhar Pattern knitting facility and a larger café at the back of the building, leading out to an alfresco area and landscaped garden.

Yvonne Barber, A’ The Airts Centre Manager, said, “We live in a rural part of Scotland, so the increased space and the extended facility we can now offer the local community, the creative arts network and any tourists passing through the area positions A’ The Airts as a very special landmark.

“Having more space helps to increase our customer footfall, particularly in our shop and café areas. The flexibility of the overall design created by Aitken Turnbull Architects has ensured the focus is very much on openness, the use of natural light and seamlessly and unobtrusively blending the design for the extended building with what we already had. It’s a top-class design which works so well for us.

“Aitken Turnbull Architects has created a high quality and aesthetically pleasing design for A’ The Airts that will benefit the Upper Nithsdale community for future generations.”

© 2020 Aitken Turnbull