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With a playful take on a Venn diagram, GRAS clarifies just what it is they do: work at the intersection of creating ‘cool stuff’’ and ‘stuff that matters’. It’s only partly self-deprecating. With ‘cool’, they mean extraordinary, progressive and innovative.
GRAS was formed in 2020 from the consolidation of two successful, family-run practices, Groves-Raines Architects was established in Edinburgh in 1972 by Nicholas Groves-Raines and Kristin Hannesdottir.
Gunnar Groves-Raines studied architecture at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. From the get-go, the studio's focus was on the exploration of ideas, materials and technologies. The practice involves product design, graphics, audiovisuals and art as a way to break open what is typically understood as architecture.
The studio’s dual heritage with Groves-Raines, who are conservation experts, spending over four decades restoring and adapting some of Scotland’s most significant listed buildings, means that GRAS understands the significance and value of built heritage and traditional crafts. Collaboration with craftsmen, artists and designers is central to many of their projects.
Take Custom Lane. The collaborative platform in Edinburgh’s port town Leith has become a fertile breeding ground for the design community. Designed and founded by GRAS, Custom Lane comprises a gallery, shared workshops, production studios, event spaces, hot desks, salons and a café. Cleverly placed in neglected buildings and nestled in a once-forgotten corner of the town, Custom Lane is now a driving force of creativity for the surrounding community.
On the residential front, GRAS has also proven that, instead of rejecting the past, they see the quality in traditional design, materials and crafts. Their work on Kyle House in the Scottish Highlands, winner of the Architecture at the Scottish Design Awards 2020, reflects that beautifully. The stone and lime plaster house’s skeleton remains in perfect harmony with the highland wilderness around it. On the inside, GRAS is a luxurious hideaway designed with quality, detail and durable materials in mind. Using stone, timber, metal and glass, GRAS create living spaces that are contemporary and simple, an interior that radiates comfort and calm. They’ve also appealed to local craftsmen to imbue the place with a sense of continuity: the locally mined stone was used, the lead and slate utilized in traditional ways.
The practice benefits from the diverse skills of a team comprising design architects, conservation-accredited architects, building surveyors, archaeologists, interior designers, graphic designers, technologists, and fabricators.
In every single project they take on, GRAS’ strength as a design practice is clear: the team embraces that which is often lacking in contemporary buildings: solidity, permanence, proportion, hierarchy, human scale and timelessness.