Architecture, as the art that creates the spaces we work in, are surrounded by and call home, shapes our cities, towns, villages and in so doing our world.

Nature laid the first foundation, and mankind has been adding to it ever since. With this comes a responsibility that has not always been appreciated by all, but those architects who do produce designs from a harmony of mind and soul can and will make their mark. Colin McLundie is a fine example.

For some, Colin McLundie is above all associated with the wood-framed structure homes he introduced into this region in the 1990s. He proved to be ahead of his time, as the current, nascent wave of ecological construction techniques focuses very heavily on the flexibility, durability and convenience of wood as a building material, but at the time the market wasn’t ready for a change from bricks and concrete. “We built our own home with a ‘post and beam’ structure and it remains as attractive, comfortable and cosy as ever,” says Colin, who first moved to this region in 1986, when he established the local office of Coleman Ballantine Architects.

Among the projects completed in the second half of the eighties were Regal House – a landmark office development in Gibraltar – Jyske House and Portland House, a mixed-use commercial, office and residential development. Unique in that he is both a British and Spanish qualified architect, Colin established McLundie Architects in Sotogrande in 1991, as one of the first foreigners with dual qualifications. “The first few years were tough, as the region was in the grip of a recession, but with the invaluable and continuing belief, guidance and support of my wife we got through it and were able to establish a very well-respected niche architectural practice.”

Diverse Projects

In the ensuing years, McLundie Architects worked on a wide range of projects in southern Spain and Gibraltar, using Sotogrande as a base. The main focus of the studio is creating residential properties, with a special emphasis on private villas, but it has also been involved in designing office and golf complexes, as well as entire master-planned suburbs in the Middle East. “I have experience working in the British, European and Canadian markets, to which we gradually added a growing portfolio of projects in locations such as Abu Dhabi, where as founding partners in GHM Architects, we were asked to create the master-plan and architectural design for 5,000 homes in the new Al Falah town extension.”

Colin is a thinking, feeling architect with a sincere desire to create projects that offer both optimal functionality and aesthetic appeal for their occupants. So true to nature, GHM persuaded the Abu Dhabi authorities to discard the rectangular grid pattern in favour of more organic, rounded forms that are closer culturally to traditional Middle Eastern town development patterns, and above all foster the creation of communities. “We broke the project down into a series of connected ‘villages’, each with their own services and identity.”

Architecture with a Personal Touch

Such an approach is indicative of the McLundie way of working, for in the creation of anything from private villas to large-scale mix-use projects he invests a lot of effort in coming to grips with the essence of the setting and the people so that he can design something that is unique as well as fitting. “I want to help create something that adds value to the owner and/or community, and stands the test of time, so I work with the natural setting, the climatic conditions, the scenery and also the slope of the land, for these factors – together with the personal and cultural factors – give shape to each project, and transcends it into a home or part of a town’s urban landscape,” says Colin.

Having worked on assigments ranging from Mediterranean and Andalusian developments – such as Arcos Gardens in Arcos de la Frontera – to modern villas in Sotogrande and the Canary Islands, and apartments in Newcastle, not to mention plans for an entire mixed-use residential project on newly reclaimed land in Gibraltar (which is being designed together with Clark Geddes, a former university colleague with whom he has formed MGA Architects in Gibraltar), Colin believes it isn’t so much the architectural style you work on, but how you treat vital elements such as proportions, light and space, as well as roofscapes. “A building is all about its seamless functionality, on the one hand, and the aesthetic appeal and feeling it gives the people who live, work or spend time in it. In this context, attention to detail and sensitivity for the project are key factors.”

His desire to really come to grips with each new project has created a lasting relationship with his clients, many of whom McLundie Architects have worked for on subsequent enterprises. He has even teamed up with ex-colleagues from university to redevelop a historic property in Glasgow, showing his affinity with architectural styles ranging from classical and Andalusian to ultra-modern.

This also applies to the scope of projects, for having originally designed the new Sotogrande International School in 1998, McLundie Architects has, together with Arkitecnia, been commissioned to create the blueprint for a new secondary school building and boarding house. Drawing on their previous experience with Las Brisas Golf Club and Arcos Gardens, most recently McLundie Architects has been commissioned to carry out the redevelopment of the San Roque Clubhouse and practice area.

Asked about the undoubted success formula of an architect who scores so high on client appreciation, Colin sums it up with typical modesty: “it’s not about the architect’s ego, but his ability to listen to his clients and give them what they desire while exceeding their expectations.”