James Shearer (architect to the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board architectural panel), 1950; with sculptural panels by Hew Lorimer; later additional single storey bay forming separate turbine hall to left (E) circa 2003. Large roughly rectangular-plan 8-bay deep single storey and attic turbine hall flanked on 3 sides (N, W, S) by a similar lower range containing offices and workshops. Squared Morayshire Burghhead sandstone rubble with tooled ashlar dressings. Banded base course, banded string course to turbine hall; narrow banded eaves course breaking into pediment above main entrance with NoSHEB (see Notes) coat of arms beneath. Tooled ashlar surrounds with windows in recessed panels to advanced entrance bay. Windows to turbine hall in full height raised ashlar panels. Predominantly plain surrounds to large ground floor windows with chamfered edges. Rusticated blocks to outer frames of smaller attic storey windows with large carved panels above depicting Pictish symbols. Large vehicular entrance doorway to right (W) with teak doors and carved panel above inscribed 'FASNAKYLE POWER STATION'.
E (SIDE) ELEVATION: roughly 2-bay (part of 2003 extension) with single large window to centre in similar surround to that at N (principal) elevation.
S (REAR) ELEVATION: similar to that at N (principal) elevation, but oversailing tailrace on large concrete piers. Additional smaller windows to ground floor beneath large full-height windows in similar surrounds to N elevation.
W (END) ELEVATION: 8 bays with deeply recessed bay to far left (N); advanced stair tower to left (N) flanking 5-bay section with lower single storey bay to far right (S). Rubble rybats and lintels. Roughly regular fenestration with small bi-partite windows to stair tower irregularly placed. Large bracketed advanced cill to bi-partite stair tower windows with carved Pictish symbol. 4 ensuite vehicular access doors to ground floor of centre section in plain concrete surrounds with small off-centre window to left.
Multi-pane metal glazing in painted metal surrounds with some casement windows. Flat roof; rainwater goods hidden behind parapet with cast-iron hoppers and downpipes.
INTERIOR: predominantly plain functional interior with some tiled and wood-block flooring and timber door surrounds to entrance and office space. Plain interior to turbine hall with tiled floor and piers to walls supporting large travelling crane.
Statement of Special Interest
Fasnakyle Power Station is an outstanding example of a large station, with an archetypal vernacular modernist design by James Shearer. It is a key component of the Glen Affric hydro electric scheme, originally designed as the control hub for the Affric / Cannich scheme, one of the major post-war hydro electric developments by the North of Scotland Hydro electric Board (NoSHEB). The station is also a preeminent example of the design ideals of architect James Shearer who sought to integrate the large buildings such as power stations into their natural setting through the use of local stone and Pictish symbols. The scheme played a key role in the realisation of the social agenda of NoSHEB by providing power to remote north highland communities and stimulating economic regeneration. The addition in 2003 of a fourth turbine to the east of the original extent of the turbine hall in an additional bay is in keeping with the original design and replicates the fine use of materials and form of the rest of the turbine hall although lacking an attic storey.
The development of a hydro electric power scheme in Glen Affric had attracted a significant amount of criticism when it was originally suggested prior to the founding of the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NoSHEB) in 1943. The board was sensitive to potential criticism in again proposing the scheme for development and ensured that the designs for major elements of the scheme were highly sensitive to their setting. This included building two underground stations at Deanie and Culligran and locating the main storage dam for Fasnakyle in a separate watershed (see separate listing for Mullardoch Dam). This sensitivity can also be seen in the choice of high quality local stone for Fasnakyle and the inclusion of Pictish motifs in an attempt to link the building to its setting within an area of historic Caledonian pine forest.
The station was originally designed with three 22 megawatt turbines. An additional 17 megawatt turbine was installed in 2005, in an additional bay to the E of the original turbine hall, and runs continuously on the compensation water provided to the river. The station has a head of 159 metres and has an average output of 254 million units per year.
All of the developments carried out by NoSHEB were subject to parliamentary approval and objections on the grounds of scenic amenity were common. In order to meet these objections the board appointed a panel of architectural advisers. After receiving recommendations from RIAS Reginald Fairlie (1883-1952), James Shearer (1881-1962) and Harold Ogle Tarbolton (186-1947) were appointed in 1943. Initially the role of the panel was to adjudicate on competition entries for designs, but by 1947 it had become one of designers. The panel had little control over the form of the buildings, as they left this to engineers, but they did influence the appearance and the style of the designs. The rigid views on the roles of engineers and architects during the design process resulted in the development of a style which can be characterised as vernacular modernism. This style is unique to NoSHEB buildings and is a direct product of the strict role which engineers and architects played in the design process and of the increasing desire to hide buildings within the landscape, epitomised at Fasnakyle.
Early in the life of the board, following the death of Tarbolton in 1947, and Fairlie's death relatively soon after in 1952, Shearer was able to exert more control on the direction of the architectural style. In line with increasing public concerns over the impact of developments on scenic amenity by the early to mid 1950s the designs for the board began to move away from the confident classical modernism seen under Tarbolton and Fairlie's influence at Sloy and Pitlochry (see separate listings) to simple primary shapes clothed in local stone (something Shearer was passionate about) to give a vernacular edge and root the buildings in their landscape. This theme was developed further by the application of carved panels depicting Pictish motifs at Fasnakyle power station amongst others.
James Shearer was a prominent designer on behalf of NoSHEB. He was a member of the board's design panel along with Reginald Fairlie and Harold Tarbolten. Shearer spent the early part of his career in the offices of John Burnet and Son in Glasgow before commencing private practice in 1907. He gained a number of high profile commissions, and in partnership with George Annand from 1949 the practice were responsible for some iconic post-war architecture, including David Marshall Lodge in Aberfoyle (see separate listing). Shearer also produced a number of designs for NoSHEB schemes, the combination of rugged rubble facings and functional forms with carefully applied architectural features, many derived from vernacular and baronial styles, were a conscious effort to meld the new structures into the landscape and stylistically a number of compositions echo the work of his early mentor Burnet. The designs for NoSHEb also show the influence of Dutch architect, Willem Marinus Dudok, who Shearer visited in 1952 whilst representing the Royal Scottish Academy. Dudok's style is characterised by the dramatic massing of primary shapes and the use of deep overhanging eaves.
(List description updated as part of Hydro Electric Power thematic 2011)
National Archives of Scotland (NAS), Ref: NSE North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board Collection (1943 -1990); NAS, Ref: NSE1 North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board Minutes (1943-1990); NAS, Ref NSE2 North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board Annual Reports (1943-1990); Peter Payne, The Hydro: A Study of the Development of the Major Hydro-Electric Schemes Undertaken by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board (1988); J Miller, The Dam Builders: Power from the Glens (2002) p52: Emma Wood, The Hydro Boys, (2002) p81, 88; Siobhan MacConnachie, James Shearer and the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board, Architectural Heritage, XIV, (2003); Scottish Hydro Electric, Power From The Glens, (2000) p12.
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Printed: 17/11/2018 12:55