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.
The youthful Scottish design studio, founded in 2016 under the wings of GRA Groves-Raines Architects Ltd., has a modus operandi that’s perhaps informed by its inception: of the founder Gunnar Groves-Raines, the son of the founder of what is currently GRAS’ parent company. But make no mistake – the two firms' approach is distinctively different.
Gunnar Groves-Raines set up the studio while still studying architecture at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow. From the get go, the focus was on the exploration of ideas, materials and technologies. The practice involves product design, graphics, audiovisuals and art, as away to break open what is typically understood as architecture.
The studio’s proximity to Groves-Raines, who are conservation experts, means that GRAS understands the significance and value of built heritage and traditional crafts. In many of their projects, the collaboration with craftsmen, artists and designers is central.
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 quality in traditional design, materials and crafts.
Their work on Kyle House, a WLH member, 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 the 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. Here, too, they’ve appealed to local craftsmen in order to imbue the place with a sense of continuity: locally mined stone was used, the lead and slate utilized in traditional ways.
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.