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Innovative Scots architectural company goes into liquidation Ushida Findlay closure casts cloud over Maggie's Centres

A WORLD-renowned Scottish architectural firm, famed for its giant starfish design of a stately home, has gone into liquidation.

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Ushida Findlay, a company which built its reputation on designing ultra-modern town houses in Tokyo, was founded in 1987 by Kathryn Findlay and her husband, Eisaku Ushida, a Japanese architect. The firm became famous in 2002 when it won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) competition for the unique starfish plan for Grafton New Hall, a proposed English country home in Cheshire. Ms Findlay, 51, the daughter of an Angus sheep farmer, became an honorary professor at Dundee University in 1999, and was the first woman, and foreigner, to become a professor of architecture at Tokyo University. Ushida Findlay played a part in the regeneration of Glasgow's east end in 1999, with Homes of the Future, a showcase residential development overlooking Glasgow Green. The project was the flagship for Glasgow's Year of Architecture. It is understood that subcontractors working on Ushida Findlay projects in Qatar are to lose substantial earnings following the voluntary liquidation of the practice. This is thought to be in relation to delays and cash-flow problems with three major projects in Doha. Ms Findlay, a mother of two, graduated from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1979. She received a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education for postgraduate research at Tokyo University, and worked for Arata Isozaki and associates before establishing the Ushida Findlay partnership with her husband. The company has offices in Glasgow, London and Tokyo. After its inception in 1987, Ushida Findlay built an extraordinary series of houses and public buildings in Japan, with names such as Soft and Hairy, Polyphony and Billiard. It combined progressive technology and used unheard-of materials. Soft and Hairy, for example, has a 2ft thick turf roof. Ms Findlay could not be contacted yesterday. Norrie Innes, managing director of Rock DNC, a company that shares a business address with the firm in Glasgow, said he had taken a number of calls for Ushida Findlay but had been unable to contact Ms Findlay for several days. There was no reply from either the London or Tokyo offices yesterday. The Royal Institute of British Architects confirmed that Ushida Findlay had gone into voluntary liquidation. Companies House said that an extraordinary resolution to wind up was made in June, and there was an appointment of a liquidator last month. The developer of the Grafton New Hall in Cheshire is still hoping to use the award-winning starfish design with a different architect to implement the scheme. It was unclear last night whether two other Ushida Findlay projects - a design for Maggie's Centres, a cancer charity in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, and the Stade Maritime Landmark project in Hastings, West Sussex - would still go ahead. In April, a winning arts centre scheme by Ushida Findlay was scrapped by Bury St Edmunds Borough Council. The firm triumphed in an RIBA design competition to turn the Bury St Edmunds Corn Exchange into a flagship £ 4m art gallery. But Suffolk Council refused to fund the scheme, despite having already spent at least £ 25,000 of public money on a feasibility study and on part-funding the competition. At the time, Ms Findlay said she had been treated with contempt by the council. The extraordinary design of Grafton New Hall in Cheshire was one of the first for houses in England to be given planning permission since an edict issued in 1997 by the department of the environment, which insisted that houses can only be built in the countryside if they are of ''outstanding architectural quality''. The edict was, in part, a reaction to the property boom of the 1980s, when kitsch houses spread across rural shires.

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