Tycoon in Bernat Klein studio plan pledge

Bernat Klein Studio
Bernat Klein Studio

THE Edinburgh-based property developer behind the scheme to convert the iconic Borders design studio once used by textile legend Bernat Klein into a private home says he is as committed as ever to the project.

Lee Miller bought the studio, designed by the late renowned architect Peter Wormersley, in 2000 with the intention of transforming it into a dwelling for himself.

Rated as the fifth most architecturally-influential building constructed in Scotland since the Second World War, the brick, glass and concrete edifice was constructed in 1972 just outside Selkirk.

Mr Klein, who turns 90 next month, had already had Mr Wormersley build him a house at nearby High Sunderland.

The studio, which has an A-class listing from Historic Scotland and won an architectural award the year it was built, had not been owned by Serbian-born Mr Klein for a number of years before being purchased by Mr Miller.

The intervening years saw the building operated by the then Scottish Borders Enterprise as a textiles resource centre before being sold to Mr Miller more than a decade ago.

The property tycoon received planning permission for his proposals in 2002 and award-winning architects Duffy & Batt were appointed to oversee the conversion project.

Back in 2005, TheSouthern reported architect Gordon Duffy as saying that the conversion project was just weeks away from completion. But, according to Mr Miller, speaking to TheSouthern this week, disaster had struck, with burst pipes causing £100,000 worth of damage.

However, he says he is as determined as ever to see the project through to completion.

“I had been aware of Bernat Klein’s work for 40 years, ever since travelling down to the Borders to collect some wallpaper from him. When I saw his studio I just fell in love with it. I thought it was fantastic – like something that had fallen from space,” he told us.

“I’ve always like modern architects – people like Frank Lloyd Wright, and his famous house, Falling Water, which I think definitely lent inspiration for Wormersley’s design for the studio.

“I own a number of buildings by prominent architects and when the chance came to buy the studio I jumped at it and bought it.

“The flooding problems were a disaster. It meant we had to start all over again, but my hope is that work will now be finished later this year.”

Mr Duffy explained further, saying water had run from burst pipes for two weeks after a winter frost.

“This basically ruined most of the good work that been done. It is still the intention to complete the works, but the severe downturn put the brakes on the works progressing,” he said.

But Mr Miller stressed: “I love this building as much as I did when I first saw it all those years ago and would not sell it, even though I’ve had a few enquiries.

“You could offer me a million for it and I wouldn’t take it.”

Although not now as well known as he was during the 1960s and 70s, Mr Wormersley established a reputation as one of Scotland’s most original architects.

There had been some recent concern that the conversion project seemed to have stalled and that the future of the studio might be in jeopardy.

But Mr Miller pledged: “Historic Scotland got it absolutely right when it listed the studio. It is very important it is saved and while some people might think it looks as if it is lying in a semi-derelict state, I can assure them there is no danger of the fabric of the building being compromised.”