Bernat Klein Studio – Modern Borders Building

Bernat Klein Studio, Selkirk Building Project by Studio DuB, Scottish Concrete Structure Design, Images

Bernat Klein Studio, Borders

Modern Selkirk Building in Scottish Borders, southern Scotland – design by Peter Womersley

post updated 25 May 2019 ; 24 Apr 2014 + 3 Oct 2008

Bernat Klein CBE

Bernat Klein CBE Hon FRIAS : One of the Most Notable Scottish Architectural Clients of the 20th Century

Back in 2014 e-architect reported on the death of celebrated textile designer Bernat Klein CBE.

This post focuses on architect Peter Womersley’s design of a space for the reception of clients, designing, weaving and displaying fabric samples. Klein’s high profile clients included top European fashion houses such as Balenciaga.

The building was published on the cover of the acclaimed Japanese publication A+U in its first year of circulation. The bold concrete design was engineered by structural engineers Ove Arup.

Bernat Klein Studio - Modern Borders House
photos : Rebecca Wober

RIAS President, Iain Connelly commented at the time of his death, “Bernat Klein’s influence as a designer and an entrepreneur went well beyond Scotland. Through his close links with fashion houses including Chanel, Dior, Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent he brought Scottish fabric and design to the world.

For a generation of architects, however, he was revered as a brilliant client who, along with his architect, Peter Womersley, created two of the most important Scottish buildings of the latter half of the Twentieth century. He had a life that, more than most, was infused with colour!”

RIAS Secretary, Neil Baxter, wrote: “Bernat Klein (15.08.22 – 17.04.14) was an adoptive Scot whose international influence as a textile designer cannot be underestimated. As an entrepreneur he helped revitalise the Border’s weaving and cloth manufacturing industries.

Bernat Klein Studio Modern Borders building

Working alongside the glitterati of 20th century fashion, several of whom were personal friends, Klein gave Scottish textiles a new cachet and was largely responsible for the introduction of Scottish tweed to the catwalks of Paris and Milan. He also had the business savvy to translate some of this high-fashion glamour into affordable synthetics, with brilliant patterning and often flamboyant design. His bold floral patterns, in vividly contrasting colours, contributed to some of the most telling and durable glamour photography of the 1960s and 70s.

Bernat Klein Studio Scotland

Bernat Klein’s textiles were also used as furnishing and curtain fabrics, contributing splashes of brilliant colour and pattern to, often otherwise austere, commercial and domestic interiors designed by some of Scotland and Europe’s leading modernist architects. His own house, High Sundeland, near Selkirk and later his studio nearby, an almost sculptural composition of concrete, steel and glass set on a black brick plinth, were particularly successful client/architect collaborations. Klein revelled in the opportunity to work on these masterpieces in three dimensions alongside his architect and close friend the hugely talented modernist architect Peter Womersley (1923-1993). Both buildings were celebrated in numerous journals and publications and are still regarded as among the most influential buildings in Scotland of their era.

Bernat Klein Studio Scottish Borders building

Bernat Klein had an extraordinarily full, long, creative life. He loved the country and particularly the rich Borders countryside which became his home. His contributions to fashion, design, architecture, business and to Scotland’s international reputation will be his enduring legacy. For those who knew him however the abiding memory will be of a modest, humorous, gentle man whose eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.”

Bernat Klein Studio Borders building

Bernat Klein Studio Selkirk

Completed: 1972

Architect: Peter Womersley

Photos: Rebecca Wober

The Klein Studio

Client: Bernat Klein
Listed building consent won by Studio DuB 2002

Following a successful commission for Bernat Klein’s house completed in 1958, architect Peter Womersley was asked by Klein, a successful textile designer, to design a space for the reception of clients, designing, weaving and displaying fabric samples. Klein’s high profile clients such as the fashion house Balenciaga bought into his distinctive style typified by locally made mohair weaves shot with velvet. The studio, tucked away at the edge of a forest outside Selkirk was to become host to many national and international visitors.

Bernat Klein Studio Borders building

Working with structural engineers Ove Arup, Womersley exercised his ambitious desire for structural flourishes and created a soaring concrete cantilevered assembly of floors for Klein, visually anchored by a central core of engineering brick. The ground floor received guests who would motor from Edinburgh and park just outside, whilst the first floor was accessed via a bridge which linked to a path wending through the forest to Klein’s own house up on higher land. This gave Klein the drama of entry down to the public ground floor, and his clients the excitement of rising up to see the vibrant wares and the view. Formally the building sits well in its context: the horizontal elements soaring into the landscape are balanced by the delicate tuning forks running vertically and echoing the adjacent slender pine trees.

Bernat Klein Studio Borders building

In 1972 the Klein studio won both an RIBA award and the Edinburgh Architectural Association Centenary Medal. The building was widely published and made the cover of the acclaimed Japanese publication A+U in its first year of circulation. Since then it has been voted 5th best building in Scotland built in the last 50 years.

After Klein’s retirement from his business the building was bought and run by Scottish Borders Enterprise, who made several changes. By the time the current owner purchased the studio it was in a sorry state: original furniture had been ripped out, flooring screeded over and the open areas had been partitioned. A lack of sensitivity for services design meant that it crawled with plastic trunking and new radiators obscured the wide stretches of glazing.

Bernat Klein Studio Borders building

The building became Scotland’s most modern A listed building in 2002 and the current owner selected Gordon Duffy of Studio DuB (then Duffy & Batt) to bring the building back to life. The approved proposal strips the studio back to its original bones and turns it into a weekend retreat, furnished with bespoke kitchen, living areas and joinery items. The building fabric has been insulated where possible and the roof conceived as a terrace with new belvedere. Insulating the roof brought the level up and therefore a new balustrade was designed to tie in with the rhythm of the existing concrete-work.

At the present day the site work is ongoing, meanwhile Bernat Klein continues to exhibit his later oeuvre of paintings and collages at shows in his chosen homeland of the Borders.

The Klein Studio – Text © Rebecca Wober 2008

Peter Womersley

Bernat Klein Studio images / information from Studio DuB 300408

Location: Bernat Klein Studio, Selkirk, Scotland




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Comments / photos for The Klein Studio page welcome

Website: Selkirk, Scottish Borders