​Fiona McLachlan is an architect and Professor of Architectural Practice at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA). A former Head of ESALA, she teaches architectural design, contributes to the teaching of professional studies and leads a CPD course for candidates for the final ARB/RIBA 'Part 3' examination in architecture.

Fiona is interested in the inter-relationships between practice, research and teaching. Her current research on colour in architectural design is an example. She has written two books on the topic in addition to a number of peer-reviewed articles. The ECA 'Colour Collective' was established as a focus for the development of further cross-disciplinary research in colour. Fiona currently leads the ESALA Projects office, which was set up by colleagues in 2014 and undertakes a range of community outreach/research projects. Fiona's work is aimed at both academic audiences and the wider public with recent projects at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and Baltic Street Adventure Playground, Dalmarnock.

Fiona was educated at the University of Edinburgh and became an ARB registered architect in 1983. She worked in practice until joining the University as a Lecturer in 1989, became a Senior Lecturer in 1995, and was awarded a personal chair in 2011.

Her architectural practice, E & F McLachlan Architects, specialized in social housing including frail elderly and wheelchair user housing. The practice has won a number of invited competitions and completed four key developments at South Gyle (1997), Canongate (2000), Whitburn (2007) and Denny (2011) alongside cultural projects and exhibitions.

Fiona is currently a Director of the Architects' Professional Examination Authority in Scotland, a member of the RIBA Education Committee, and is external examiner in Suzhou, China.


​Fiona's main focus is the teaching of architectural design studio. She is course organizer for first year and has also co-taught a fourth year studio 'Civic Fabrication' for the last five years with Alex MacLaren.  The studio was centered in Dalmarnock, Glasgow - pre, during and post Commonwealth Games. Two students from the studio won the Architecture and Design Scotland / RIAS, best undergraduate student in successive years.  The work of the studio is discussed in Alex's paper 'Civic Fabrication: Social Responsibility in the Architecture studio' (Charette, Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2016 pp29-44)

Fiona has taught a range of studios in third and fourth year, which tend to be research-led. Her studio on primary school design, which ran for five years, culminated in the publication 'Thinking, Teaching, Learning,: Explorations in Primary School design, co-authored with Rachel Hallett.

She has recently developed a new elective course 'On Colour: in Architecture' to bring her research directly into teaching. Teaching of colour in architecture is a neglected area across Europe and Fiona is currently developing an international network to build expertise and further these studies. She also contributes to the MSc in Material Practice established by Prof Remo Pedreschi.

The first year studio has a focus on developing an understanding of the relationship between material choice and architectural design, through a series of simple design projects.

Fiona also teaches professional studies across the school, with specific contributions on Inclusive design and fee structures. She has been the course organiser for the Update in Architectural Management course for over 20 years, supporting candidates for the final professional 'Part 3' examination. ​

Fiona’s current research has four major strands and varied outputs, all of which draw on inter-relationships of practice and teaching.

Colour in contemporary architecture

Her research on colour has led to two books; McLachlan, F (2012) Architectural Colour in the Professional Palette, Oxon and New York: Routledge, also translated into Chinese; and a co-authored book Colour Strategies in Architecture, Schwabe AG Verlag, Basel, (2015). This book is the result of a four-year collaboration with the Haus der Farbe in Switzerland. A major touring exhibition of the original artwork for the Colour Strategies in Architecture was shown in the Gewerbemuseum, Winterthur and has been shown in three UK venues; the Matthew Architecture Gallery in Edinburgh, The Glasgow Lighthouse and the Architectural Association, London during 2015-16. It is planned to be shown in Germany during 2017.

This research theme led to a multi-disciplinary study ‘Colour Collective’ at Edinburgh College of Art investigating and documenting colour teaching and research across the University of Edinburgh and other UK institutions. The work spans Architecture, History of Art and the School of Art and is feeding into teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Creative Industries/Fabric Cast concrete

Work with Professor Remo Pedreschi (Professor of Architectural Technology at Edinburgh College of Art) has focussed on the development of techniques in casting concrete against fabric, with panels cast in the workshop used in a social housing project at Whitburn, West Lothian, by her architectural practice (2007).  This has also generated a series of workshops for primary and secondary school children and a number of publications.

Primary school design

An example of teaching-led research originating from Honours Architectural Design teaching on the Building Typology of schools. This was the subject of a book, ‘Thinking Teaching Learning’ (2009) re-presenting the work to a wider audience by placing it in the context of the Scottish government’s ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. The Scottish Government distributed it to every local authority education department in Scotland and images are embedded in the Architecture and Design Scotland’s ‘Spark’ website.

Housing research and architectural built work

An AHRC funded KE project 'Home Improvements' with Sheffield and Kingston Universities was completed in 2014. A collaborative report ‘Space to Park’ with URBED was presented at Westminster and disseminated at on the Space to Park website.

An earlier major research project for the Scottish Government ‘Design at the Heart of Housebuilding’ was completed in 2007.

E & F McLachlan Architects

Fiona’a practice, E & F McLachlan Architects specialised in social housing and residential work. The work of the practice was included in international exhibitions and publications, notably in New Architects: A guide to Britain’s best young architectural practices (1998) and RIBA:40 under Forty. An archive of the work of the practice can be viewed at:

ESALA Projects

Fiona is actively involved in outreach and community projects through the ESALA Projects office. A recent example was the Baltic Street Adventure Playground ‘Wiki house’ in Dalmarnock.

Current PhD students

PhD Supervision Topics

Accepting applications.

​Fiona welcomes applications from students who are interested in developing research in relation to:

• colour in architecture

• the design of schools 

• social housing