“Friends become clients, clients become friends”. “Don’t forget your roots”. “The devil is in the detail”.

It is this ethos of founding partners Fred and Rosemary Stephen, that has made James F Stephen Architects stand out from their competitors.

Over forty years, JFSA has seen many changes.

From starting the Practice in 1977 at the family home while bringing-up two young boys David and Paul, now Chartered Architects and Partners in the Practice, to being awarded prestigious commissions such as V&A Dundee, Maggie’s Centre and numerous churches, conservation projects, inner-city developments and international projects, JFSA has remained grounded throughout and still maintains the ethos started over forty years ago.

JFSA believe that client relationships come first. Viewing the Architect as a designer first then having a commercial focus second is the order of business. Fred will regularly visit a domestic client for the first time and on occasion has been known to be invited to stay with the family to understand how they live, what their family priorities are and identify the lifestyle demands of their environment.

Potential clients sometimes ask if JFSA specialise in certain types of building and what experience they possess in relation to as specific type of building such as offices, social housing and museums.

The simple answer at the time might be “No, we do not specialise in “x,y,or z”, but if commissioned to design a certain type of building they have not yet had the privilege to undertake in the past, JFSA will research the function of the use, work closely with clients to understand their detailed requirements; consider the context of the site; culminating in an innovative, unique solution that goes beyond the clients’ expectations.

Having no pre-conceived experience means JFSA will listen to understand a client’s wishes.

For example:

  • JFSA had never designed a holiday home until they were placed 2nd in the English Tourist Board’s Competition in 1981
  • JFSA had never designed a church until they won in 1982 the RIAS/Royal Navy Competition for a new church at Rosyth against an entry of 129 practices. The church was built to their design some years later. The first church JFSA saw built was their design for St Anthony’s, Kirriemuir It won a Civic Trust Award and an RIAS Award.
  • The first office JFSA designed was their own first Milton Studio which won an RIAS Commendation.
  • JFSA’s first Sheltered Housing project at Alexander Street, Dundee won the Scottish Architectural Brick Award in 1988.
  • JFSA’s first Private Sheltered Housing project at Argyle Court, St Andrews won the Civic Trust award in 1988.
  • JFSA’s first museum project, Verdant Works, Dundee also won awards in 2017 and 2018.

Many clients have visited the Practice in Glamis and the family home to experience the Stephen family hospitality in order to build a genuine bond between client and Architect.

Many international clients based in cities such as London, New York and Tokyo have been overwhelmed at the beauty of the Angus countryside. That, complemented with the relaxed family atmosphere at JFSA, has won them countless commissions and continues to do so today.

The three Chartered Architect Partners are experts in their individual fields and have a modest, passionate, professional approach to the development of the industry.

For instance in addition to Fred’s design interest and talent; Paul Stephen is a Professional Examiner and his legal qualifications allow him to adjudicate in Construction Law and he also ovesees our integrated quality ISOs; and David Stephen is leading the BIM and Cyber Security aspects.

Rosemary Stephen (MBA Dist) concentrates on managing the business including personnel, financial, marketing and IT aspects.

These complementing skills ensure a wide base of expertise is always available to clients, keeping the Practice at the forefront of technology and design.