Edinburgh Part 2 – Architectural Excellence

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Alex Kirby

In my previous blog I detailed why I thought Edinburgh was the best city in the world but that it’s World Heritage Status was seen as under scrutiny. One development that seems to be getting the most attention is the redevelopment of the St James Centre, which at it’s heart, is a new circular banded construction that ends it what I would describe as a “twirly bit”.

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Before delving into the issues created by this new development, as a comparison I’d like to outline developments that I hold up as a benchmark for architectural & developmental excellence. Starting with Quartermile, the redevelopment of the old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh next to the Meadows, which has sensitively juxtaposed the old and the new . The way the glass and stone sit next to one another is beautifully realised. And it has successfully attracted some top commercial tenants including Skyscanner, IBM & Starbucks. Another example, for me, is Waverley Gate opposite the Balmoral Hotel and how the Old Post Office building was redeveloped; brilliantly dropping a glass box inside the original facade. Both of these projects I believe have respected the past while modernising.

An example of a completely new development I’m intrigued by is the winning design for the Ross bandstand in Princes Street Gardens. It has gone for what has been tagged as the “Hobbit” design , in that it resembles the homes from the Tolkien novel which again appears to be sensitively judged. A few of the other entries looked at bit incongruous to their surroundings as if a UFO had landed. Judging by the drawings it looks like the right decision.

Edinburgh’s past achievements in beautiful architecture have set such a high standard that to maintain this means that ordinary or pretty good don’t cut it – new developments need to be of the highest quality. There are some examples of achieving this but there are also many that do not. The cumulative effect of having too many average or poorly considered projects will put Edinburgh’s World Heritage Status in danger – which in real terms would affect what we see but most importantly how Edinburgh is to live in.

In the final part I look at the redevelopment of The St James Centre.

 

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