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Anger at 'crude' museum changes

Edinburgh's architectural community has reacted with horror at plans to make 'gratuitous changes' to Benson and Forsyth's award-winning Museum of Scotland.

Architects and conservationists alike have attacked the proposed alterations to the building's interior fabric, insisting it should be left alone.

Leading the opposition to the ongoing changes - which aim to simplify facets of the 1999 building including the entrance - is the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland (RFACS). Director Charles Prosser said he was 'speechless' when he first heard of the plans. 'This is one of the three best buildings of the 20th century in Scotland, ' he told the AJ. 'And the museum's leadership is trying to make changes just four years after it was completed'.

And in a letter to new director Gordon Rintoul, Prosser wrote: 'The building deserves to be treated with deep understanding of the culture it represents. This is as true for the building as it is of any artefact entrusted of special historic significance.

'The design, offering an experience of light, spaces, views and glimpses in a fresh and interesting way both at wheelchair and pedestrian eye levels, would be replaced by one that is banal and more of what might be found in a supermarket or airport, ' the letter continued.

Prosser has won the support of Peter Wilson, director of Napier University's Manifesto Centre for Architecture, who worked on the project with Benson and Forsyth. 'To wilfully make these changes is crude in the extreme, ' he said.

'It is a very poor way to manage a building that has won so many awards. And, what is more, to do this in a piecemeal way is extraordinary.

'I know Gordon Benson was consulted on the changes by the museum but his advice was completely ignored, 'Wilson added.

Benson refused to comment about the alterations except to insist that he 'fully concurs with the RFACS's comments'.

However, a spokeswoman for the museum defended the changes. 'The Museum of Scotland is a wonderful building and is one of the finest Scottish buildings of the 20th century, ' she said, adding: 'A programme of improvements is currently in progress at the museum, based both on comments received from visitors and the experience of NMS in operating the building, which are intended to provide a friendlier, more welcoming and enjoyable experience for visitors.

'NMS believes that the changes are in keeping with the existing architecture of the Museum of Scotland and are entirely appropriate.'

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