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Hopkins' Holyrood heralds Edinburgh 'renaissance'

The Queen was in Edinburgh last week, not only to open Scotland's new parliament but also to cut the ribbon on the first of the Millennium Commission landmark projects to be completed - Michael Hopkins and Partners' £34 million William Younger Centre. The building figures as one of a number of major regeneration projects under way in the Holyrood area of the city, totalling £150 million, and will ultimately be joined by another new civic neighbour across the road - Enric Miralles' controversial new Scottish Parliament building.

The pavilion-like Hopkins building, branded 'Scotland's answer to the Millennium Dome' by the project-backers last week, plays host to a high- tech, interactive and educational exhibition on geology called Dynamic Earth. The exhibition, on the evolution of the planet, is based in a series of 'black box' rooms and mini-cinemas in the lower confines of the building, and is a fitting one given that James Hutton, the father of modern geology, lived and worked on the exact site in the eighteenth century.

Funded by £8 million from Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Limited (leel), £5.2 million from the private sector, £6 million from the city council and a £15 million grant from the Millennium Commission, the building has a roof of Teflon-coated ptfe fabric, cables and masts and glass at the top of an amphitheatre-like forecourt which acts as a coach drop-off point and arena for public performances (it is already nicknamed the 'Holyrood Bowl'). The project-backers hope to get about 450,000 visitors per year and to supplement this income by exploiting the building's position and views of the city and Arthur's Seat with conference and banqueting facilities in an observation deck.

The building sits against the backdrop of Edinburgh's Salisbury Crags on land heavily contaminated by the brewery there before it. An old brewery wall and turret to the rear of the scheme are incorporated as one reminder of its past. Scottish and Newcastle brewery gifted the site to leel last year on strict condition that the new building would be of 'international design and quality' and that it would bear a name with brewery connections. The neighbouring brownfield site was similarly bequeathed by British Gas, which owned the two large gasholders there.

Although at its height 600 worked at the brewery, the additional traffic generated by these three main projects is sure to present something of a headache for the city, but there are plans for shuttle buses and road- widening schemes - £2 million to be spent on Holyrood Road itself.

Elsewhere in the immediate area - designated a World Heritage Site - there is a major programme of urban renewal under way, following a series of design competitions and a master plan by John Hope Architects. The plan avoided the single development vision - there were two on the table - in favour of employing a wide and varied mix of architects (see left).

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