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Miller makes play underground

John Miller & Partners has unveiled detailed plans for Edinburgh's Playfair Project, the refurbishment and extension of the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy. Both buildings were designed by William Playfair and, since both are listed, all the new work must be underground.

The architect has linked the two buildings with a large new underground space which will include a new entrance, a cafe, restaurant and shop, as well as areas for lectures and education. This will free up the two original buildings entirely for exhibition space, with the National Gallery containing the permanent collection and the Royal Scottish Academy used for temporary exhibitions.

Large circular enclosures in each building contain lift shafts and elegant stairs, taking both people and light down to the lower levels. And in a tribute to the Louvre, considered by both the architect and team to be the most successful use of underground space, there will be a small stepped pyramid. This will contain a light shaft and also provide external seating.

The project, which has planning permission, will be built in three phases. The total cost is £26 million, of which £9 million is being sought from donors.

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