Elliott & Company has been involved with the Scottish Storytelling Centre project from the outset. The existing 1970s building suffered from poor circulation space, inconsistent levels and a variety of functional shortcomings.
A number of options for redevelopment were considered, ranging from complete demolition to careful 'surgery'. The structural engineering input at the initial stage helped inform a clear way forward. The adopted scheme was one of practicality, taking the elements of the existing building that worked and then removing those elements that did not.
The challenge was not to be underestimated. We were proposing to remove the majority of the ground oor and excavate into rock to enhance the basement, while supporting the rst and second oors above and the John Knox House next door. The 1970s building was a complex mix of construction including timberwork, load-bearing masonry, precast concrete, and reinforced concrete construction, all on top of the footings of the 19th-century church it had replaced. Part of the existing building incorporated steelframed temporary works offering lateral support to the John Knox House. Understanding all these facets was key to the successful development of the new scheme. The record drawings were scrutinised carefully. Targeted opening-up was carried out ahead of work on site to conrm as-built information and ll any major gaps, so that as much of the detailing as possible could be determined in advance.
The Storytelling Centre occupies a tight site in the heart of the historic Old Town and consequently there was little available working space. The practicalities of working in these conditions had to be thought through and a variety of methods and sequences of construction were considered to give the contractor a handle on the complexities of the project. The structural engineering for the Storytelling Centre is largely in support to the architecture. The scheme is about generating clear circulation spaces and consistent levels with crafted treatment of the surfaces, rather than individually visible structural 'events'. This meant close collaboration between engineer and architect at all stages of the project, so that the more complex structural interventions and alterations generated a crisply detailed end result. This involved considering problems from rst principles rather than applying standard solutions or details. A good example is the groundfloor concrete slab where, due to the restricted heights available in the basement theatre, the design of the stage lighting, architectural nishes, acoustic requirements and services routes were all coordinated. The structural conguration was tted to these templates and even the reinforcement positioned accordingly.
The detailing throughout the building was rarely repetitive and the engineering input was total, even to some of the furniture. The satisfaction for the engineer on a project like this comes as much from seeing a challenging scheme realised as from knowing the intricacies of the nuts and bolts hidden within.
Elliott & Company