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Foster finally starts on site at Edinburgh Infirmary

Work has at last started on Foster and Partners' controversial £400 million Royal Infirmary redevelopment in Edinburgh.

The massive mixed-use project, which lies in the heart of a conservation area, provoked a wave of protests from heritage bodies when it was given planning permission in July 2003.

Condemned as an 'atrocious scheme' by the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, the 8ha development was criticised by many for being too tall (AJ 16.10.03).

There were even calls for the Scottish Parliament to call in the project, which lies along the old city's Victorian fringes.

The centrepiece of the new Quartermile redevelopment will be a seven-storey office which will sit among nine listed buildings, including David Bryce's Grade A-listed Surgical Hospital.

The scheme will also create a public square, 650 homes, shops, underground parking, hotels and restaurants.

Practice partner Grant Booker said: 'Our goal is to reintegrate this wonderful but disconnected part of the city.

'We recognise the beauty of the fine historical buildings and we will bring them back to life, then knit them together with calm, contemporary buildings.'

He added: 'It is vital that we do this so that the contrast between old and new highlights the intrinsic qualities of each.'

by Richard Waite

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